Couch to 5K: My Journey

It was about 10 weeks ago that I decided I wanted to run a 5K.  I was in New York at the time, just north of Albany, working with a high school dance team when it hit me.  I knew about the Couch to 5K plan; I tried to complete it last year just before the summer started and lost the desire to continue after week 5.  I just wasn’t motivated enough.

This year, I started early.  I knew dance and traveling would take over my life starting at the end of May and although I was already dancing 3 nights a week, I figured extra cardio couldn’t hurt.  I used to do the elliptical every night but somewhere along the line, I started to hate it and tried to avoid cardio workouts altogether.  That’s a slippery slope and I was struggling hard to climb back up.

The Couch to 5K running plan is a 9-week series comprised of 3 training days per week.  Each week, the training gets more advanced and pushes you to run more and more as the weeks go by.  At first, even if you think you can run a full 90 seconds (and believe me, at the beginning I couldn’t), by the end of the 9 weeks if you really stick to it, you CAN run 3 miles.  It was truly amazing.

When I came home from NY, I started my first official C25K training on Tuesday, March 8th. I also added a page on my blog dedicated to it so I could keep myself accountable for it.  Win for me.

The training started with a 5 minute warm-up then alternating 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes.  By the end of it, I was out of breath and sweating profusely but I felt good.  I knew that I would at least be able to do the first month of training and didn’t think much of the later weeks. 

3 weeks later, I was still going strong and decided to officially sign up for a 5K race mid-May.  That way, I told myself, I’d have to finish the training because I would have to run the race.  I searched online for a local 5K (flat for the first one) and found the Marblehead Beach to Beach exactly one week after my training would end and one week before I would travel to Oklahoma for dance.  I enrolled, paid the fee, wrote it in my planner and told everyone I know.  No turning back now.

Around Week 4, it was time to start running sans-treadmill.  I am a big baby when it comes to cold weather so when I started running, it was in my cozy gym on a friendly, easily-paced treadmill.  Since I could jog about 8 minutes on the treadmill, I figured a slow run at the beach would be no big deal.  I was wrong.  Everything other runners told me about running outside was true.  I was sucking wind HARD after about 2 minutes and cramped soon after 3.  I stopped and walked, already feeling defeated.  “It’s really cold today, really windy, that’s why I can’t do it” I told myself but in reality, runners run marathons in the middle of winter.  Nevertheless, I turned my back on running outside for the moment and went back to my treadmill.

At the end of Week 5, the plan jumps from walk 5, run 8, walk 5, run 8 to run 20 with no stopping.  I was horrified.  I remember going to the gym that day, boyfriend in tow, freaking out the whole way there, thinking “there is no way I can run 20 minutes.  I’ve never even run 10 straight before.”  I met up with my friend, Kim, who was starting week 1 of her training and I told her not to let me stop.  I cranked up some music, threw a sweatshirt over the treadmill timer and ran.  20 minutes later, I thought I was going to die, but I did it and it felt great.

After running the full 20 minutes, I was unstoppable.  I breezed through week 6, struggled a bit at the end of week 7 but pushed and eventually found myself in week 9.  Running a full 28-30 minutes no longer felt like an eternity.  I blasted a rockin’ playlist, sometimes singing along with the first few songs.  Embarrassing? Sure.  And maybe even fist-pumped a time or two towards the end of the circuit.  Unnecessary? No way!

Then, it was time to head outside again.  Since I live so close to Marblehead, mapping the 5K route was a breeze.  And it’s very pretty.  I parked my car at the will-be finish line, walked up to the start, set a timer on my phone, clicked to the playlist and ran.  I got about a 1.25 miles in when I thought my lungs were going to burst.  (I started out way too fast I guess).  I walked about a minute before getting back into it.  I think I walked a total of about 2.5 minutes through the whole run, getting slightly discouraged but still managing to pick it up every time. 

