I participated in my first 5K run last weekend. It was a charity event held in San Clemente, California, supporting Autism Research. Called Hope4Hanna, the run featured a long uphill section and a cool coastal location along with hundreds of runners raising money for a great cause.
I have always wanted to run a distance race, but since I was in high school have always been a sprinter. You give me a 100 yard dash or a 220 or 440 and I’m in good shape. Longer distances have always been a problem. I decided a couple of months ago to start running on a daily basis, and started a workout program at my local gym. I thought that endurance would come rather quickly, but it didn’t. Running very far was still painful after weeks of practice. I didn’t know if a long run would ever be in the cards for me.
Fortunately, I found three things that really made a difference.
1. Interval Training. When I started to run in my neighborhood, I found that I got winded early and would have to stop and walk. A few years back I had employed interval training when I did the Body for Life program, so I decided to give that a try to see if that would work to keep me going.
I used light posts as markers and would run from one light post to the next and then walk to the next one. Then I would run to the next one and walk again to the next. I found that I could go a long ways with this procedure. As time went on I started running two light posts and walking one. Then I upped it to three.
This strategy paid huge dividends. I am certain that I would have given up the whole running thing without this, since the pain in my legs and being out of breath would have stopped me cold.
With interval training, I was able to build endurance slowly and add distance as my stamina improved.
2. Good Shoes. As I started to run, I wanted to purchase a good pair of shoes. I went to my local sporting goods store to pick put a pair, but was inundated with a huge number of brands, options, and prices. I asked around and my running friends recommended that I go to a dedicated running store and get an evaluation before buying.
I went to the Running Center and had an evaluation done by one of their personal shoe experts. She did an initial measurement and brought out a set of basic running shoes. She had me put them on a run down a mat inside the store where she watched me run.
She immediately noticed that I have a pronated gait, so she brought out stability shoes for my running style. She brought out three pairs at a time and had me try each one on the running mat. At the end of the comparison she had me pick the most comfortable pair.
We ended up with four pairs of shoes that I liked. We then did a run off and eliminated all but one pair. That was the pair that I bought. These shoes were way more comfortable than the first few pairs I tried. She also went up two sizes from my normal shoe size to give me plenty of room when my feet would swell from running. I ended up with a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS10 shoes.
3. Professional Training. After running at home for a while, I decided to start working out at a small local gym to get in better shape. I signed up for personal coaching with a running trainer to help me gain endurance. She helped me build stamina with targeted exercises, changed up on every workout.
My first week was tough, and it was things like pushups, bicycle crunches, and box lifts that looked easy, but really taxed my strength. The bench press and leg press were easy compared to some of the exercises using only my body weight.
But it was some of these simpler exercises that I noticed the most difference in as the weeks went by. Her expertise had me doing exercises that targeted muscle groups that were designed for professional runners. On many days I would end up my routine with a run on the treadmill and a heart rate measurement. This is where I could see my improvement by the numbers. Over the weeks my heart rate dropped and the weights and distance went up.
Race Day: Last weekend I decided to go to a racing event and see what it was all about. The website said that you had to pre-register to be part of the event, so I just got out of the car to watch. As I stood there watching all the participants get ready, the announcer said that they still had some openings and that they would take registrations at the main tent.
I wasn’t really prepared to run, but I did have my shoes and clothes in the car. I signed up, got dressed and stood near the back of the pack, not knowing what to expect.
I had never run a 5K before.
I had just done a lot of interval training.
What started out as a fluke, ended up as an amazing experience. The gun went off and I started running with hundreds of other people. I figured I would make it to the first corner and then poop out. But the moving mass of people energized me, and I just kept running and running. I actually felt light on my feet.
As we turned the corner, we faced a huge 3/4 mile uphill. We all kept going and with a couple of short interval walks, I made it up the long hill. The track leveled out and the pace picked up. There were people with water along the way, and I just kept running.
Then a cramp came in my side. The pain got worse, but I kept running. After another cup of water, the cramp disappeared and then we hit the long downhill. The pace increased and somehow I got a second wind. I could do this… I said to myself.
As the running seemed to get easier, I saw a gal in a blue top about 50 yards ahead, who I had started the race with. My competitive nature took over. I made up my mind that I would catch up with her before the race was over. My pace increased and I got closer and closer. I had one single focus, and my legs powered on.
As we made the last turn, I was only 50 feet away, and I ran with all my strength to catch up with her. As we crossed the finish line, she finished only six feet in front of me.
I had done it.
I finished my first 5k in 34 minutes, about mid pack. I was 106th out of 251 runners and 53rd out of 104 men.
Somehow running the race was much easier than running by myself. The throng of people kept me going, and a little competition didn’t hurt at all.
Question: Have you run a 5k or other running event before? What was your experience like?