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First Person: Sarah Ingersoll helps people with Parkinson's train for a 5K




Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
Many of Ingersoll's co-workers have joined her running group since its inception in 2010.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
Every year, the group begins training in January for the LA Marathon 5K in March. Not all members take part in the race.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
Sarah Ingersoll makes announcements at the start of the first training for her Parkinson's running group on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Sarah Ingersoll, right, takes part in a cheer before the first training of the year on Thursday, Jan. 8 at the Rose Bowl. In 2010, Ingersoll started a running group made up of Parkinson's patients and caretakers.
The Parkinson's running group, founded by Sarah Ingersoll, will add five minutes to its training run each week leading up to the LA Marathon 5K in March.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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Sarah Ingersoll is an assistant professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. 

While understanding that "exercise is not magic," Ingersoll is also aware that the evidence of its benefits for people with Parkinson's disease is "quite strong." 

That knowledge led her to found a group five years ago - sometimes called Sarah's 5K Training Team - that would help mainly people with Parkinson's prepare to participate in the annual L.A. Marathon 5K race.

"This is not just for people with Parkinson’s disease," she says of the group, which meets at Lot K at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. "It’s for anybody for whom a 5K is a stretch."

About one-third of the team members have Parkinson’s, one-third are able-bodied spouses of participants and able-bodied volunteers, and one-third are unable to compete on other training teams for various reasons, says Ingersoll. 

She says a typical training session includes Tai Chi-derived "looseners," increasingly long walks and jogging for some, all geared towards getting them ready for the L.A. Marathon 5K in March.

Ingersoll partners with Keck's department of neurology, and volunteer athletes from the California Triathlon provide assistance with training.

The 73-year-old Ingersoll says she started running for exercise in middle age, then switched to swimming and bike riding because her knees "didn't like long runs."

What's most important is that people choose some form of exercise, she says. And, she adds, "you can start in your old age, it's OK."

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