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"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is." Kara Goucher, American long-distance runner

I started the Couch to 5K plan one year ago this month. Little did I know then how much running would become a part of my life or what an impact it would make. Here are a few of the things that I have learned from a year of running:

- Small beginnings can lead to big things. A year ago, it was all I could do to complete the run/walk intervals from week one of C25K at a snail's pace--I was doing a 16 minute mile if I was lucky. Yesterday I did 6.2 miles at an average speed of 13:23, and my shorter runs tend to be around 12 minute miles or better. I may never be fast, but knowing where I started and where I am now, I have confidence that I can continue to improve.

- Start slow and build momentum. I couldn't start running the longer intervals in C25K until I learned to s-l-o-w way down, even slower than I could walk at times; going slower allowed me to go for longer and longer distances. The funny thing is, even without specifically working on speed, my pace has improved as I've continued running. The momentum that developed by slowing down has carried me longer and farther than I could have imagined.

- Persistence pays off. I didn't progress through C25K as fast as the plan calls for (nine weeks); I repeated days and sometimes even weeks because I didn't feel ready to move on. Eventually, though, I got to where I could run 30 minutes without walking and ran a 5K with no walk breaks. Now my 'easy' runs are 2-3 miles.

- The biggest battles are in the mind. One of the reasons I didn't go through C25K in nine weeks is because my mind did not believe my body could do it. I didn't beat the '20 minute monster' (the first longer run of 20 minutes) until I was able to listen to my body more than my mind and push past the negative voice that screamed at me to walk (and still does sometimes). I learned to take inventory when my brain said 'stop': breathing okay? legs okay? pain anywhere? then KEEP GOING!

- Learning to listen to my body is important. The only way I could push through the mental battles was by listening to my body to see if it was able to keep going. Likewise, if something doesn't feel right when I'm running, I have to pay attention to tell whether it's because I've gotten sloppy with my form, I'm pushing too hard, or there's something really wrong. I won't hesitate to cut a run short if needed; I want to be able to run for years to come, so I'd rather err on the side of caution to avoid a serious injury now. Yeah, I plan on being that 80 year old granny running in races, LOL!

- People are far more accepting of me than I expect. I participated in a running club last year and was the slowest person in the group by a long shot; every person there, however, made me feel welcome and accepted me where I was. That has been true of nearly all the runners I have met; I find I have more in common with them than I would have thought possible. It's as though running was the initiation into a group that I once thought was aloof and elitist; nothing could be further from the truth.

- Setting goals and making plans for reaching them is essential. When I was doing C25K, I knew how long I should be running and how often; when I finished and didn't have any firm goals afterward, I floundered awhile. I tried different plans, but I couldn't get excited about any of them. Once I actually registered for a half marathon (and then a second!), I knew I had to become much more consistent and intentional about my running. I set up a plan for myself and have been following it ever since, and I have been thrilled with the progress I've been making.

- Not every day is a personal record or a woo hoo moment. Some runs are easy and fun, but others are slow, hard, and an effort to even start. That's life; accept it and appreciate the great runs when they come, and try to learn from the hard ones. The only runs I've regretted so far, though, are the ones I did not get out and do; even the hard ones bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and they help me keep moving toward my goals.

I am so grateful to the 200+ Pound Club group and others who have shared their experiences about running and to all the people who have encouraged me. They gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, someone like me could do it too. I discovered an active person--dare I say even an athlete--inside me that I didn't know existed.

I never expected when I started trying to run that the process would teach me about the rest of my journey. As I look back, it's amazing how those same lessons have applied to developing a healthy lifestyle--starting small, slowing down, being persistent, and so on. I'm excited to see what other lessons I can learn along the way, because there is always something new to discover.

Running is not the answer to everything in life, of course. It won't solve world hunger or find a cure for cancer (though many races raise money for those and other causes!), and it's not for everyone. It has been the right thing for me, however, and I'm so glad that I didn't give up and quit when it seemed impossible that I'd ever be able to do it.

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Running is addictive

Posted by gmadenise Feb 25, 2011

No one told me when I started the Couch to 5K plan last year that running could become an addiction. I'm not sure I would have believed them if they had, truthfully. When I started, 'running' even one minute at a time was incredibly difficult. Going for 5 minutes straight? That felt like a big deal, and when I looked at week 5, day 3, and saw the '20 minute monster' that awaited me, well, let's just say I was not in a rush to try it. When I did conquer it, though, the feeling was amazing--sure, I was still really slow, but I did it, I ran for 20 minutes without stopping! I finally began to believe that I just might make it through the whole C25K program. I was hooked.

 

Each milestone along the way--running 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, a 5K--has fed the addiction and deepened it. I want to run every day, not just three or four days a week; it takes discipline to give my body a rest day at least once a week. I read about a man who has run every day for 3400+ days, and he's part of a group where the top people in the group have run every day for 40+ years. Now that's a serious addiction.

