My Couch to 5K Journey: How I Became a Runner

Back in July, my friend Heather invited me to join our church’s Saturday morning “ralk” group. Some of the members are hard-core runners and others walk. Heather told me that some people bring their kids in strollers, so our toddler could come too. I figured it would be a nice way to connect with more people from church and a fun activity for our family on weekends. We showed up the first week and had a great time with the walkers. Something in me felt unsettled, though. I wanted something more.

Image courtesy of blackzheep at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of blackzheep at freedigitalphotos.net

I wanted to run. I yearned to feel that runner’s high and sense of accomplishment after a nice, long, sweaty run.

Immediately I thought of the reasons I could never do it. I have 3 prolapsed discs in my neck. I have an old back injury. I have an old knee injury that I’ve re-injured twice. My ankles are unstable. With all those issues, I’d be crazy to think I could ever run, right?

For the first time, I decided to challenge those self-limiting beliefs. Had anyone ever told me I’d never be a runner because of my physical limitations? No. Sure, my body wasn’t in good shape, but that’s because I allowed it to be that way. I had used those physical limitations and the busyness of working and raising a toddler as excuses that allowed me to justify not being active.

I decided to start researching. First I asked my sister Carolyn what she thought of the idea. She stated that she thought it was doable thanks to my weight loss and if I conditioned my knees appropriately. She recommended some physical therapy exercises to do for a few weeks leading up to starting my training. Carolyn also recommended I go to Bob Roncker’s Running Spot to be fitted for a running shoe. Finally, she told me I would have to be diligent about icing my knees after every single run.

I then reached out to the members of my run group for training recommendations. Several recommended the Couch to 5K (#C25K) app. I downloaded it and glanced through the training sessions. Didn’t look so bad.

Jeremy decided to join me in training. We got our shoes and picked a starting date. My sister had recommended I start with trail running so it wouldn’t be so hard on me knees. I picked a park nearby and did my first training session on August 16, 2015.

Day 1 C25K

It felt amazing. I was so excited to start. It was rough and I made it through. So I continued on to day 2…Day 3…

Then some problems arose. I started to notice some knee pain which gradually worsened, making it difficult to walk. I remembered back to a recommendation my cousin Shannon made that helped her with knee pain when she ran. She uses a foam roller to massage her IT band, which when tight and in knots, pulls the knee cap out of alignment, causing knee pain. I purchased one from T.J.Maxx and got rolling.

It hurt. Boy, did it hurt. I cringed and groaned in pain. I breathed deeply through every painful prodding of the roller, determined not to let the pain win. I iced frequently and took a few days off training. I started to get relief, so I got back to my training. Thanks to that foam roller, I was able to get back on schedule to do the 5K we had registered for.

Fast forward to September 27. I hit a major milestone in my weight loss journey, and I was thrilled.

70 pounds

I had lost 70 pounds since having Margaret in December 2013. While I had lost a majority of that weight prior to my training, the running gave me the boost to move past a plateau.

Fast forward another few weeks to October 10, race day. I was so excited and so terrified. I hadn’t run a full 3.1 miles yet. I knew I could do it, but boy was I intimidated. I had prepared with an awesome running playlist thanks to several recommendations from friends. Jeremy and I prayed together, gave each other a kiss, then put our earbuds in.

*BOOM* We were off. After getting past the sinking feeling of having all the faster runners fly by me, I began to realize how cold the air was. I had never started a run without a 5 minute warm-up walk. My breathing became labored and I started to feel panicked. There was no way I could do this. I was going to have to stop not even a half mile in.

I redirected my thoughts to focus on the music. The pounding beat. I slowed my breathing. After a few minutes, my body warmed up and my lungs adjusted. I had gotten through.

Going into the last half mile, I was really starting to feel it. I noticed a young woman a bit ahead of me who was alternating walking and running, clearly feeling exhausted as well. As I approached her, I said, “You’re doing great! Keep it up!” She smiled and began running again. That moment gave me a surge of energy I didn’t anticipate. I watched her as she ran the rest of the race, never again stopping to walk. Her strong finish inspired me to finish strong.

We had done it. Jeremy and I finished our first 5K. I was a RUNNER!

5K finish

My friend Cliff has a favorite saying: “I don’t need easy, just worth the fight.” Training for a 5K was not easy, but it was worth the fight. I learned so much along the way.

Here’s what I learned on my journey from Couch to 5K:

  • If you really want something, find a way to make it happen.
    • I wanted to be a runner, so I did everything in my power to make that happen.
  • Stop making excuses.
    • When I finally refused to feel helpless and powerless over my physical condition, I started to banish the excuses (lies) I had been telling myself for years.
  • Share your goals and rally support.
    • Having friends supporting me along the way was a game-changer.
  • When you feel like all is lost, you’re moments away from a breakthrough.
    • I thought I was ruined when the knee pain got severe. Once I pushed through that, I was unstoppable.
  • Encourage others along the way.
    • I posted selfies on Facebook on every training day. I was hesitant to do so, but a majority of people found it inspiring, not boastful. They were motivated by my progress to take the steps to better themselves.
    • I finished my 5K strong because I encouraged another runner to do the same. I motivated her, and she in turn became my motivation.
  • Look to others’ success as motivation.
    • My friend Jack ran an ultra marathon in the fall. That’s 50 miles. F-I-F-T-Y miles. While in the past I may have thought, “Wow, 50 miles. Sure makes my 3.1 seem pathetic,” I now refuse to have that mindset. 50 miles was his goal. 3.1 was mine. We both met our goal and we have inspired others in our own way.

You too, my friend, can meet your fitness goals. You can do that thing you never imagined you could. Don’t let self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs keep you from greatness. Surround yourself with like-minded, positive people. Refuse to make excuses anymore. Mindset is everything. Believe that you are strong, capable, and worth it. You can do it.

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