I’ve never been ‘a runner’. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to be; I have strong legs and can walk for miles and miles, but more importantly I have a determined streak in my personality which means I’ll compete with myself to surpass what I think I’m capable of. But, I’d tried getting to that elusive 5k mark and given up every time – mostly because I didn’t care enough about achieving it to go out and gradually build up to it.
But to my surprise, I found that I was eventually capable of running 5k – and now I even look forward to it. Here’s what happened…
How I ran my first 5k
Over the first few weeks, I built up to running for 7 or 8 minutes at a time. During one particular run, I had a feeling I could go a little bit further. So, when the app told me to ‘slow down and start walking’, I ignored it.
I decided to run until the end of the song that was playing through my headphones. And when that song came to an end, I still felt like I had a little more left in me. So, I kept running until I reached a point on my route that I never thought I could make it to.
Getting so much further than I thought I’d be able to at that early stage gave me a big boost of confidence and made me believe I wasn’t going to die after all. At least not during this run. So it was with that attitude that I decided, next time, I’d push a little further.
Soon after I was going for runs where I was making it 15 minutes without walking, and it really began to feel like I might be capable of doing a full 30 minutes after all.
Only, I realised the clock was ticking and I was about to miss my slot at the car garage. I wasn’t going to be able to walk the rest of the way home as I had planned, so I would have to dig deep and run if I had half a hope of getting my car MOT’d before it was overdue. Red faced and already knackered, I (quite literally) put my head down, picked a spot further along the pavement to look at and told myself “if I can just get to the corner, I’ll shave a bit of time off and maybe make it to the garage after all.”
The corner came and went, and so did the next lamp post, the library, the next crossing, Jo’s house – all the checkpoints I’d bargained with myself to meet.
Before I knew it, I was on the last stretch before arriving home – I’d run for 26 minutes without stopping and all that was left was the long road that led up to my house. Being able to say to myself (and anyone else who was kind enough to humour me!) that I could run for 30 minutes meant such a lot – so I just kept going. And going. And going. Until I panted all the way up to my front door at looked down at my watch to see 30 minutes 06 seconds had passed. I had run a whole 5k without stopping!
I’ve since managed to build up to 60 minutes of running without stopping to walk. I admit I’m going at the pace of a tortoise, but all the while I hear myself in my head saying “it does not matter how slow you go, so long as you do not stop”. It’s my mantra right now!
I’ve been out three times this week, running 4 miles, 6 miles and 4 miles respectively – not bad for a girl who couldn’t run more than 5 minutes only a couple of months ago!
So, it’s with that small (but significant) achievement under my belt that I want to share the three things that have helped me run my first 5k – and beyond. Of course, there’s the intangible but essential stuff like willingness, a bit of determination and a belief in yourself – but I’m going the leave those things off the list. They kind of go without saying and I’m tired of writing predictable listicles. The internet doesn’t need any more of those after all. 😉
3 things you can buy that will help you run 5k
1. A good pair of headphones.
I use tatronics in-ear bluetooth headphones – they’re a little bit fiddly to learn how to get in your ears, but once they’re in, they’re going nowhere. Better yet, and more importantly, they have an amazing ability to cancel out noise around you. You’ll want to be extra careful crossing roads and staying aware of who’s around you, but I love the fact I can’t hear how hard I’m breathing.
2. Workout clothes that don’t make you wish the whole world was blind
I recommend buying at least one ‘outfit’ that you feel OK in. For me that was my trusty black leggings, a plain t-shirt and a dark pair of trainers. It felt like a necessary kind of camouflage and made me feel like it was OK to be having a go at running 5k.
Now that I can run for longer than I ever thought was possible, I love my body more than ever. My chunky legs, strong muscles, imperfect tummy and even my sweaty red face are all amazing parts of me that I’m proud to say can endure miles after miles of hard work, so I’ve now taken to wearing short shorts, pink trainers and bright pink sports vests. And that’s mostly because no-one cares about me as much as I care about me (and by that, I mean no-one is paying me as much attention as I think they are).
3. A Fitbit or exercise tracker of some sort
This is not essential – I very comfortably managed to run 5k without any fancy gadgets. But I wish I’d bought my Fitbit sooner. I’ve surprised myself about how geeky I’ve already become about my pace, distance and heart rate (I spent 40 minutes in peak zone this morning), and having the technology and apps just makes it that little bit more fun. I’m now using it to build up to 10k and 15k and I love quickly flicking my wrist to see how many steps I’ve hit by lunchtime.
Do you run? Walk? Spin? Swim? I wish I’d discovered how great exercising feels a bit sooner.