 

Along with the addiction to running comes the addiction to running gear and clothes. I have more running clothes and shirts from races now than I really need, yet I can't help looking at all the cool, new stuff. I have a Garmin, and a Nike+, and apps on my phone for running. I have a spreadsheet and website accounts where I track miles, speed, etc. I have websites bookmarked and blogs about running that I subscribe to and read regularly. I am forever checking out what races are in my area to see which I might want to do, even though I've already noted and/or registered for at least one a month through July/August.

 

Yeah, I have an addiction. I can't wait to get out there and feed it some more. That first half marathon is squarely in my sights now--17 weeks and counting, I have some miles to get out and run still!

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Sunday hubby and I did a 4-mile Valentine's race together; you had the option of running solo or as a team, so we opted for the latter. Weather forecasts all week called for showers this morning, but last night looking at the hourly forecast for the area, I saw that there might be a window of dry weather during some or all of the race. Rain isn't a big deal, but if I have a choice, I'll pick dry weather over wet!

We've done races in the area where this one was a couple of times now. It's about a 45-minute drive from our house to where the race was held, so it makes for a bit of an early morning but not too bad. After a little wandering and a quick online consultation to verify the address, we found the start of the race. Got checked in, made the obligatory potty stop, and got out to line up for the start just in time. There was a little mist when we first arrived, but by the time the race started, it had stopped--YES! No need for a hat, just the jacket as a windbreaker.

The race was on the same trail we had raced on before, but it was on a new section, so we had no idea what it would be like. We quickly found out: it is STEEP! This was a four mile race, two miles out and back; on the way out, we were heading down a steep hill, and all I could think was, we have to do this going UP on the way back. Not only was there a steep hill going down initially, then there was another steep hill going UP near the turnaround point. Hubby and I both decided up front that we were not going to kill ourselves trying to run the entire distance; we ran the bulk of it, but we walked periodically because of the hills.

Seriously, these were the steepest hills we've ever tackled; the sign I saw on the way back up said it's an 8% grade, and my Garmin showed an elevation gain/loss of 761 feet for the course. Great place to go practice running hills, but it was tough for a race when we haven't been running anything quite that steep.

Overall we were pretty happy with how we did: total time of 55:54, average pace of 13:53 minute mile by my Garmin, though I started mine a few seconds before crossing the start line. Fast? Not by any means, but we were not completely spent when we were done; by walking on some of the steepest portions, we could easily have gone another mile or two or more. For the record, our splits were as follows: 12:46, 13:42, 14:22, and 14:50--obviously slowing down by the end (man, I love the info from my Garmin!). We did manage a bit of a sprint at the end to cross the finish line, though, so we ended running, and I was happy enough with our pace. Considering where I started less than a year ago (my 'run' was probably slower than 15:30--and I could only do THAT for 60 seconds!), I know that it will only get better as I keep going.

 

As a matter of fact, this morning's treadmill run was 5K in 36:51. It will be fun to see how it goes with this weekend's long run outside.

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The long run

Posted by gmadenise Feb 8, 2011

Last weekend was a busy one; meeting on Saturday morning and evening both, things happening almost nonstop from really Friday night on. Saturday was supposed to be the 'long' run of the week, too, and I really wanted to make sure we got in at least four miles. I wasn't feeling grand, but we had our window of opportunity in the afternoon, and I figured if nothing else I could WALK four miles just to get some miles in. Hubby asked if we were running outside or going to the gym to use the treadmill; it had lightly showered early in the morning and the clouds looked threatening, but it was dry and cool. Af first my reaction was do the treadmill (ugh!) because I didn't want to risk getting caught in the rain with not feeling great. The lure of using my Garmin 305 won out, though--just haven't had that many chances to use my gadget, and hey, we have rain jackets, right? So we dressed for running outside (long pants vs. capris or shorts for me, rain jacket and hat tucked in a pocket in case it started pouring) and headed to our usual trail.

 

First we drove alongside the trail to figure out how far we'd need to go to do a four-mile run, then just for the heck of it found how much farther an extra half mile or so would be. Parked the car and started our typical warmup walk, me fiddling with the Garmin so it could find the satellite signal and with my phone in an attempt to see if I could get an app on there to do the same; the Garmin found its signal fairly quickly, the phone never did. Sigh; put the phone away and give up on that app once again. Get out the Nike+ and set it up to record the run as well. Then time to start running; get both the Nike+ and Garmin started and begin.

 

For some reason, I haven't felt the need for music on the last few runs on this trail. Maybe it's because I'm watching the Garmin and listening for the alerts, maybe it's because I'm outside and it's more interesting than on a treadmill, but it hasn't been a problem running sans music. Hubby quickly pulled away and got ahead (he may have started running later than me, but he is definitely faster already), occasionally looking back to make sure I was still upright and moving. My thoughts wandered as I moved along; the first part of a run is usually the hardest for me, but I kept plugging along.

 

Quarter mile alert, half mile alert, keep going, keep going. First mile done; feeling fine, legs and breathing good, keep moving. We got to the two mile turnaround point and hubby (in the distance ahead) motioned that he was going further, fine, fine, I'm doing okay so we'll go further. As he passed me coming back, I told him (jokingly) that he was brutal, but I kept going and made the U-turn to go back. Okay, if I could keep going, that would mean at least a four and a half mile run, which would be good; I really was hoping to push myself to do at least that much as I need to keep extending the long runs.

