So. It all started back in November when I was planning a visit to my sister, Abby, at her and her husband's newly purchased home in South Carolina. I knew I'd have January 19 off for MLK Jr. Day, so I figured I'd use the long weekend to my advantage. In a text message about the details of the trip, Abby excitedly informed me that there was a 5k in her city that weekend and we should totally run it together.
Backstory: Abby has gotten really into running and has done a few 5ks lately. She's currently working on a sub-30 time, which means her average mile would be about nine and a half minutes. I've been really proud and jealous of her, because the last time I tried to run (two years ago) I was a wheezing, stumbling, sweaty mess on the treadmill. After about three minutes. I've completely exactly two 5ks (Color Runs in 2013 and 2014), but I walked the entire way on both of them.
At first, I was really reluctant. But Abby is persuasive, and I've always been pretty susceptible to peer pressure/had a healthy little sibling rivalry with her, so I caved. Then I realized I had just over four weeks to train for a race that I was fairly certain I could never do. I have exercise-induced asthma, which means that even a bit of moderate physical activity can leave me wheezing. I also have bad knees and a tendency to roll my ankles. But I checked with my doctor to make sure a few extra hits of my inhaler would be okay (they are), invested in some good knee braces and looked up ways to best prepare my ankles. I also researched four-week 5k training plans, eventually settling on this one. (More on that in a minute.)
I followed the cardio portion of the first two days of that plan during my first week of training. In the second week, I tackled the third training day...and decided to push myself to run for a solid five minutes instead of three. It sounds minor, but it was an incredible accomplishment in my book. I hadn't run for five minutes in about 13 years, and my pace was better than it had been in my middle school days. The next run in that second week, I pushed myself further: I ran continuously for a solid mile. I had never done that before in my life.
That day, I decided to abandon the chosen running plan and instead focus on increasing my runs by a quarter-mile each time. With a few exceptions (running after a huge brunch, running without my knee braces after leaving them at home, running without eating any dinner), I was been able to do exactly that. I began running for 15, 20, 30 continuous minutes at a 12-minute-mile pace. Again, I know that pace isn't really anything to brag about. It's slightly more than a relaxed jog. But for me, it's incredible. It's unbelievable.
The race was this Saturday. I was super nervous the morning of and had trouble getting breakfast down, but I knew that running on an empty stomach would spell disaster. On the way there, Abby offhandedly mentioned that the course was a little hilly, which I hadn't prepared for. Nerves on nerves on nerves. I knew I was physically capable of running 3.1 miles without stopping on flat terrain, but uphill? My personal goal to not walk at all in the race was suddenly much harder.
As it turns out, the first mile of the course was a long, steady uphill slope. It wasn't terribly drastic, but it was enough to wind me and force me to walk near the top. Once we crested the hill, I caught my breath and we took off again. Another shorter, steeper hill slowed me down a second time, but I found a burst of energy near the end and we flat-out sprinted the last tenth of a mile or so. Abby was great throughout the whole thing, pushing me to run just a little bit farther when I wanted to walk, telling funny stories to keep my spirits up, and cautioning me to slow down when I started trying to run a 10-minute mile instead of the pace I'd trained at. Despite the fact that we walked a small portion of the course, our overall time was 36 and a half minutes, which works out to just under an average pace of 12 minutes per mile.
I think the best part about this whole experience is how it's completely changed my outlook on running. It's turned an activity I hated into one that I actually kind of enjoy; I'm already looking up races in Columbus (where, I might add, the terrain is nice and flat) and contemplating when I might be ready to tackle a 10k.
Of course, I owe everything to Abby. If it weren't for her motivation and encouragement, I never would have even attempted this. It was she who told me that the next step after my five-minute run was to go for a mile. Who convinced me at the beginning that it wasn't impossible, even for me. Who pushed me during the race itself, when all I wanted was to just walk for five minutes. Thank you, seester. You're amazing.