Early Tuesday morning, Kelle Lovett softly said goodbye to her husband Brian as he was making breakfast for their young daughters, then slipped out of her warm kitchen to greet the windy, rainy streets of Ashland to prepare for the Pear Blossom 5K.

Early Tuesday morning, Kelle Lovett softly said goodbye to her husband Brian as he was making breakfast for their young daughters, then slipped out of her warm kitchen to greet the windy, rainy streets of Ashland.

This mom's motivation for dedicating two mornings a week to running in the dark and the cold: "I want to get in some extra workouts to be stronger," said Lovett, 35, one of a dozen nonathletes enrolled in the Ashland Family YMCA's Sofa to 5K fitness class. "And, being a working mom with two girls, I want to have some 'me' time."

During the day, Lovett works for the Southern Oregon Education Service District teaching American Sign Language to deaf babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Some of her students know that she is practicing to run in the Pear Blossom 5K on April 14. The sign for running, she shows them, is made by touching a thumb on one hand to the index finger on the other hand, and wiggling all fingers while moving them as if they are running away.

"With these children, I spend the day challenging them to grow their language," she said. "And I'm transferring this idea to me. I'm pushing myself to do harder things, too. That's good for all of us."

She then demonstrated the word for "strength" by making fists. "Strength," she repeated. "Strength."

On Tuesday, the start of the fifth week of the six-week YMCA program, she and her fellow runners completed a slightly hilly, 2.5-mile course.

On Tolman Creek Road, the group passed a sign that read: "Slow down. Children at play." But they didn't slow down.

Lovett and one of the trainers, Sloan Dorr, were in the front of the pack, their ponytails flipping like windshield wipers. They turned left on East Main, then up Clay Street, where they splashed through a puddle clouding a bike lane logo painted on the asphalt, then left on Ashland Street, over the overpass and down YMCA Way.

Lovett was the first to reach the steps of the YMCA. "I feel good," she said, puffing. "Really good. But those hills are hard."

She confessed that 20-month-old Caitlin is teething and waking up during the night, and her other daughter, five-year-old Ella, is learning to spell and was asking about letters when Lovett was trying to leave the house to get to the YMCA on time that morning. Rightfully, she doesn't feel guilty for pulling away.

"I'm with my family a lot of the time and it's just an hour out of the day," she said, adding that she couldn't manage it without the support of her husband and family. "It's really about just making that time for myself. It's important to me. I want to stick with it."

After her 11-minute-mile run, there was still time in the hour-long class to perform strengthening exercises. During a seemingly endless plank pose, where the group was on the ground as if frozen in a push-up position, YMCA's Health and Wellness Director Chip Layton asked someone to tell a joke.

Lovett, with her sturdy arms holding up her shoulders and her back level, offered a knock-knock joke popular with her daughters and her students.

When the group asked "Who's there?" she told them, "Cows go." They then asked, "Cows go who?" and Lovett said, "No, cows go mooooooo."

As bad as the joke was, it took their minds off the arm-and-torso strengthening pose.

Finally, seconds before 7:45 a.m., it was time for the group to rest their hips on their heels and their forehead on the mat. Ah, a child pose.

Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 551-776-4465 or jeastman@dailytidings.com.