 

In the distance, I could see hubby slow to a walk; ha, maybe I'd catch up to him! That kept me running, until (of course) he had recovered enough to run again. I kept bargaining with myself; heart rate is fine, breathing is fine, legs are fine, okay run until that tree and then you can think about walking. No, make it the next quarter mile. Ah, close to the three mile mark; you can go that far. Oh, come on, you can do a 5K distance. My internal dialogue would no doubt be hilarious if someone else could hear it. There's this constant stream of 'how we doing? fine, keep going; ah go to the next tree/bend/quarter mile/five minute mark' deals I make with myself to keep running. I got to the four mile mark and was still feeling fine, so I kept running . . . a quarter mile . . . half mile . . . we were past the point where we had started running and hubby had long since slowed to a walk, but at that point I realized there was a chance I could hit the five mile mark if I continued to feel fine and run, it would just be a shorter cool down distance, so I kept running. When my Garmin told me I had gone five miles, I finally hit the stop button on it and my Nike+ and slowed to a walk.

 

 

I walked (slowly) back to the car, and hubby and I did a more extensive stretch than usual, probably still not as much as I really should be doing. I'm not sure if he was annoyed or proud at me pushing to run a full five miles without telling him so he could do the same; I think it might have been both. I wasn't fast (13:18 mile), but I'll take that--it's only slightly slower than my last four mile run.

 

It hits me periodically what a miracle it is that I can do this. Less than a year ago, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to run a block, much less a half mile or a mile--and my 'run' speed was more like a 15- or 16-minute mile. Crazy, but it just goes to show that the Couch to 5K plan works if you listen to your body and keep going. Now I'm working towards a half marathon, and I have no doubt I will be able to get there.

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Some milestones

Posted by gmadenise Feb 3, 2011

It's only February, but I realized today that I have already hit some major milestones in my journey this year, some with running, some with other things.

 

I've already logged over 50 miles this year, and I will be increasing my mileage as I continue half marathon training. Yes, more of it has been on the treadmill than I'd prefer, but that still seems to translate pretty well to runs on the road; my pace and endurance have been fairly equal both on the treadmill and on the road. I'm antsy to hit the road more, though, as the mileage on my runs gets longer--it's mega boring being on the treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour or more and hard to stay motivated to run.

 

I ran my first 5K of the year in January and placed third in my age group. No, there were not just three of us; I checked because I couldn't believe it, LOL! There were nine women in my age group; I'm guessing a number were walking, not running, since my speed was less than blazing. Still, it's nice to have a ribbon for more than participating!

 

I'm signed up for a 4 mile run in a couple of weeks and have identified one race a month to do (assuming the money is there for registering and I continue to stay healthy). They range from 5K to 12K in length up in preparation for my first half marathon.

 

I've taken the plunge and officially signed up for not one but TWO half marathons that are just three weeks apart, in June and July. I question my sanity a little at that, but I keep looking at my training schedule, and there is no reason why I can't be well prepared for the first one, rest a few days afterward, and be able to do the second as long as I keep my goal for both simple: finish. If I have to walk a good chunk of one or both, so be it; I'm far less hung up on having to run every step of a race than I used to be. I expect to walk some of both, at least through the water stations if not more.

 

In the non-running category, I recently bought and can wear size 12 pants for the first time in probably 13-14 years. I still have some 14s, but the 16s are gone; XL tops hang on me, and even many L tops are big. I'm now getting a lot of things in medium; it's still a mental shift for me to walk past the plus size/women's clothing section and head for the misses/juniors section. Weird but wonderful.

 

The really big non-running milestone was today. In January I lost a whopping 2.4 pounds, mostly in the first couple of weeks; the last couple of weeks have been up a little, back down a little, but not going past that point. This morning, though, when I stepped on the scale I saw a beautiful number I had not seen in a long, long time: 182.0. That means I have officially lost (drumroll, please) 70 pounds. S-E-V-E-N-T-Y pounds. I was beginning to think that I'd never get there. It's not my goal weight, of course; that's probably another 40 pounds away. But it's a major, major milestone on the journey. Another 3 pounds and I'll say goodbye to the 180s; another 13 pounds and I will no longer be considered obese. I could well be just 'overweight' by that first half marathon, possibly even reach my goal weight by the end of the year.

 

Running alone has not been the answer for me in losing weight. I have had to change the way I eat and develop a healthy lifestyle; I track my food closely with SparkPeople, I use a bodybugg to tell me how many calories my body is really burning, I do strength training to develop muscle. But running is what has tipped the scale (pardon the pun) to help me lose. I'd run even if it didn't, though; I have become passionate about running, and my body craves it. It's taught me how to set goals and achieve them. I've learned that taking it slow and easy to start and building from there really does pay off. Most of all, I've learned that my body is more capable of doing this than my mind sometimes thinks. Running really is a mental sport; once you recognize that and find ways to do battle with those inner voices of doubt, you are on your way. Keep running!

