Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Road to Running

skip this if running is not your thing, but I am writing: 
  1. as a record for myself
  2. as motivation and encouragement to others who think running is only for the strong

Saturday marks 6 months since the day I began running.  I have never been an athletic person, never into sports or fitness.  I don't like to sweat and I've always been more motivated to stay inside with a book than to venture into the outdoors. 

I am competitive, though, and I love a challenge so that's what motivated me to begin.  Sometime over the summer, I printed out the 9-week Couch to 5K Running Plan.  I wanted to challenge myself to complete the program with the goal of running a 5K in the spring. I told myself that once I started, I would not quit until I finished the plan even if it seemed too hard. I waited until the weather turned cooler because, remember, I hate to sweat! 

One cool-ish late September morning, I went outside for Week 1, Day 1.  The exercise for the day was to alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.  After the first 60-second jog, I was out of breath with a pain in my side.  It was discouraging to realize I was so out of shape, I couldn't even finish Day 1.  

Instead, I took the next two weeks to work up to that level of fitness.  I jogged for 60 seconds and then walked until I felt ready to jog again (whether that was 90 seconds or 5 minutes).  When I attempted Day 1 again, it was a success.  It was smooth sailing for all of 2 weeks.  When I hit Week 3 and began jogging for 3 minutes at a time, I hit a wall.  I could not do it!  I was out of breath and gasping for air again.  I felt nauseous and physically ill. 

At that point I decided to switch to a gentler, slower 5K program from Prevention Magazine.  That was the best things I could have done.  It was still hard (exhausting, challenging... ), but it boosted my confidence.  

Unfortunately, I also began experiencing some knee pain.  Since most of the pain occurred after a workout, not during, I continued to run, paying careful attention to my posture and how I moved my feet, legs, and hips.  I experienced less pain if I consciously avoided swinging my hips as I ran.  I also shuffled my feet instead of raising them high off of the ground. Within a week, the pain eased and disappeared.  In fact, I've not had any joint pain at all since November.

Right before Christmas, I finished the 5K training program.  I also got a new pair of running shoes for Christmas.  Around the new year, I was surprised to discover that I could run a mile without stopping.  Sometimes I could even eke out a mile-and-a-half.  I was not fast, but I was doing it.

Brian began joining me on runs in January.  That was amazing motivation.  When I felt like quitting, he kept me moving and when he was tired, I encouraged him to keep going.  I hit another wall trying to move beyond 1.5 miles. I know much of running is mental and you have to trick yourself into going longer and farther, but this went beyond mental.  I gave it everything I had and still could not progress for awhile.  My legs felt like they could keep the pace, but my lungs were screaming for air. 

At the last minute, Brian and I signed up for a 2-mile race in mid-January.  I ran the first mile in 9'44", but my pace slowed as I stopped to walk and I finished with a overall time of 20'55". After the race, something clicked. I was energized and started making progress again. 

By February, I was ready to concentrate on training for the 5K.  I chose a race in mid-April and  made some goals.  My goals were to: 
  1. run the entire 3.1 miles without stopping to walk
  2. run at a 10-minute per mile pace = 31 minute total time
In order to work up to running longer distances, I decided to go back to the Couch to 5K Running Plan which had originally been too difficult.  I breezed through the first three weeks.  I ran only Day 1 of each week and continued on until I found a week that presented a challenge.  Week 4 was moderately challenging, but Week 5 was the real test.  On the last day of Week 5, I had to run for 20 minutes without stopping.  I was nervous going into that day because I didn't want to quit before the time was up, but 20 minutes sounded daunting. 

It was yet another turning point, though.  After that, nothing seemed too hard.  I moved on to running 22 minutes and then 25, 28, and finally 30 minutes without stopping.  On the day before Brian went back to work for his spring season, we ran a slow but steady 3 miles.  The following weekend, we ran 3.5 miles together.
What progress I have made in the last few months!  I began my running adventure unable to run more than 60 seconds and today I ran 4 miles for the first time. 

It is less than 4 weeks until race day.  I am concentrating on increasing my speed, but I'm not sure if I'll meet my 31 minute goal this time.   I ran 3 miles in 30 minutes a couple of weeks ago, but it usually takes me between 31 and 32.  I have developed a informal training schedule of 3 runs a week-- 1 long run (3.5-4 miles), 1 short run to concentrate on speed (2 miles), and 1 medium run (3 miles).

Wind is still my biggest obstacle and it has been windy almost every day in March.  Wind adds resistance and requires me to work harder.  I'm hoping that once we have calm again,  my body will be strengthened from pushing through wind and I'll increase my speed without much effort. 

My other obstacle is boredom.  Running for 30-40 minutes at a time gets monotonous even while listening to music on my iPod.  I have to ask myself, "Do I want to stop because my legs are tired?  Am I out of breath?  Or does the thought of running another mile bore me?"

In the running world, I am still a beginner.  A definite newbie.  I am excited (yes, this anti-fitness girl said excited) to see how much more I can do.  I mentioned to Brian that I may train for a 10K next.  He rolled his eyes. 


  1. I thinks it's great that your non-exercise loving self is enjoying running...it gives me hope for myself :)

  2. You go, girl!! I always find it inspirational when people discover they loving doing something that is out of the box for them! Do I see a marathon in your future? ;)

  3. :) you always inspire me. i'm proud of you.

    i've been thinking of walking (my knees are shot from volleyball) ... you may have pushed me right out into the street! :)

  4. Way to go! Matt and I are both runners; we ran together regularly before kids, and I pretty much stopped running during the 6.5 years I was pregnant/nursing full-time. Anyway, a friend and I started running again back in August (running with someone tends to be better for me) with a goal of half-marathon. We didn't make the Spring one, but I'm hoping for October. Matt isn't so sure about the half. Lol

    Keep up the good work; you are doing great!

  5. Kristin, thank you for posting this! It was for me! I've been getting back into running again. I can run a mile but am so very, very slow. This gave me some good ideas of how to progress from here until I can start running outside again. My goal to run an entire 5k may 19!


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