Monday, September 3, 2012

My Couch to 5K Experience

After two months of training, I just ran my first 5k!  Here's how it happened.

I have never been a jogger.  I have flirted with it, briefly, but we've never gone steady.  As soon as I lost my breath, I'd start walking, and that was that.  This summer, frustrated with how I looked and felt after having two kids in under two years, I decided to give running a more intelligent try.

I googled the famous "Couch to 5K" program, sent it to Greg for approval, and went for my first run that afternoon.  Greg endorsed my plan with great enthusiasm, and found me a 5k to sign up for before I even finished the first workout.  By day three, I'd registered.'s Couch to 5K program was great.  It's an interval workout schedule designed to get non-runners running by easing them into it gradually enough to keep you from losing motivation or getting injured.  It even has an i-phone app for $1.99 that will help you keep track.  I followed the program to the letter for the first five weeks, and every single workout felt challenging but doable, and that was just enough to keep me going.  Starting with the last workout of week six, which called for 22 minutes of straight running, I ended up losing faith in myself ten minutes into the running and taking a break to walk.  From there, it was tougher and tougher to actually run the amount of time suggested without stopping to walk for a minute or two in between.  The walking made me feel so guilty that I actually ended up running for a greater total time than called for, because I wanted to compensate for the walking intervals in between.  

Greg actually pushed the double stroller when we went for our family run!
Thanks to my Uncle J for the hand-me-down!
I finally got over that mental hurdle when a week before the race, Greg and I had a chance to run together.  We put Will and Andrew in the double jogging stroller, which Greg pushed while I ran beside him and he gave me encouragement and helped me keep my pace steady.  Knowing he was watching (and running slower than he's run in three years while also pushing both of our children) helped me power through and run for 29 minutes without stopping.  My longest run without a walking break before that was 17 minutes, followed by three minutes of walking before I ran another 15, walked, then ran 5 more minutes.

Andrew after our family run :)
I ran my last training run, a thirty minute jog, on Friday, August 31st in preparation for my race on Labor Day.  My goal: Completion.  When I first started running, it was all I could do to run for sixty seconds at a time.  I remember the day the training program switched to running for 90 second intervals with two minute walking breaks in between - I was so nervous, and I came home after my run beaming with pride to tell Greg I had done it - and he responded WITH A STRAIGHT FACE that that was great :)  This is a man who runs marathons.  He has run for four straight hours before and somehow found it in his heart to be genuinely pleased for me the first time I ran for ninety seconds without stopping.  Words cannot describe how much I love him.

Towards the end of my Couch to 5k training, I started to fixate on how fast I was going, not how long and how far I was running.  It was suddenly hard to accept that despite all the work I was putting in, I was only running 10 minute and 45 second miles.  Greg ran 7:10s for his last half marathon.  I get that he's an amazing runner who has been running for years.... but it's still tough to work so hard and be so slow.

But what I needed to remember was that when I started, I couldn't jog for sixty seconds without losing my breath.  And now I can jog for over thirty minutes.  I look better.  I feel better.  I have more energy.  I love spending time running outside along the brook path surrounded by beautiful scenery, listening to my feet pound against the dirt path, and thinking about how awesome I am.  Because I am awesome.  I am getting out there and working hard.

Recently I reviewed a parenting lecture given by Alan Kazdin.  One thing he said that struck me was that parents of schoolchildren need to reward and encourage studying behaviors, rather than test results.  Positively reinforcing the behaviors of sitting and completing homework and studying for exams is much better than praising the exam score.  Applying this idea to my workouts, I realized that race day was only important as a means of demonstrating the progress I had made over those eight weeks of running.  Standing at the start line, I had already accomplished something great.  I had taken the time to get out there and do my best, 27 times throughout July and August.  (I kept track on a cool calendar of my brother's photos that I keep on my bureau).  Sometimes the runs went great, sometimes they were awful, always I went for the next one.  

So I ran my first 5k.  Personal best.  Now maybe I can focus on bringing that time down for my next race ;)

*UPDATE, MAY 2013* Still running!  Here are a couple links to some of my other posts about running:

Running With a Double Jogging Stroller:

Tips for Beginning Runners from a Beginner:

Andrew gives me a pep talk before the race
Heading towards the finish with my father-in-law cheering me on in the background!
"Look how young you guys were when Mommy ran her first 5k!"


  1. I've just come over from Cool Running after seeing your comment there.
    I've just started the Couch to 5K (done two sessions so far) and it was interesting seeing how you got on.
    My reason for doing the programme is because I've set myself a goal to run up a hill near where I live (with the 'Rocky' music playing!) and I decided I was never going to be able to do it unless I can actually run on the flat first. If I can run 5K on the flat I'll surely be able to run a couple of hundred yards up hill. Well that's the theory anyway.

    By the way I was reading some of your other posts and I loved the 'Yay' one, it really made me laugh!

    1. That's awesome, what a fun reason to do the C25K program! Although I will say, running up hills is SO much more challenging than running flat, it strains your muscles differently so you may want to practice some hills, too! I've learned this the hard way with the double jogging stroller. Good luck and have fun!