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Running and technology

Posted by gmadenise Jan 27, 2011

Saturday hubby and I finally had a chance to go for a longer run outside, which meant that I could try out my new Garmin Forerunner 305 he bought me for my birthday. Yes, I am a geek. That's what I really really really wanted for my birthday, and he got it for me, wonderful guy that he is.

 

Oh. My. Gosh. I am in love. Yes, with my husband, but also with my Garmin. How did I ever run without it??

 

The feedback that thing gave me during the run was wonderful. Every step (literally!) I could see what my speed was, how far I had gone, how long I had been running, all very useful information to help me on the run at a quick glance. I had set alerts for the heart rate monitor to tell me when my HR got too high or too low, as well as for time and distance, so I didn't have to worry if I was pushing it too hard or too little. Having the info so readily available helped me slow my pace down (did I really start out that fast?) and keep running throughout the whole four miles I had set as a goal for myself. Every time I thought about walking, I looked at my Garmin and thought, I can go another quarter mile, another couple of minutes. I just kept doing that until I hit the four mile mark, slowing down as necessary.

 

Yup, I ran four miles, no walking breaks, in 52:42 minutes. That's not blazingly fast, but I was thrilled with it on so many levels; it was my first outdoor run that was that far, it was under an hour, and I ran the whole way. I'd done that distance (and a little more) on the treadmill, but it's not the same as running outside. It meant my average pace was 13:11 minutes per mile for FOUR MILES. This for someone whose early attempts at 'runs' were more like 15+ minutes per mile, and who couldn't go more than 60 seconds without walking.

 

Yeah, C25K works. Even for an older, overweight woman like me who was never athletic.

 

When I got home and connected my Garmin to the computer to load things into the software they provide, I fell in love even more. Graphs! Charts! Stats! I could see the elevation loss and gain from the run; what my heart rate was the whole time (yup, that's where the HR monitor beeped because my HR was getting too high); what my speed was throughout the run. So much data from that little gadget! My Nike+ data pales by comparison, though it was helpful starting out. And it's still mildly useful when I'm on a treadmill (as I have been all week)--that is if it doesn't decide to lose my run or choose not to upload the data.

 

Now my husband wants one too. And I want to go run outside to use it again. Really really bad. If only it would not rain when I get off work . . . oh wait, it's supposed to be a rest day. Sigh.

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Today was one of those days. The alarm went off much too early (or I went to bed much too late); I rolled out of bed, put on my workout clothes, and groaned. I did not feel like going for a run, but the schedule I'm following called for a 3 mile run. Ugh. Hubby is fighting a cold and I think he's been trying to share it with me. Double ugh. He was up and dressed to workout, though, so no copping out today.

 

He had (thankfully) set up the coffeemaker last night, so we got our coffee poured and our energy bars together for breakfast and headed out the door. It snowed last night, not a lot but enough to coat the roads and then the rain started early this morning, making for a lovely crunchy walk to the car and drive to the gym. It is still SO dark and cold out that I haven't been able to bring myself to run outside in the mornings. I don't hate the treadmill, but I'd much rather run on a trail or road; I'll be glad when it warms up a bit and/or there's more light outside when I get up or get off work so I can do more out there.

 

Made it to the gym, which was much emptier than it has been since the start of the new year, and I went to put my work clothes in a locker while hubby got set up on a treadmill. I came out and got on the one next to him and began. I did not feel like running; shoot, I didn't feel like being up out of bed, but I was there and we have a race on Saturday and a run is on the schedule, doggone it. Because we were both dragging when we got up, there really was not enough time for a full 3-mile run, but surely I could do 2 miles.

 

Yeah, not so much. Physically, I'm sure I could have done 3 miles or more; mentally, though, I just wasn't there. I did my 5-minute warmup walk and started running. I went a whopping 1.27 miles and decided enough was enough. I ran at a good speed for me--average of 12'25"--but I did not have the energy or the mental stamina to keep going. Appropriately enough I was wearing my 'Running is a mental sport, and we are all insane'  shirt.

 

There are days like that. Maybe tonight I'll have the energy to do more, but if not, it's okay. The next run will be better, and if not, the one after that will be.

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Slow but steady

Posted by gmadenise Jan 9, 2011

I'm making slow but steady progress. I wasn't really feeling like going, but I did my 4-mile run yesterday, and it was one of my faster runs, though not fast by any means. I am definitely a penguin. I have no illusions about winning a race (unless I'm the only person in my age category). I run races for the sheer joy of challenging myself to do better. I have run a complete 5K race and have run that distance in practice many times, both on trails and on the treadmill. The longest distance I've run so far is 4.5 miles, so I have quite a bit more mileage to build up before I'm ready for a half, although I have done an 8K and 10K doing a combination of running and walking.

 

The biggest challenge for me in training is finding the time to run longer distances. Much as I'd like to, I don't always have an hour or two to devote to running, particularly during daylight hours so that I'm able to run outside (my preference). I am working on making the time, though, and using the treadmill when needed because this is something I want to do. I'm not sure that I'll ever try to stretch it out to do a full marathon, but never say never. There again the biggest issue is time available for the training. I am definitely a penguin when it comes to speed, so even a half may take me three hours or more to complete. I can't imagine being able to devote the better part of one day a week just to long training runs in order to prepare for a full marathon. Maybe if and when my speed improves more, that will seem more within reason, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. First up is getting to where I can run a half, however long it takes me.

