Three miles closer…

On Friday I completed the third 5k race I have ever run. I came in at 36:01, despite a last-ditch sprint effort to make it 36 even.

By the end of the third mile, I was dead tired and pretty sure I was about to throw up. The temperature on the course was approaching 90 degrees, and although I downed water all day I still didn’t feel hydrated enough. This particular race ends with a gradual but really rather awful uphill climb, and even if you’ve run it before, the whole last mile seems to sneak up on you.

But I did it. And if you’ve seen the rather pixelated photo of my finish line moment (I hope you haven’t; it’s not too flattering) then you would see how happy I was to  finish that race, and more than 4 minutes faster than last year. The smile on my face tells much more of the story than the time on the clock.

It took me more than a year, and a whole lot of lifestyle changes to get to the point where I was able, both physically and emotionally, to run it. Those may be stories for another day, but I do want to mention a couple of things I found helpful in my journey to 3 miles:

  • Getting good shoes: Any running reference or website will tell you this. But you don’t have to spend tons of money—I got mine when a local running shop was having a huge sale. Talk to the people at the store who can help you with fit and the right style for your foot/stride.
  • Considering clothing options: Like me, you may think that a T-shirt is the most comfortable piece of clothing you own, but many athletes will tell you that 100% cotton is the worst thing you can sweat in. For me, investing in the right clothing was not only helpful in running (I am way more comfortable in lightweight shirts and shorts that don’t ride up), but it also sent a message to myself that I was serious about my training.
  • Having a plan: Many, many people swear by the Couch-to-5k program, and I would too—if I had ever finished it. Oops. But seriously, it is a wonderful way to take something that looks huge and undoable (three miles!) and to put it in perspective. I highly recommend their iPhone app, which will play your music and time your running intervals, so you can focus on your workout instead of your watch. (Bonus: Get the $0.99 GPS add on and geek out over your routes and pacing.)
  • Setting a goal: Is there an upcoming 5k in your town? Sign up for it, just leave enough time for safe training. Sites like maintain lists of athletic events and are often the registration portals as well.
  • Training on the appropriate surface: If you’re planning to race on the road, then train on the road. There is no comparison between treadmill and asphalt running, even with your treadmill’s incline raised. It’s not even close.
  • Creating a support system: Running buddies are wonderful things. But if you choose to workout solo, get someone to run the race with you, or at least find a friend or family member you can talk to about it—someone who will be supportive of your goal and will keep you going when you don’t want to work out.

Have fun! And may the wind be always at your back.