Reader Q&A: Start me up…
It’s been a great month for questions, and I thought I’d take the chance to pluck one from our Q&A page (thanks, Wendie!) and answer it for today’s blog.
“I would like to know what it was like for you when you started running – what kept you motivated and how you worked through feelings of being bored (if you get bored) while running. I would like to know what your original running plan was, the pace you worked through it and how long it took you to get to your first race.”
Thanks for the question, Wendie. When I read it, I was out of breath, just thinking about what it was like! I think what started me running (regularly) was a feeling that I wanted to be able to keep up with a new group of friends i had found. They were playing softball, and football, and ultimate frisbee, and I was a recovering law student who literally couldn’t stay vertical on a softball field while chasing a slow grounder to center.
I talked to one friend, then another, then another, and we agreed to train for a 5k about 10 weeks out. I was helped immensely by running with a kind, patient, incredibly awesome friend who had been running for awhile – Kristin found a 5k training program for us, and, running with three of my friends, we took to the streets 3 days a week (at a minimum).
I won’t lie. I sucked wind for those 10 weeks. We built up the way the program said we should, but my friends were lighter than me, and they just didn’t have to work so hard. But they went slowly (for me) and ran with me the whole time. They were amazing. And the biggest gift they gave me was to carry the conversational weight while we ran – distracting me from the distance and keeping me entertained. With only 1 or 2 miles to go every time we went out, I eventually was able to talk a bit too. That felt good.
Staying motivated was easier with a race in mind – we paid early, and a few weeks in, we recruited even more friends to join us. Suddenly, we were meeting one night a week (I think it was only one), 7 or 8 of us (most who had never, ever considered doing this) traipsing around North Center in Chicago in a simple grid pattern, knocking out our miles and having a ball. Yes, I was generally at the back – but no one ever got left behind.
So, I would say that thanks to friends, there really wasn’t much chance to be bored. That, plus I had quite a bit going on in my life, means that I really enjoyed the time to think. And, a nice side effect of running was that I was getting to know Chicago’s neighborhoods – something i hadn’t spent a lot of time to do. I loved to check out the view from the sidewalk – looking two stories up to check out the different crown work on the buildings I passed. I find even today, I have the same approach – keeping my eyes towards the horizon to see what’s out there…
And as for training plans and pace, I have a note out to one of my old friends, asking her to confirm – but my recollection is that we used a light, building up training plan – we built up very slowly, going from 1/2 mile and up in minor increments, over 10-12 weeks. And to the best of my recollection, we didn’t run/walk – we just ran, flat out.
As for pacing, I started running at 245 pounds, and I think by the time I was doing our race, I was down to about 220 (I’m 5’9″). I was running with faster people – so most of my training runs were “4″ on an effort scale of 1-5, with “5″ being all out – not the way I’d train today, to be sure. That said, it made me faster, and I ran about a 13:30 pace for that race and the others that year.
As for training plans, there’s a lot of options out there, but I would recommend anything from coach Jenny Hadfield; you can also purchase the plans via Walk Jog Run as an app for the iPhone for only $4.99. And there are loads of free plans out there – lots of people like Couch to 5k (commonly known as C25k) – my friend Scott just finished his race using that plan – and one other option is to take something that you know is a healthy plan to get there, too – presumably, something like this one from Girls on the Run St. Louis might work (though I worry it’s only 6 weeks!).
In my experience, stretching it out to 10-12 weeks is safer, and helps you avoid the shin splint problem you’re having. Your body needs time to recover on this stuff – and a serious increase in mileage (more than 10% per week) puts you in prime spot for trouble. So stretch it out if you can.
All of that aside, race day was pretty cool. And today, 13 years later, I can still picture in my mind, those fun training runs (and the side stitches, and the sweating, and the lack of O2!) with my friends. They’re cherished memories for me – and to the extent you can add some humans to your journey, they’re the best motivators you can find.
Good luck and keep us posted on the journey!