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Progress in the new year

Posted by gmadenise Jan 7, 2011

Over the holidays, I was able to take a few days off and spend a little more time at the gym, particularly on the treadmill. I'm a wimp; with it being so cold and frequently wet around here, I tend to run on the treadmill more than outdoors. It got cold enough that the ice on the roads stuck around a long time after it stopped snowing, so I didn't want to either slip and fall myself or put myself in danger from drivers who don't know how to maneuver on slick roads.

 

Since I was there by myself and had the time, I decided to see if I could run for a longer time than what I've run in the past. I had finally run a 5K race with no walking at all in December (woo hoo!), but I want to do more. Without time pressure (or the pressure of my husband  running next to me), I set the treadmill for a 45 minute run plus the typical 5 minute warmup/5 minute cool down period, and by keeping my pace low with only occasional periods of acceleration, I was able to complete the whole thing, no walking at all. A few days later, I got even braver and did a 5-minute warmer and reset the treadmill for the maximum of 60 minutes to see how long I could go. I was very pleasantly surprised to make it the whole hour; I was tired, to be sure, but I probably could have gone longer. Distance: just short of 4.5 miles, so I wasn't going fast.

 

That's the thing for me at this stage. I have a choice that I have to make with runs; do I want to go for a longer time, or do I want go for a faster time? I can't do both at the same time, it's one or the other. My focus has been going for a longer time/longer distance, and speed has gradually improved, but I need to do better at deliberately doing the work needed to improve my speed.

 

So far this year, I'm very happy with my progress. I started off the new year with a treadmill run (about 3 miles with some walking while I was messing with my iPod to get it recalibrated for the first mile), then ran (twice) on Monday (3.2 miles + 1 mile), again on Tuesday (2 miles), and Wednesday (3 miles). I've been paying close attention to how my body responds to running so frequently since I haven't been doing more than 4 times a week and rarely on back to back days, and it's been fine; yesterday was a more or less day with some strength and cross-training, so I'm craving a run today. I'd like to aim for a 4-mile run today, but if I follow the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan, it should be tomorrow, not today.

 

Crazy. A year ago I couldn't run a block without feeling like I was going to die, now I'm starting to train for a half marathon (June if all goes well) and planning about a race a month for at least the first half of the year. I never really believed people who said 'if I can do it, so can you!' It's true, though; this is doable for almost anyone as long as you take it slow and listen to your body.

 

Running has done so much more for me than help me lose weight. I feel like I found the real me when I started running; whether I ever 'win' a race, I know that I am a winner whenever I run because I'm doing it for me. I wish I could give that gift to everyone I know; it might not be running that does it for everyone, but there's something out there that unlocks life for each person.

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Why yes, I am a runner

Posted by gmadenise Nov 10, 2010

I have been reading a lot of posts and blogs from people who, like me, started running (or running again) while they were, um, big. Okay, in my case, obese--I think I was still considered morbidly obese when I started. For many, me included, there is a lot of hesitation to use the term 'runner' when talking to others. We dance around the term when we first start; I'm wogging, jogging, run/walking, etc. We might get a little bolder and start saying that we are running some and quickly add the term 'slowly' or 'like a penguin,' something like that.

 

Why do we do that? Is it because we think the person we're talking to is going to laugh at us, or go, yeah, right--you're a runner? I know that was part of my hesitation to say much of anything about running. Of course, when I was first starting, I wasn't at all sure I would ever be able to run two blocks, much less two miles or more. I wasn't sure that I would stick with it beyond the first couple of weeks of C25K. But even after I finished C25K and could run 30 minutes or more, I hesitated calling myself a 'runner' because of what I thought other people would think. I definitely do NOT have a runner's physique, and even when I get down to my ideal weight (whatever that mysterious number may be and whenever that day arrives), I don't think anyone will look at me and say, oh, now THERE'S a real runner. Nope, I'll probably always be a mid- to back-of-the-pack runner.

 

I read a quote, however, that changed my attitude towards myself and calling myself a runner, despite appearances. It goes something like this: The difference between a runner and a jogger is an entry form. The idea is that a runner takes what they do seriously; a jogger is much more casual about it. A runner has a training plan or at least a schedule for running; they are always working towards running longer, running faster, running better. With that kind of definition in mind, why yes, I AM a runner.

 

It's amazing how people who know me respond when that comes up; I post on my Facebook page when I've run a race or hit a milestone, and I get nothing but cheers and congratulations. I go to my local running shoe store and can talk intelligently about the shoes and bazillion pieces of gear that they have to choose from. (Whoever said running is a cheap sport never shopped for all the gear that you CAN get for it!) For being an incredibly unlikely runner, I have been by and large accepted by other runners (people I used to call the 'real' runners) as one of the gang.

