Friday, May 17, 2013

Running Newbie to a Half Marathon in 1 Year: Part 3 // The First 5K

Thanks for checking out Part 3 of my first running series! If you haven’t read Part 2 already, you can find it here.

I remember the rest of my 5K training with RunKNOX as a blur of highs and lows. The lengths of time I was prescribed to run was increasing more and more with each practice. It was hard, physically and mentally.

Over time I was able to run longer and longer. However, I had several "off days" when I would struggle to keep up with the plan. Sometimes I'd even “cheat” the plan and walk when I wasn't supposed to (sorry coaches).

I expected my progress to be linear – that every practice I’d run longer or better than the last one. I wanted to make “straight A’s”!

It just didn't always work that way.

I called these “Adele Moments” – “Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements?”

Yes, I’m a little corny and overdramatic; hence why I enjoy writing a blog.

On these days, I’d get so mad at myself. I'd even worry about letting my coaches, husband, family, and other supporters down. After running, I didn't have the energy to maintain my usual emotional filter. I came home a few times feeling defeated and even considering quitting.

My husband, Brandon, being the calm, matter-of-fact person he is, reminded me that I shouldn't let a few minor difficult moments take away from the progress I was making over time.

The coaches were also very encouraging. I remember several times during practices when I’d want to just walk SOOO bad, and one of the them would just pop up out of nowhere and encourage me to keep going.

Honestly, at those moments, I couldn't decide if I appreciated or hated them for showing up. I’d think, “Oh great, now they won't let me walk!” I do appreciate it now, though. :)

However, there were many good days, too. Over time, I had really exciting days where I reached new distances - 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 20 minutes, 2 miles…

I remember the first day I ran 2 miles several weeks into the program. Per my coaches’ advice, I slowed down to running a 12 minute/mile pace and at one point I caught myself daydreaming (probably about Adam Levine). As in, I wasn’t focused on every single second of how hard running was! While breathing was still somewhat difficult, I wasn’t gasping for air.

I’d found it! The mythical “easy” pace at the end of the rainbow where you can actually talk and (somewhat) breathe! It does exist!

I’d leave those practices feeling shocked and amazed, with a new-found sense of accomplishment I never had before. Those days kept me going through the program, and far outweighed the rough days.

Finally, the end of the program was near. It was time to run my first 3 miles in preparation for the 5K race I was going to run the following week. My coach, Darren, warned me ahead of time that it was coming. He was kind enough to run it with me to help pace and support me.

And the first thing that came to my mind when he told me this? This means I can’t cheat and walk!!! Sad, I know.

So, I came to practice that Saturday morning (almost exactly a year ago), and we set out to run 3 miles – 1.5 out, and 1.5 back. The first mile and a half was actually not too bad. We chatted most of the way and it was fine. Then it was time to turn around and run the other half.

Now, I don’t know why, but I have a hard time mentally staying in the present. I’m always worrying about what is to come instead of focusing on what I’m doing now. At that halfway point, I started having major worries and doubts about the rest of the run.

Was I really so sure I could do this? What if I pass out from exhaustion? What if I have a panic attack? What if I can’t do this and I let everyone I know down?

Dramatic, yep, I know.

These doubts continued as I completed another mile, but I kept it together. Then, during the last mile there was this annoying gradual hill that went on forever! I started feeling reeeaaalllly tired and my doubts escalated into panic.

With only a half mile left, I almost had a meltdown. I told Darren, “I can’t do this!!!” and he gave me this “Are you kidding me?” look and politely reminded me that wasn't an option.

Yes, sir!

Towards the end of the run, his wife Sarah, also one of our coaches, joined us with their poodle (who runs way faster than me, might I add) for extra moral support. We hit a slight downhill and I could almost see where we would finish.

Okay, I’m good. Please disregard that minor disruption. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

Before I knew it, I was back where I started and I had just run 3 miles! It was the best feeling in the world! I mean, not quite as exciting as getting married or graduating, but I felt pretty accomplished.

With this down, I felt ready for the first 5K that I would actually run – the Expo 5K. This is a big local race every Memorial Day weekend sponsored by the Knoxville Track Club. I was a total classic newbie when it came to the details. I had to learn how to register, how to pin my race bib to my shirt, how they use microchips on you to measure your time, where to line up before the race, etc. Luckily my running friends filled me in so I didn't do anything stupid.

Brandon had said he would come support me, but he wanted in on the action and decided to run the race too. One of the really cool things about the Expo race is that it’s a huge family event with the option to register as family teams – husband/wife, father/child, mother/child, siblings, etc. We registered as a husband/wife team. It was so amazing to see so many people there with their friends and families socializing and bonding over running.

I felt great running the race, knowing that I could already run 3 miles. I ran it in 35:02, not bad for a first timer. Brandon, being the former high school athlete he was, ran it in 30:43 without even having trained for it. Seriously? I was excited for him, though. He had a great time and was inspired to start training with me! We met up with my running friends and celebrated everyone’s accomplishments.

Me - almost to the end of the race, rocking my running skirt. Yes, I have come a long way in my fitness since then.  :)
And here's B, who was just bitten by the running bug and having a great time!
As I completed my 5K training and ran my first 5K race, here are some thoughts that helped me through the process:
  1. Stay as consistent with your program as possible. Whether you’re in a training program or following an online program, stay the course as much as you can. Try to consistently run on the prescribed days of the plan as much as possible (barring sickness or big life events). You’ve come this far; keep going so that you can see big results from your hard work!
  2. Stay focused on the big picture – not the small obstacles. Accept that you might have a rough day here and there and won’t be able to do exactly what you’d hoped to do. I still struggle with this. Look at the big picture over time. Think about what you were doing two weeks or a month ago, and what you can do now.
  3. Celebrate the wins along the way. Being able to run a quarter mile, half mile, a mile, two miles, three miles, and beyond are all huge accomplishments. You may find other accomplishments along the way that aren’t quantitative - running all the way up a hill that has always been the bane of your existence, being able to stay positive during a run, or finding you’re starting to relax and breathe easier while running. Celebrate all of these moments – you’ve earned them!
  4. Sign up for a 5K race, and have fun! Having a goal race is great because it gives you a solid date and event on your calendar to prepare for. It gives you a reason to keep going with your training. It’s an opportunity to put your training to the test and see how you do. It gives you a baseline from which you can continue to grow and improve. Most importantly, it’s fun! At the local 5K races I’ve attended, I’ve seen people of all ages and training levels coming together, celebrating, and bonding over their running accomplishments. It’s a great social experience!
What was your first 5K race like? Any tips for those running their first 5K race?

My running journey continues in Part 4, as I struggled to decide what to do after my first 5K. Also, check out this special effort to support those affected by the Boston tragedy as a part of this year’s KTC Expo race, featuring a graphic design created by the very designer of the CSRS blog!


*I was not compensated by RunKNOX for this post, nor is RunKNOX affiliated with this blog. I am simply sharing my honest opinions and experiences as I began running through the program. The views expressed in my article are solely my own.

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