Two years ago, I met a young woman named Crystal at a road race in Guilford, CT.
Crystal was running her first 10K race, and I was running in the 5K of the event. After I staggered across the finish line, I noticed that some of the 10K runners were still on the route, and
ran waddled back to see if they needed encouragement.
Crystal was in the final leg of the race, but she was lagging. Despite all of her training, she was struggling to get to the finish line. I ran alongside her and began talking to distract her. She probably wanted to listen to her music, but she put up with my babbling.
Crystal finished that race, and she hasn’t stopped. I know because we’re Facebook friends, and she posts photos of her races and race bibs. And I always feel a little bad that I’ve let my running slide because Crystal hasn’t stopped.
Crystal is an inspiration to me. She lost nearly 100 pounds, and has maintained her weight loss, by running. Though she noted that she’s a slow runner, I reminded her that it’s running that matters, not her speed. Running is, after all, a metaphor for life: keep one foot over the other at all times.
I’ve been running on and off (mostly off) since I was about 15. I picked it up again about three years ago because I figured if I could walk long distances, I could probably still run too. It helped that my daughter was running on the cross country team at the high school and had practice every day. While the team ran, I killed time by jogging in the woods.
But I’m 60 years old, and as they say life happens. The Curmudgeon, who is an avid runner, snapped his Achille’s tendon last July, and I felt guilty running while he was laid up. I picked it up again last November after a doctor suggested I exercise more intensely to lower my blood pressure.
I ran over the winter, but my feet began to ache terribly after a 5K race in New Haven, CT., in early February. I had to stop running and rest my feet, losing all the ground I gained training for that race.
So here it is, on the cusp of swimsuit season, another attempt to regain my running form. A few factors are at play: first, there’s Crystal and her Facebook photos. She’d be really disappointed to know I’ve let running go over the past few months.
Second, there’s my role as an ambassador for Sound Runner, which has several stores in Connecticut. I’ve had the volunteer gig for two years, and receive a very nice discount when I shop at the store, but I’ve done very little to earn my keep. I’d like to do a little more to justify my ambassador status and T-shirt.
The third is my pants. You can’t stop running and expect your clothes to fit. Well, you can, but it involves a trip to the store for bigger clothes.
The fourth is a new pair of Hokas, the best running shoe I’ve ever worn. Crystal will tell you the importance of a great running shoe. After I saw her shoes at that first race, I encouraged her to go to Sound Runner and get fitted for proper shoes. Crystal listened to me, saying wearing better shoes has eliminated pain in her feet and knees.
The last time I trained for a 5K I did it on my own, and it was awful. I ran on trails in the woods near my house, out of the view of prying motorists, and it took forever to build distance. Don’t even get me started on speed. I’ve sort of waved the white flag on that.
This time around, I’m using the Couch to 5K app, which someone told me about last summer. I tried out the free app for a few weeks the last time out, but was too cheap to spend $9.99 for the entire program. I suppose that explains why I was having so much trouble building distance. I never made it past week 2.
I finally invested in the app because the thought of building back up to 3 or 4 miles on my own is daunting. If an app can lessen the sting of building my endurance back up, I’m willing to try it.
The program, known as C25K, was invented in 1996 by Josh Clark, a British man who turned to running to get over a bad break-up with his girlfriend in his 20s. Josh created the program for his mother, so we know it must be doable for women of a certain age.
Last fall, the BBC featured Josh as part of its “Witness” series – first person accounts of notable moments in history. You can read Josh’s story and see the film here: https://bigmedium.com/ideas/bbc-how-josh-clark-invented-couch-to-5k.html.
I wanted to help others discover what I had discovered—but without all the awful discomfort of my own first runs.Josh Clark on developing C25K
What I like about C25K is that it takes things very slowly. You’re only required to run 3 times a week for nine weeks, mixing walking with running at prescribed intervals to build endurance. Each session lasts just 30 minutes and is interspersed with ego boosts like “Awesome job” and “You’re halfway there.”
Though I’ve been tempted to double-up on some of the training days, I’m deliberately holding myself back so I don’t get discouraged. Thirty minutes and then stop. Observe rest days. I’m following directions rather than looking for shortcuts or immediate gratification. I’m trusting in the program.
If things go according to plan, I should be able to run the 5K Labor Day Road Race in New Haven, CT. I’ve decided to announce this on my blog so I’ll stick with the program. As my YMCA coach Maureen would say, you’re more likely to do something when you’re held accountable.
I’m also posting this to inspire anyone who wants to start running to give C25K a shot. The program has helped at least 5 million people get off the couch and complete 5Ks. Obviously, it’s doing something right, so if you’ve been thinking about running, give it a try.
I know a lot of people I’d love to join me on this endeavor, people who are dieting or unhappy with the way they look and feel, or just want to be healthier. But I’ve learned that running is something that people must do for themselves.
No one can get you out there except you. The app makes it easier, but you still have to want to do it.