Yesterday I competed in my first 5k race; it was the culmination of more than seven months of hard work and one more goal Iâ€™ve managed to meet along my list of happiness. Leading up to the race I managed to lose 75lbs, way more than I originally mapped out two years ago for the original list I wrote out, and now weigh in at a slim 165lbs, a weight Iâ€™m comfortable with being 5â€™10â€ tall. Seven and a half months of hard work, sacrifice and countless hours riding my bicycle on the road and gym led me to my target weight Saturday morning, Sunday was my day to prove what Iâ€™ve accomplished.
For some background, Iâ€™ve never been a runner, much less actually gone out for a run. Even in junior high I dreaded the day we had to do the one-mile run for the fitness test, I actually detest running. But, towards the end of January I started to get bored of riding the bike at the gym and the elliptical, so running was the next thing to do in an attempt to shed fat. Iâ€™m goal oriented, whether itâ€™s to lose two pounds this week, ride 100 miles on the road or, in this case, run a 5k, they work for me. By the middle of February I was able to run 3.1 miles without taking a walking break on the treadmill in about 34 minutes. My newest goal would be a 5k in 30 minutes or less, something that any 29 year old should be able to do. Within a few weeks I met that goal on the treadmill, which felt good, but I was getting sick of being on the treadmill and wanted to start outside, since I knew it would be much different.
Luckily the weather started to break and spring came a little early and Iâ€™ve been able to get outside, so I figured why not enter a 5k race. It would give me official timing, a sense of taking part in group activity and an absolute goal date. The 1st Annual St. Patrickâ€™s Day 5k on March 22nd would be my goal, complete it in less than 30 minutes and Iâ€™d feel accomplished. When I signed up several weeks ago, I did the math and figured Iâ€™d be really close, if not right on target to hit my goal date by Saturday the 21st, so itâ€™d be a great weekend if I could meet two goals.
Iâ€™m happy to say, I did, and learned a lot about myself and running, hereâ€™s 11 tips & tricks learned during my first 5k:
Get fitted for real running shoes. When I first got the idea to run, I went to my local running store and got fitted. Iâ€™ve read horror stories of people blowing knees, rolling ankles and getting back pain from ill fitting shoes, I didnâ€™t want to be one of those people, especially since Iâ€™ve already had spinal surgery. They watched me walked, looked at the bottom of my sneakers and had me try on nearly a dozen pair till we found the perfect fit. I also learned that while Iâ€™ve been wearing a size 10 since being thirteen years old, I need a size 11 running shoe.
Train outside. I didnâ€™t have a choice, I wasnâ€™t going to start a new hobby in the dead of a Pennsylvanian winter, but at the first chance to get outside, I did. Slight elevation changes, road surface irregularities, wind changes, they all have an effect on how you run, itâ€™s also a lot less boring compared to a treadmill!
Wear clothing to the race that youâ€™ve been training in. This was a critical mistake on my part, Iâ€™ve read the donâ€™t make any changes on race day line from nearly everyone, and I did it anyway. Iâ€™ve been running outside with tech tees under cotton long sleeve shirts, but nothing I run in has pockets. I figured Iâ€™d wear one of my cycling shirts, which has a small zippered pocket in the back and made roughly of the same material as my tech tees under a long sleeve cotton shirt so I could stash my car key for the race. The key was safe, but the cycling shirt, which I bought last fall, is now two sizes too big, so it didnâ€™t fit so well and cause chafing on my nipples. Now I know why marathon runners put band-aides on them.
Sleep well, eat well. Saturday night I was out late shooting an event till 2 in the morning. Even though I didnâ€™t crawl into bed until nearly 3am, I didnâ€™t have to wake up till 10am for the race, so I still got nearly 7 hours of sleep, which is what I average. Additionally, being out late and working actually put me to sleep faster when I got home and I slept better because of it. In the morning I had a half bowl of oatmeal along with some water, not too much food to make me sick to my stomach, just enough to keep me happy until after the race.
Drink twice the amount of water as you think you should. Packet pickup was at 11am, race started at 12:30, they suggested runners get there by 11am because parking would be a mess. I chugged some water before I left my house at 10:45 and figured Iâ€™d be fine, I wasnâ€™t. Even though there was indoor packet pickup, water and bathrooms available I didnâ€™t drink more water for fear of a side sticker. By the time it came to line-up, I was feeling dry mouthed and wishing I had sipped some more water.
The start of the race is not a sprint. Randomn3ss writer, competitive swimmer, triathlete and all around great person Lauren Libertine warned me that the start of the race could be nuts and I shouldnâ€™t try to jockey for position, but to run my own race. I of coarse didnâ€™t listen and got caught up with the front 40-50 runners going at a pace that left me burned out by the end of the first mile.
Donâ€™t be ashamed to take a break. In less than 8 weeks I went from somewhat in fit cyclist to running a 5k race, from never running in my life. Itâ€™s a bit fast, but I did take two or three 10-15 second walking breaks yesterday.
Check behind you before blowing a snot rocket. While Iâ€™m proud to say Iâ€™ve mastered the art of blowing snot rockets, itâ€™s common courtesy to look behind you prior to blowing one so someone isnâ€™t covered in your gross-ness.
Run with someone. Another one of my mistakes. I told almost no one about doing this race, for no real reason. I wanted to do this for myself, to prove that I could do it, for me, no one else. It was selfish and I think if I could have convinced a friend to do it with me Iâ€™d not only had an even more enjoyable time and probably run a little faster. While I was running with 275 other people, itâ€™s hard to set a constant pace without someone you know next to you.
When you see the finish line, kick! I am near-sighted, as in I wear glasses so I can see stuff far away, but I donâ€™t run in them. When I rounded the final corner I could kind of see the finish, but the time clock was blurry. This is when I started to kick, not only to get a decent finish time, but so I could actually see how fast I was going. By the time I was close enough to see the clock, I was amazed how fast a pace I was at, especially considering the walking breaks.
Walk it out, refuel. After the run I had a block walk back to the area where the packet pickup was, the race officials and sponsors provided fruit, water, bagels and protein shakes free of charge, take advantage of this stuff! The walk got my heart rate down and the protein shake along with a banana helped ensure I didnâ€™t get muscle cramps.
So how did I do? Of the 275 registered runners, 254 completed the 5k, I placed 183rd with a time of 28:28, well under my goal of 30 minutes and a new personal record. The sense of accomplishment, both in meeting my target body weight, how I feel and look, and completing the 5k race is beyond words for me. Iâ€™m already signed up to run another race in 2 weeks, another 2 weeks after that. Hopefully I can break into 27 minutes in one of those two races.
If you’re interested in seeing just how much training I’ve done leading up to the race, or how I continue to train, follow me at DailyMile here.