I Did It!

Couch-to-5K

Full Disclosure: I wasn't quite this perky.

This morning, one day after my 46th birthday, I finally realized my goal of running 5K (3.1 miles) with the Couch-to-5K running program. Can I get a¬†YAY from the congregation? ūüôā

It was an amazing feeling. When I got to the end, my fists shot up in victory and I couldn’t help screaming a loud YEAH. The people driving by on the avenue must have thought I was¬†a bit off. (Some would say that’s true¬†even without the public display of Rockyness.) I’m¬†embarrassed to admit I even had a wee tear in my eye. But maybe that was sweat.

I’ve mentioned Couch to 5K a few times in other posts. For those who are interested in starting a running program, I think this one is great. And that’s coming from someone who¬†tried to run at various times in her much younger days and¬†never succeeded. It’s a slow build that seems deceptively simple on paper. In fact, because I was already up to one mile before I started the program, I almost skipped ahead. Lucky for me, I decided to start from the beginning. I’d advise others to do the same.

The program starts off with intervals of walking and running. There are three sessions per week and a total of nine weeks until you get to the 5K.¬†The workouts in the first few weeks vary each session, so I suggest downloading Robert Ullrey’s podcasts.¬†They feature music,¬†instructions from Robert on when to walk and when to run, and a tad of encouragement, which was just enough—I don’t need people screaming “do you feel the burn?” at me, thank you very much.

When the¬†final week arrived, I set out on a overly warm¬†day without water (yes, intelligent). I nearly died but finished the run along with the podcast. I was happy for that, but¬†I had a suspicion¬†I was running slower than a 10-minute mile, which would mean that I hadn’t actually reached 3.1 miles during the timed podcast. Sure enough, mapping it out with my car’s odometer later that day,¬†I’d only run 2.5 miles, avereraging a 12-minute¬†mile.

I charted the rest of the course, and¬†on my next running day, I set out again (this time with water)¬†to give it another try.¬†¬†That day was¬†hotter than the last and I couldn’t even make it to the 2.5-mile point. Disgusted, I decided to take a break and walked for the next week and a half, which is much easier to do in the heat.

But then the perfect day arrived. I woke up this morning to the absence of sun. It was much cooler than it’s been, and I thought “this is my moment.” I grabbed my iPod, tuned in to Robert’s podcast, and did it.

So, what next, you ask? 10K? Half marathon? Marathon? HELL, NO! For now, 5K is a goal achieved and I’ll be very happy to go back to a weekly combination of walking and running (fewer than 3.1 miles at a time).¬† We’ll see what happens when the cooler days of autumn arrive.

Hat-tipping Angel

I did the sound effects on Billy Joel's "Sometimes a Fantasy."

About two years ago, I decided to add running to my fitness routine. This was a big move for me. I had tried running in the past, but each attempt lasted exactly as long as it took me to be overcome by gasping, sputtering, and a severe stitch in my right side.

One day, having a particularly difficult time of it, I came upon an elderly gentleman out for a stroll.¬† I use that term loosely because his physical state left him leading with his right foot and dragging his left foot forward to meet the right. Although it was summer and I was sweating bullets, he was dressed in a long-sleeved, button-down shirt, pants, and suspenders. He was also wearing a beige- and white-checked walking hat (perhaps called a¬†stingy brim hat, though I’m no expert).

As I approached¬†him, he smiled at me,¬†raised his hat off his head, and set it back down again. I melted. It was like something out of an American Movie Classics film before that channel decided that classic movies originated in the 1990s. Then he said not “hello” or “hi” or “hey,” but “good afternoon.”¬†He followed that with “be careful.” (I probably looked like I was on the verge of a massive coronary by that point.) I couldn’t help grinning¬†as I ran past him with a bit more spring to my step. If he was out there taking one slow step after another, I could jog a few more blocks. And I did.

Over the course of that summer and fall, I saw him several times. I found myself looking forward to our exchange of formal greetings and became aware of how many people grunt at each other in passing. His presence always perked me up and I came to think of him as my jogging angel.

This past winter brought all outdoor running to an end. Snow, sleet, ice, repeat. When I finally got back out there in late March, I started off walking to get back in the swing but soon decided I needed to kick it up a notch and opted to try an interval training program, called Couch to 5K.

The beginning runner's dream.

The first week of the program, which seemed so deceptively simple I almost jumped ahead, had me huffing and puffing after months of being a couch spud dud. Imagine my delight when I rounded the corner and saw my friend for the first time this season making his way up the block. 

Then this past week, he was there again.¬†I was starting to lose steam, but the sight of him instantly energized me. As I ran by, I called out, “You’re my angel. You keep me going.” He smiled, tipped his hat, and continued on his way.

What keeps you going?

Note: If you’re interested in the Couch to 5K program,¬†check out Robert Ullrey’s podcasts, which provide music and verbal cues that indicate when to¬†switch from running to walking and back again. He has one for each week of the Couch to 5K program.