Runners in the Army Ten-Miler make thier way west on Independence Ave. SW with the Capitol dome in the background. The race is the largest 10-miler in the country, and Sara Ghaith is planning on tackling the next one, Oct. 20. (Jonathan Ernst/For The Washington Post)

“Ideally, you have a coach who can encourage you and help you set realistic expectations, but more importantly, you want a running partner,” Bill Pierce, co-author of “Run Less Run Faster,” says. “Having a running partner is the best predictor of compliance,” he says.

For Sara Ghaith, 42, of Capitol Hill, who ran her first 5K about four years ago, that paid off.

She ran consistently with the EZ8 program, enjoying not just the coaching but also the social aspects of running with a group. “It’s a very supportive and encouraging group, and Kathy is amazing,” she says of running coach Kathy Pugh.

But in the end, it wasn’t just running that made her a much better and faster runner. She also improved her eating habits, dropped 35 pounds and started lifting weights.

“I ran my fastest race ever at the Cherry Blossom 10-miler this year,” Ghaith says. Her mile pace: 7 minutes 25 seconds, down from 9 minutes 30 seconds just a year ago.

“I feel good and strong,” Ghaith says. But more important — in control over my body.”

Her next race: The Army Ten-Miler on Oct. 20.

Gabriella Boston