Every day Life
Who out there, is a natural runner? Lucky you. I always envied those who love to run, who gracefully glide by, seemingly without effort. I’m not a natural runner. My face turns red, my knees hurt, and I huff and puff and count down the minutes until I get to stop. Which I did, for about 15 years.
Nine weeks ago, after a particularly grueling work schedule that involved much slumping over a laptop for much of my waking hours, I was feeling more sluggish, out of shape, and lower on energy than usual. I needed a change. Two days later, a local Meetup advertising a new Couch to 5K program popped into my inbox. It was free, it was at 6:30 p.m. – which would force me to leave the office on time – and best of all, it was right in my town. I was in!
On the first night, a very eclectic group of all shapes and ages assembled at the track. Coach Jim gave us a pep talk and told us that the goal was the Turkey Trot 5k race, Thanksgiving morning. We walked at a normal pace around the track, stopped to do some jumping jacks and stretching. Then, he blew the whistle and we proceeded to walk again. Whistle blown, we then jogged a bit. A short time later, the whistle blew again and we walked some more. And 30 minutes later, after some more walking, a bit of running, and more walking, he blew the whistle to signal the end of the workout. Barely out of breath, I thought, ‘I can actually do this.’ I was pumped.
The first few weeks were easy. Three nights a week, we’d meet at the track to walk for several minutes, run for a few, then walk again. Gradually, we added more running, and less walking, time. It was a low-key, supportive group, and Jim literally would run circles around us at the track, shouting encouragement along the way.
I missed nearly a week of Meetups thanks to a business trip, and when I returned, I realized that we were doing a lot more running. I was out of breath… but not as much as I would have thought. ‘Wow,’ I thought again. ‘I will do this.’
On Thanksgiving morning, our group was among the 1,700 runners in my town who gathered for the Turkey Trot. It was a gorgeous day, crisp but not cold, and the sun was shining. As we gathered near the start line, coach Jim gave us our final pep talk. ‘You can all do this,’ he said. ‘Take your time, pace yourself. I’ll see you at the finish line.’
Then the horn sounded and we were on our way. There were many whoops, much laughter and talking, and cheers from people along the route. We ran down the street, turned the corner, and I realized that I was actually running in a race. And I was actually having fun. While running. It was unimaginable.
I did stop halfway, where small kids were handing out cups of water. And a little later, I stopped running on the steepest part of the hill, but kept walking briskly. A few minutes later, I resumed running.
There’s nothing like the site of home stretch, where people are lined up, shouting encouragement. I quickened my pace and my body didn't complain. I charged onward, grinning as the clock flashed my time as I crossed the finish line. The time didn’t matter… the finishing bit, did.
For those who are looking for a great way to ease into shape, the Couch to 5k program is a fantastic approach. With the New Year approaching, it’s a great time to get started. If you’re lucky, you’ll have some friends to do this with – and perhaps even your own coach Jim.
Here’s to the road ahead, to get you through the holidays, leaving that coach behind.