 

So if you have started running and hesitate about applying the term 'runner' to yourself, sign up for your first 5K and go for it. You have now moved from casual jogger to runner, regardless of your speed.

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A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first 10K race. I was originally scheduled to do a 5K that day, but it was postponed. A friend who was going to do the 10K portion of the same race was even more bummed than me, so she went looking for an alternative and found one for the same day. One problem: there was no 5K, only a 10K and a half marathon.

 

I had started training for a 10K, but somewhere in the last few weeks I lost my motivation to continue with the training plan I was on. I had been running, but I was slacking on extending the distances and on pushing myself to run the distance nonstop. I was not at ALL sure I could do the 10K run, but my friend coaxed me into entering. "Please? You can walk it, just do it with me, okay?"

 

So, being the softie I am, on Wednesday I signed up to run a 10K. Eek! I am, without a doubt, nuts. I even have a shirt that says it: "Running is a mental sport and we are all insane."

 

There was no way to do extra training for the 10K; it was too close. I knew I needed to not try and do that distance so close to the actual race if I had any hope of finishing it.

 

That morning dawned cool and wet; rain this time of year is not at all unusual, and if I am going to continue running outside throughout the fall and winter months any, it's something I will have to learn to deal with. I'm not as concerned about me getting wet (I won't shrink, unfornutately), it's the gadgets I use--my bodybugg, the display for that, and my iPod with Nike+ receiver. So I wore a cheap, lightweight jacket and headed to the race. Met up with my friend and told her in no uncertain terms that she was to go on and run at her own pace; I knew I'd be walking a good chunk of it, and my run pace is more like her walk pace. We ran together the first kilometer or so, then I waved her on.

 

I've been running on hills, honest I have, or I don't think there is any way I would have made it on this race. The course was a tough one; we started out running up a gentle hill, turned around and came back down past the start area, then turned a corner and saw The Hill. I had already been alternating running and walking because I wanted to make sure I had something left in the tank for the second half. Good thing I had. When you have to move your head to see up a hill, you know you are in for it. I kept repeating to myself, 'hills are fun, hills are fun' and headed up, walking as briskly as I could manage.

 

At the top of the hill, the course followed a path around a park--a nice, mud/gravel path that was relatively level. YES! I knew how to handle trails like that; I ran most of the way around the park and then back down the hill. I was over halfway done.

 

I continued to alternate running and walking; I had no idea how fast I was going or what my time was at that point. It felt like I was walking most of the way, but somehow I managed to run at least a portion of each mile/kilometer. I took the water offered at the first station on the way to The Hill and on the way back without stopping, gulping it down and tossing the cup in the trash. I knew I was a long way from the front, but I also knew I wasn't last, too.

 

The last half I continued like the first, running periodically and slowing to a brisk walk frequently. There were some runners who were just running slowly and I tried to slow my pace down to match them in hopes of being able to run more of the way, but I couldn't go that slow; my pace is enough faster these days that I have a hard time keeping it as slow as I used to run. I kept looking for mile markers and some sign that the end was in sight. I started seeing runners walking back on the sidewalk, so I knew we must getting SOMEWHERE near. I saw my friend as she was walking back to go get her daughter and waved.

 

I was determined to finish, and to finish running. Finally I saw where the course split for the half marathoners to continue on and the 10K runners to go and started running again. I came around the corner and saw the clock: 1:34! WHAT?? I'd been afraid it would take me 2 hours to do the course, and I was closer to doing it in 90 minutes? I dug down and kept running until I crossed the finish line and could take off the timing chip (love those things!). Grabbing some water that was offered, I saw my hubby waiting for me and got together with him, then stretched out and got a banana. Ahhh, done! When I went and checked my official time, I saw that I had done my first 10K in 1:32:55, an average pace of 14:59--under 15 minutes a mile! For not having prepared properly and walking a large portion of the way, especially on a course like that, I was VERY happy with that time. I finished 18/29 in my age group, 626/792 overall--better than I ever expected.

 

So, what did I learn from this experience?

 

  1. I can do more than I think I can. Running really is at least 50% (probably more like 90%) mental; the mind says I can't but the body is ready to do more than I think.
  2. Running longer distances burns more calories than virtually anything else; after running that race, hubby and I went to the fair and walked around for 4 hours (yes, I am truly insane). I burned 3100 calories that day; if I don't do anything outside my normal routine, it's more like HALF that amount. Hmmm. running more = more calories to consume, not a bad equation when you enjoy food!
  3. I am officially addicted to races! I ended up doing a 5K the next Saturday and am looking at doing at least a couple more (maybe even a half marathon) before the end of the year.
  4. I need to seriously commit to a training plan for longer distances. Yes, I completed a 10K, but looking at the graph on my Nike+, I ran about half of it. I need to keep finding reasons to push myself to run longer, not just faster; a training plan will help, as will having races to run.
  5. I really, truly do love running, and I want to continue doing it. And I want to run longer distances (half marathon and maybe someday a marathon), so I have to find ways to carve out the time needed for the kind of training it will take and to overcome the barriers that exist mostly in my mind.
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Losing weight and running

Posted by gmadenise Aug 26, 2010

I started running as an extension of my efforts to lose weight and get healthy. Initially I was just walking, and that was challenging enough. As I kept it up, though, I realized that I was going to have to either (1) walk a lot longer and farther to keep seeing a benefit or (2) start moving faster--in other words, RUN. I didn't really think through what that meant--that if I kept doing it, I would be a runner. Runners were a different animal to me; when I thought of a runner, I thought of someone with practically no body fat, long legs, and crazy/obsessed with running. Who in their right mind would deliberately go out and punish their bodies like that for fun?

