A week ago, I ran an entire 5K . It’s no marathon and my time (38:40) isn’t going to break any records, but, for me, it’s real progress. I remember being forced to run laps in elementary school and just hating it. I remember the Presidential Physical Fitness test’s 1 mile run feeling like agony in middle school. In high school, I started to find the joy in running, but always found a way to hurt myself and stopped. Now, I can run over 3 miles pain free miles up hills and without having to stop or walk. And I like it.
I started the Couch-to-5K program after seeing a friend mention it on Twitter. I read the intro paragraph, scrolled down to the plan, and in a few minutes decided I was going to do it. I’m not sure why I felt so strongly about it, but I had been walking and going to the park most mornings and it felt like I could fit it easily into my life.
I downloaded the iPhone Couch-to-5K app so I wouldn’t have to think about the timing and started the very next day. Then the next day, I ran again, and then the day after. I was wearing old running shoes. I started to get knee pain. I had failed to read the article about the plan in detail and missed the part about resisting the urge to skip rest days. Oops. But, I had made noticeable progress anyway.
A trip to Fleet Feet in Sandy Springs fixed the shoe problem. I had a great fitting and spending the money on shoes plus orthotics probably helped me overcome any thoughts I had about quitting. I hate wasting money on things I end up not using. I decided to just run every other day (as suggested) and keep going. By the next week my knee pain was gone and it hasn’t returned.
I also decided to create some external motivation. I decided that I would run a 5k before my 31st birthday which meant that last weekend, August 29th or 30th, was my window. I went on to active.com and signed up for the closest 5k — the DI Dash in Marietta. I told my friends, family, and fellow Twitterers about it. Like you, I am not a fan of public failure, so now it wasn’t just me wanting to do it. I had to do it. Sure it was a situation of my own contrivance and it’s not like it would have been very embarrassing to fail, but it worked for me anyway.
I work and have a young son, so I don’t exactly have “leisure” time that I could easily convert into running time, but every time something could have kept me from running, I didn’t let it. It’s the kind of dedication I usually only have in my work life. If that meant getting up earlier than I’d like and pushing a 30ish pound William around in a jogging stroller (which is almost always did), I was going to do it. The external motivation/deadline couple with my genuine desire to be healthier put it in the Important/Urgent Covey Quadrant. At home, I’m only moderately effective, so I almost never get to things in my Important/Not-Urgent quadrant.
The plan also really works. It’s just difficult enough for you to feel progress. There’s the first time you run 5 minutes without walking, then two 10 minute runs with 5 minute walk in-between, then a 20 minute run, then 25 minutes, 28 minutes, 30 minutes. I thought, “that’s going to be a challenge” and it was, but I felt like the program had prepared me for it. If you’ve been thinking about running, you should check it out. A lot of people are doing it and tweeting about it with the hashtag #c25k, so you don’t have to take my word for it.
So, with a great plan, the right equipment, a deadline, and strong commitment, I was able to run the DI Dash in my best 5K time ever. And then yesterday, I ran 3.2 miles despite feeling tired and having a sore throat. I thought, “I better run today in case I feel worse tomorrow.” Before Couch-to-5K not feeling well would have been all the excuse I needed not to run, but now I have the Doug Kessler Lightning 5K to prepare for.