I gotta say, the route itself is beautiful but more about that on Sunday.  I also realized that I look at the ground when I run.  That’ll be a habit I try to break as I continue to run.  Either way, when I hit the starting line again at the end of the race (which is one big loop) and saw my car in the distance, I took off at full speed, giving it everything I had, knowing that I wanted to be done and still manage to finish under 35 minutes.  I hit my car at full force, collapsing on the hood, all the while trying not to lose my lunch.  I didn’t (although no guarentees on Saturday, people).  The timer stopped at 34:44.  I was overjoyed, called Tracie right away to tell her, got home and fell asleep on the couch.

The last day of my training, last Sunday, I headed to the gym with the mere intention of running 20 minutes to see how my legs felt.  I was determined to finish the 5-song playlist I was listening to (they were each 4-5 minutes so I knew I could time it about right.) When I finished the playlist, I switched on Kanye’s 5:22 song “The New Workout Plan” and decided to run until I finished that song.  Then, “The Best Love Song” came on and when I looked at the timer, I had 2 minutes left to finish out the 30.  I did it.  Clocking the distance, I knew I had started running at .33 after a 5-minute warm up walk and now the distance read 3.01.  I had to bust out the last .32.  Switching on Gaga’s “Born This Way”, I gave it everything I had and finished the 3 miles in 32:20.  I was so happy, I almost cried.  In the gym.  On the treadmill.  In front of many others.  It’s fine.  I was done.  Officially.

So there you have it…my Couch to 5K journey.  With the race a few days away, it is the culmination of 10 weeks of hard work.  (And this is only the beginning…)

For anyone out there who thinks they can’t run, think again.  I couldn’t run, but now 3 miles is just 30-33 minutes I get to sweat.  It requires heart and the rest just sorts of falls into place.

I think becoming a “runner” takes more than 10 weeks, but the plan is the foundation of any good training.  Some inspiration helps too.  Check out these blogs for motivation, product reviews and that little extra push.  These people love to run and inspire others to love it too.  I’m living proof.

Christine at Bun & Borough
Aron from Runner’s Rambles
Corey: Runner’s Cookie
Ali at Ali On The Run
Page from Twenty-Six and Then Some

Are you starting/in the middle of/finishing your 5K journey?  What was the deciding factor for you to start training? What is your favorite part about it?

Categories 5K

9 thoughts on “Couch to 5K: My Journey

  1. I started my C25K journey the first full week of April and am currently in the middle of Week 6 (I will be running 1 mile, walking 1/4 of a mile, and running another mile tonight!). I’m going to start by saying I have NEVER been a runner in my entire life. I would fake illness to get out of running the mile in gym class, always being “that girl” who walked the whole thing and never got a final time. I played basketball and softball in high school but the sprints and short distances never bothered me as much as the mere thought of running a mile.
    Last week I had to run two miles without stopping. I was panicking at the thought if this: I had never run one mile without stopping, how was I going to run two? It was a cold night so I decided to try it at on a treadmill at the gym. I put on my iPod, covered the treadmill screen and just run. I felt so accomplished after finishing the two miles and signed up for my first 5K in June. This program really is wondering and I highly recommend it to anyone who is even thinking about trying it.

  2. Right now I am so discouraged because I should be on Week 5 Day 3. But I am so motivated to start again that I think I will try harder and want this more than a couple weeks ago.

    Congratulations! I am so excited to hear about your race on Saturday! You’re going to do awesome!!

    Jennifer
    JenniferLDuncan.blogspot.com

  3. I know what you mean about the switching to outside running. It’s a killer. I have yet to run my first roadrace (or at least since junior high) and I am planning on signing up for one this summer. I just need to feel confident in the running outside part right now. Good luck on your 5k!!

  4. So funny…I remember freaking out about the first 20 minute run too! Good luck this weekend!

    I did the C25K program back in 2008 and ran my first 5K in Dec. 2008 (well I ended up walking a little because I started out too fast I think). I re-did the C25K program this fall and did that same race as I had done in 2008 only this time I ran the whole thing. I’ll be running my 5th 5K this weekend and even though my time still sucks (consistently around 37 minutes) I was that girl who couldn’t run too, so it’s exciting to actually do it on a consistent basis now.

    Can’t wait to hear all about your first race experience!!

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