 

Okay, so . . . I do not have 0% body fat (try more like 35% right now), my legs are anything BUT long, but that last part has become true for me. I think about running a lot. I read about running--a lot. I participate in forums on running, and I write about running I'm nearly always looking at areas and evaluating, how would that do for a run? When can I go running again? How can I improve my time and distance? Where's the next race?

 

Running has gone from something I do to help me lose weight to an activity that I love. I run for the sheer joy of running. I don't mean to imply that every run is effortless; they are not by a long shot. Many of my runs are a great effort, but in the end, I am always glad I did them. To get done and have the sweat pouring off of me, feel my heart pounding, know that I've given it my best--there is nothing quite like that feeling.

 

Oh, about losing weight; yeah, I'm losing weight in part thanks to the running. I'm down 50 pounds since the start of the year. The best part of that? It makes it easier to run now.

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I love running/I hate running

Posted by gmadenise Aug 23, 2010

I have a love/hate relationship with running. When things go well and I can run for a good length of time, no pain, no problems, feeling the ground beneath my feet and listening to my music or even just listening to my breathing and seeing things around me, it is awesome. I get that 'runner's high' that people talk about and feel like I can conquer the world. But when I can't run for long, or I hurt when I run, or I go too long between runs, I hate it--I start questioning myself all over again. "Why are you torturing yourself by trying to run?" "Who do you think you are, calling yourself a runner?" "How long is this crazy fad you're on going to last?" The voice in my head that caused me to stop C25K for awhile and that kept me from pushing past the 20 minute mark in running kicks in louder than ever. 'You'll never run the whole way in a REAL 5K."

 

I wish I knew how to shut that voice up for good. The only thing I have found that helps is to do some positive self talk while I'm running to drown it out. "How are the legs feeling, good? Check. How 'bout the breathing, any problems? All good there. Okay, you got this--you can do this!" It's harder to push myself out the door when that voice is yelling at me before I run, but I have to just keep doing it. There's a quote that sums it up pretty well:

 

If you want to be a better runner, you've got to run more. It's as simple as that.

Tom Fleming, running coach

 

Yeah, that says it pretty well. Time to lace up and get out the door; I want more of the 'I love running' days, so I need to get out and do it more.
Tom FlemingYYeah

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Not every run is great

Posted by gmadenise Aug 12, 2010

I had hoped to get in a good run on Tuesday, but due to other commitments, all I could do was a short 'test drive' of my new Nike Free Run+ shoes. It was late (after 9 p.m.) and dark, but I thought I'd go in the well lit part of my neighborhood and run for 5 or 10 minutes to see how they feel. Some of my friends in the 200+ Pound Club here on Active.com are big advocates of barefoot running; I'm not ready to go that far, and the Vibram Five Fingers are a little too odd for me to see myself wearing them. The Nike Free series of shoes are supposed to give you more of the 'feel' and form of barefoot running, though, so I wanted to try them. Since they're so different than what I'm accustomed to wearing (stability shoes with orthotics), I want to take it slow and make sure I'm not hurting myself by using them.

 

My house is pretty much at the top of a hill, but there are lots of little rises and dips in the roads around there as well--nothing is really flat. It was a big deal the first time I could run the whole loop that my husband and I go down to the lake and back (about 1.25 miles). I planned to go just a few blocks and back, not the entire loop since it's not all lit well. I warmed up briefly and started out; the shoes felt great, no problems for my feet in spite of their minimalist design, and I headed towards the end of the street. I was also listening to a new CD and really enjoying the change in music. I got to the end of the street and was doing fine, so I turned the corner to go just a little way farther before heading back. Instead, I ran to the next turn before heading back. After the third song, I figured that I must be close to 10 minutes into the run and pulled out my iPod. Yep, just about 10 minutes; then I saw the distance: getting really close to a mile! No way was I going to stop at that point; I kept going until I had passed the mile mark before stopping the workout and slowing down. Then a voice came on the iPod: CONGRATULATIONS, you just completed your fastest mile! I looked at the time, and my pace was 12'54"--WHAT?! I had never run a mile in less than 13 minutes; shoot, most days it's 14 minutes or more, that's crazy, and in my neighborhood with all the little hills! I was so pumped.

