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.
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?