Ramblings on Running

This past Thursday, I set out for my regular run in good spirits, but within three blocks I just wasn’t feeling it. Knowing that those first few blocks are usually the worst for me, I told myself to run two more blocks and then decide whether I would be finishing with a walk instead. Somewhere during those two blocks my mind became engaged in other matters and when I noticed my surroundings again, I was almost at the 1 mile mark. I decided to do a 1.5 mile run and walk the rest of the way home. But when I got to the 1.25 mile point, instead of going straight, I made a right turn that would take me onto my 5K (3.1 miles) route.

I’d only run 5K once, the day after my 46th birthday back in June, and though it felt like a great achievement, it wasn’t one I thought I’d be repeating any time soon. So, I told myself “just go as far as you can…no pressure.” That line was repeated a few times along the way, in between the distractions of passing some neighbors and an older gentleman running who I exchanged the “running nod” with. As always, the “people encounters” energized me. Before long, I was crossing the 5K mark and slowing into my walking cool-down. I was a bit stunned that I had run another 5K when the session had begun with me wanting to stop after 3 blocks.

The next day at work, I was talking to a fellow runner, and before I could voice the thought, my friend said “isn’t it weird how there’s no rhyme or reason to how you feel when you start out and what you end up accomplishing during the session?” I thought I was the only one who felt that way—that slightly out-of-control, is-this-within-my-will uncertainty.

[Speaking of out-of-control, we won’t mention getting on the scale after running 5K and eating right all day only to find that I was 2 pounds heavier. Yeah, yeah, I know muscle weighs more than fat and all that crap, but it’s demoralizing, okay?]

Today, I set out for my run and I had the sense I was going to shoot for the 5K distance again. I didn’t want to be too enthusiastic. I’m a bit superstitious that way. Sure enough, I finished my third 5K, came home and did my crunches and stretches, and felt like I had conquered something. I no longer think of the 5K as a fluke in my running history. It’s something I can do on a regular basis.

[I guess that’s why I immediately started researching 10K training plans despite saying several weeks ago that I had no intention of increasing my distance. The Couch-to-5K program and Robert Ullrey’s podcasts that I used to get me to this point were a huge part of my success.]

So, what have I learned about my needs for a successful run:

  • Psychological state at the beginning of a run is not a good indicator of how it will end up, so “just do it.”
  • Running one or two more blocks when I want to stop gets me through the lethargy.
  • Bargaining with myself along the way usually results in running farther than the bargain offered.
  • Double knotting my shoe laces ensures the neighborhood kids won’t need to hear my muttered obscenities when I have to stop and re-tie.
  • I feel better in the early morning when the sun isn’t at its hottest, but I don’t feel like running until about 11:30 AM or so. See the “just do it” bullet above.
  • Negativity saps my energy, so ignore the idiot drivers and the smelly garbage trucks.
  • Encounters with people along the way seriously energize me, so acknowledge everyone in your path and feel the good vibes come back to you.

Please feel free to share your tips and tricks. Oh, and does anyone have a recommendation for a GPS/pedometer thingie so I can change my route and still know how far I’m running?

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? :-)

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.

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