 

Not every run is great, though. Hubby and I went out to our favorite trail to do a longer run last night, me in my normal running shoes, Nike Triax 13s. He's just getting started with running, and I was hoping to run at least 5K. In the back of my mind I was thinking I'd try to run the entire distance, but I wasn't completely committed to that. We warmed up and then started out together; that doesn't work so well for me, it seems. Instead of ignoring him and finding my own pace, I was going at HIS pace. I ran for 12-13 minutes, then found myself slowing down to a walk, much sooner than I really wanted. I ended up going a 5K, but I walked far more of it than I intended; even though we went our own speeds from there on out, I never could get the right pace or breathing, and my socks (which I love and have run in many times) were bothering me even though I had adjusted them before we started. I'd run for a few minutes, then walk, then run, then walk. Bleh--not one of my best runs. When I looked at the report for my speed at various points, it was obvious what went wrong: I started out way too fast in those first 12-13 minutes. Lesson learned: always, always, always run your own pace and don't let anyone around you influence it. Also, if you are going to run a longer time/distance, COMMIT FULLY to doing it before you start; don't leave any wiggle room or you'll find a reason to not do it.

 

Even a 'bad' run is better than no run, though; I'm still glad I went. Today will be a rest day from running, I'll get in some other cardio and perhaps some strength training and get back to running tomorrow.

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Why I'm an unlikely runner

Posted by gmadenise Aug 9, 2010

Growing up, I was anything but active or athletic. I wasn't horribly fat, but I was chubby and got the typical childhood teasing--baby fat, my mother told me, it will go away as you grow up. I was much more comfortable sitting with a book or playing with toys in my room than running around outside.

 

PE in school didn't do anything to improve my image of myself as a non-athlete. I was slow, usually the slowest in the class, couldn't do chin-ups or sit-ups to save my life, and the only sport in elementary school I was even remotely good at was basketball, of all things. In high school, PE was better because I could choose the classes I took, and I selected things like archery (great shot from doing it at camp in the summers). I had no desire whatsoever to become athletic; I was more apt to get hit in the face by a ball than to be able to catch it or kick it.

 

Fast forward more years than I'd like to admit to a couple of years ago. I was overweight--no, make that morbidly obese--and I heard about something called the Couch to 5K running plan. I read quite a bit about it and wondered, could I do that? To this day, I can't tell you what intrigued me about it; maybe it was the name (I was VERY familiar with the couch part!), maybe something else. For whatever reason, I printed out the information and tried it, but it was a half-hearted attempt. I didn't really believe that I could do it, and I quit.

 

Starting out 2010, I was at an all-time high in my weight, 252 pounds; I suspect I might have been a little more than that over the holidays, but I don't know for sure. At any rate, I was facing my 55th birthday the middle of that month, and all I could see in my future was getting heavier, less able to move around, and more likely to be pushing a walker or sitting in a wheelchair in the not too distant future. I remember my father's mother being big and in a wheelchair as a result; my mother didn't get quite that big, but she did become extremely sedentary towards the end of her life. I did not want to follow in the family footsteps, but unless I made some major changes, that's all I could see ahead.

 

I started to slowly make changes in my eating with the help of SparkPeople.com (an awesome free site). I knew my track record for exercise was poor, to say the least; I would start out strong but never stick with it very long. I heard about something called a bodybugg, and after finding a great deal on it, I ordered one to help keep me motivated to move. It's a high tech gadget that tells you approximately how many calories you're burning in a day, and I quickly found out once I started wearing it that if I didn't move, I didn't burn calories. That got me started walking, and I joined a new gym in our area that was right on my way to and from work.

 

By March, walking wasn't doing enough for me. I remembered the Couch to 5K plan and wondered if maybe I should give it another shot. I started out doing the sessions on the treadmill for the most part. Running even 60 seconds was hard, and doing all the intervals? Yeah, right! I did a couple of extra days of week 1 and moved on. The bad thing about doing the sessions on the treadmill was that it was too easy to check my heart rate when running; that scared the begeebers out of me, my heart rate shot WAY higher than I thought it should for my age! I backed off from trying to follow the Couch to 5K plan but I continued to alternate running and walking because it did burn a lot more calories.

 

Somewhere along the line, I discovered what is now the 200+ Pound Club! here on Active.com and started reading the posts. Hey, here were people like me, overweight but working on learning to run. I was encouraged by all that I read to give the Couch to 5K plan another try and not worry quite so much about my heart rate--I wasn't suffering any ill effects, and I wanted to run. I discovered that I could pick up and continue on at about the week 4 level, so I did that. I knew from what others said that I could probably run longer if I would slow down, and sure enough, it worked. I could run 5 minutes nonstop, 8 minutes nonstop, even 20, 25 and finally 30 minutes nonstop. I finished the Couch to 5K plan on August 6, 2010, running 2.25 miles in 30 minutes--not quite a 5K, but for a nonathletic, total couch potato, a major milestone.

 

So I'm an unlikely runner, but a runner is what I am these days. I'm currently working on the Bridge to 10K plan to extend my distances and also working to increase my speed. Yesterday I did a 5K run with just 3 minutes of walking as part of that plan in 43'50", a personal best for that distance. If I can become a runner, truly anyone can!

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gmadenise

gmadenise

Member since: Mar 26, 2010

This is an attempt to record some of my thoughts and experiences while learning to run at the age of 55 and losing weight in the process.

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