On June 18, 2011, I ran my first 5K. I finished it in 38:27. I started running on January 30th, but didn't get serious till May when I started training for the 5K. After I ran that race, I became instantly hooked on running. I was amazed by the camaraderie at the race, and I was so impressed by the people who did the 5K then turned around and did the 10K right after! I was also amazed by the many different shapes, sizes, and speeds that runners came in. It was a sport where everyone was accepted, and I jumped all in.
12 months and 12 races later, I can tell you that running changed my life. The quote, "Running, to me, has just been freedom" (said by Simon Wheatcroft, a blind runner from the UK, in an online video) really resonates with me as I look back on these last 12 months since that first 5K. Running not only changed my life, but it saved it. I was well on my way to permanently becoming someone that I wasn't comfortable or happy with.
While on a run with some of the Northwest Indiana BGR Chicago group, I kept pace with a new runner. She was on her first day of Week 3 of the Couch to 5K program. I gave her a lot of advice that I'll pass onto you. (1) Don't get caught up on time. Just finish the run. One day, 3.1 miles will be nothing, and you will hear yourself telling people, "I only have to do 3 miles today." (2) Form does matter! It may seem like more work to lengthen your stride, but you cover more ground! So ultimately, you actually do less work AND go faster. Relax your face and shoulder muscles while you run. You should be able to feel your cheeks jiggle! (3) BREATHE! When you start wheezing, taking bigger, deeper breaths to slow down your breathing. And remember this quote from Chris McDougal's book *Born to Run*, "If it feels like work, you're working too hard." Nothing wrong with slowing it down and catching your breath. (4) Runs feel significantly better if you eat right
and drink plenty of water.
I gave her this advice and lots of other suggestions, but the things is I got more out of running with her than all the advice I gave her put together. Char was starting the Week 3 of running and pretty much going it alone just like I did for the majority of my journey into distance running. With the help of Black Girls Run, she will now have a community to help her gain confidence and the knowledge that she is a runner! While we followed the instructions of the training program, she struggled through some of the bits. But even as she struggled to finish the run intervals, she said, "I just want to keep running."
When we finished the run and she realized she'd done the equivalent of a 5K, her joy was infectious. I have to say that I found her absolutely inspiring, and she's helped me to fall in love with running all over again!
Over the course of 11 months, I have participated in 11 races (five 5ks, two 10Ks, one marathon relay with a four person team, a quarter marathon through the woods at night time in the dead of winter, a 9 mile bike race, and a mini marathon). I have gone from a size 14 or 16 in pants to ALMOST a size 8. I have lost 30 pounds, and my life has changed in more ways than I could possibly detail. But all of this came full circle on June 9, 2012. Still infected by the joy I felt upon meeting and running with Char days before, I participated in the same race that started my life as a runner a year ago. It was my sixth 5K and twelfth race in twelve months. I finished it in 31:57. This wasn't my best 5K by about a minute, but it was still almost 6 minutes faster than the previous year!
I know I am not the fastest runner out there, but I have a great time at every race. And I tell you with confidence that I have no intentions of ever EVER going back to life before running.
Hillary teacesh middle school English and am in the process and is a member of BGR Indianapolis and BGR Chicago. In high school, she was a sprinter, and in January 2011, she started distance running for the first time. Check out her blog at http://tokenblackteacher.wordpress.com where she details the adventures of teaching middle schoolers! Or her blog http://hillarysblog.wordpress.com/ where I detail the adventures (and misadventures) of my life including some posts about running!