So what IS a 5k anyways? The “K” stands for Kilometers. So, translated to the US Customary Units, that is 3.106 miles. Usually there is a cost to sign up for one, but the proceeds often go to benefit one or more charities or organizations. If you’ve run a 5k or other races, I’m preaching to the choir (sorry!). If you haven’t it might sound overwhelming…but the whole experience is actually rather exhilarating.
How did I get to the point of doing this, you ask? Well, you may not know this, but I used to be a long-distance runner in high school, but some personal experiences during high school, college, & after kinda broke my spirit & I’ve slowly been working my way back healing through it all. Now I’m in my last year (last few months, really) before I turn 30. Somewhere in the past year my spirit has started to wake back up. I’ve become a lot more confident in who I am as a person. I realized I’ve spent most of my twenties feeling self-conscious, inadequate, anxious, & afraid but I don’t want to go into my thirties feeling this way. I want to rock this new decade. So…what do I do take the leap forward even before 30? I decided to try a 5k. And somewhere I got the even crazier idea to make it my goal to qualify for & run the Boston Marathon before I turn 40.
But back to the present.
The biggest reason this came about was because my husband & I started hiking through the NC State Parks this year. I was finding that while we were hiking, especially when facing steep hills in the NC mountains my heart rate would sky rocket. There was one we faced at Morrow Mountain State Park which really helped me see I needed to get in shape. I especially dubbed it “the stupid hill” because it was a straight climb to the top. Facing these hills, my heart rate would skyrocket, cause bad headaches, it would take hours to bring it down & days to recover, & I’d often have to stop while hiking to get my heart rate & breathing back under control. Even with all that, I still didn’t want to give up the reward of the outdoor adventures & the spectacular views so I decided to try to get into better shape by walking & running. But even with hiking as my main motivation, I still needed more…I needed a specific goal to push towards, so I signed up for a 5k.
I initially signed up through the “Local Races” app, a website/app you can search for…well…local races based on a particular city or zip code. I signed up on July 1st of this year & subsequently began training using the C25K app, because let’s face it…other than hiking I’d basically become a couch-potato. The C25k app was a great start, guiding me through interval trainings mixed of walking & running 3 times a week. While it was a great start, I noticed I started to struggle with keeping up with the routine if my schedule was hectic or if I got sick. It was more difficult to get back on track when I missed a day, so I started doing a “5k-a-day” either on my treadmill at home or at our local park. Eventually, I switched to only running in the park because the treadmill got monotonous after a while, plus, it isn’t the same as actually running on my own, so I wanted to prep for that a bit (Plus…it’s just way more fun to run where you can watch ducks & see gorgeous sunsets…just sayin’).
Unfortunately, just two weeks before my scheduled 5k, the Cozy Toes 5k, in Raleigh, I managed to injure my ankle & then get sick, so I had to break from running for the two weeks beforehand, but by race day my ankle & health were well enough to run, & run I did.
Normally, I probably would’ve shy’d away from something like this on my own, but it really was an amazing experience, one I’m repeating in just a month & a half. First of all the Cozy Toes races went to benefit a local organization called The 200 Club of Wake County which financially & generally helps support the families of fallen in the line of duty emergency services workers- anyone from police, firefighters, EMS, & more, which I think is awesome! We ran at the NC State Highway Patrol drive training course.
Race day came along & I geared up. It was around 45 degrees outside & SUPER duper windy, so my race gear included multiple layers: turtle neck, long sleeves, under armor leggings, wool socks, my ASICS Gel running shoes, gloves, a merino wool buff, bluetooth headphones, Apple Music on my phone to keep my mind off then run, & an earmuff I crocheted for myself…& it was even cold enough that while I was waiting for the start, I had to wear sweatpants & a jacket. My poor hubby even climbed back into the car once the race began.
Overall, my experience was amazing. All the volunteers were so kind, encouraging, & everything was really well organized. I checked in, picked up my bib, safety pins, shoe chip, zip ties, & waited for the start. We got to watch the “Little Troopers” run, which was fun. It was so great to see the first kid speeding across the finish line, & then the next three girls running together, hand-in-hand. Next it was our turn. Everyone crowded in behind the start line & then we took off. I tried to make sure that I kept a good, medium but steady pace. In general, I tried not to look at the timer on my Fitbit just to keep my
mind off it. I ran about .8 of a mile before I slowed to a walk up the hill until it leveled out, did another mile or so before I needed another walking breather, jogged about .5 mile, walked one last time up the hill, & then finished strong the rest of the way through. About partway through I found a few ladies that I could pace with. Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet them, but I paced along in between them for a good portion until I needed a walking break. All throughout the race, there were volunteers at all the markers & signs not just directing the runners where to go, but encouraging & cheering us on, too. One volunteer would cheer us on by our bib numbers, “Way to go number 633! You’re doing great!!” It was just so encouraging! The last .75 mile, I was determined not to stop & that last little stretch, I picked up my pace & lengthened my strides all the way through the finish line. After I crossed the finish line, they had snacks, water, hot chocolate, & our finishing prizes- Christmas socks, a running shirt with the race logo on it, & a cooling towel to use on runs in hot weather.
I really was so excited. Before the race I was disappointed because I hadn’t been able to train but come race-day, my ankle felt good so I pushed through. I really didn’t think I’d be able to finish the run in under 45 minutes, but low & behold, I did. My official race time was 37:56.3. I placed 36th out of 72 adults, in the category of females 20 to 29 I placed 3rd out of 7, out of all the women I placed 18th out of 48th, & my average pace was 12:14.
While I feel like I did really well seeing as how I hadn’t been able to train for 2 weeks, I’m looking forward to doing even better by the time my next 5k comes along. And the changes that came from training & running the 5k weren’t just getting into shape, I also began to notice a change in my mentality in the face of difficult situations. When I first started running, I could hear the voice in my head telling me I couldn’t do it, but the longer I trained the more the voice changed from “I can’t” to “Well, I made it through the last 5 minutes of the run, I can run another 3 minutes. Just take it one step & stride at a time”, etc. That mental change then transferred to other parts of life, too. When I was overwhelmed with my to-do list or obligations, I’d start to tell myself, “Hey, it’s okay. Just work on it one item at a time. If I was able to get through that one thing, I can do this other small thing, too.” I started to see my confidence grow in myself & my general abilities, not just in running.
General advice, if you’re planning on running a 5k or other long-distance trainings/races, make sure you have good running shoes that also have good supports in the shoes. And wherever you’re running, be careful to take fairly even steps, even if it’s on a trail, try to run in the most even areas & watch your steps. Part of what occurred with my foot was that I have fairly flat feet or collapsing arches. I had to get special inserts with good arch support made just for runners. Also, the trail I had been training on had one section that was pretty slanted in the run, which helped contribute to the peroneal tendinitis I developed. And…if you DO develop some kind of injury…please don’t try to push through it. You WILL cause more damage & it WILL take longer to heal. Follow the RICE method- rest, ice, compression, elevation. If you actually let the injury heal, you’ll be more likely to be able to get back out there.
So, if you’re looking for an exciting new challenge as you head towards the new year & running isn’t on your “dread” list, signing up for, training, & running a 5k is a great opportunity.