Guys, I’m pretty excited about this. At the 5k this weekend, I squeaked in under the 32-minute mark (31:59, thank you very much), with a pace of 10:17 minutes/mile. Which is a Personal Record for me. And I couldn’t be happier, especially after seeing how much I’ve improved over the years.
My first 5k in June 2010 was not fast. I clocked in at 42:12, which is equivalent to 13:35 minutes/mile. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I wanted to be cool like all my friends who were running races. So this 5k was a combination of me jogging and walking.
I kept entering 5k (my boyfriend and I would sign up for them together, and often along with our “runner” friends). I looked to one of my friends in the Somerville Road Runners for guidance on which 5ks to sign up for.
I showed a little bit of improvement during 2011. The two races I entered, a 4.2 miler (insane) in September and a 5k in December, had me speeding up a tiny bit, to 12:50 minute/mile and 12:30 minute/mile, respectively. I think I had started going to the gym a bit more.
I entered 4 races in 2012. My pace was getting faster with more trips to the gym. For races in March and June, I went 11:36 minutes/mile, August and December I had 11:10. I started doing Couch to 5k in earnest in mid-November.
Leading up this past weekend, I found a lot of ways to improve. I needed to get my body into better shape, especially since I found myself throwing up at the end of the races. I was pushing my body too hard, and not really doing things right.
What did I do?
- I kept going to the gym, but I tried new workouts. I took a cross training class and tried to incorporate what I learned there into my own workouts. I needed to build stamina and muscle strength, not just running skills.
- I heeded the advice of a friend. She told me to try not to stop early by slowing to a walk. I needed to continue to jog, even if it’s a really slow jog.
- More friends also told me to run farther than my goal distance. If I get good at going these farther distances, I’ll be faster when it’s time for my goal distance.
- I sought out a training schedule meant for a 5k. There are many resources out there, but I think I heard about the Nike Running Race Coach [edit: I just tried that link recently and couldn’t find the coach, but you can find it with this link instead] during a #runchat on twitter. It was very helpful having instructions for my workouts (or rest days) each day. I didn’t follow the training schedule exactly, but I ran more and incorporated more cross training into my routine.
- I trained outside. Running on a treadmill vs. running on the sidewalks is VERY different. While it’s easier to keep a consistent pace on the treadmill, it’s also easier to let the treadmill do some of the work for you. Plus, I needed to get more experience dealing with actual inclines of hills in the road versus the programmed incline of a treadmill.
- I ran with a friend. Running with my boyfriend was difficult. He’s faster than me. He has longer legs. He’s a dreamboat. Part of me wanted to keep up with his pace. This was not actually feasible. Instead, he slowed his pace. But, the good part of running with him (or any other friend) is that there’s extra motivation. I wanted to slow down or quit at times, but he encouraged me to keep going. Plus running with someone is more fun!
- I learned what MY pace was. While it was easy on treadmills to know what speed I was going, I was very bad at gauging what speed I should be going at when running outside. The pair of outdoor runs I did with my boyfriend one weekend really helped me to get a better sense of what speed my body could handle.
Race day, my three goals were: get a new PR, never drop down to a walk, and don’t throw up! I’m pretty sure finding my ideal pace was key in me achieving all three of these goals. Going at a consistent pace that my body could handle meant I wasn’t overworking myself to the point of nausea. It also meant I wouldn’t tire myself out into wanting to walk. And keeping my pace up (above a walk) meant I could finish the 5k faster than ever.
I’m not a personal trainer, or any sort of running expert. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned.
I acknowledge that my 5k time is not the best. But it’s MY best! Yes, one of my friends who ran the same race finished 12 whole minutes before I did. She came in second place! I’m super impressed! But I look at this as inspiration for future races!
Up ahead, I’ve got the Walk for Hunger (20-mile walk) and the Tory Row 5k. So I’m going to get moving! I intend to keep training using what I’ve learned. I’m heading back to the Nike Running Race Coach, but I’m planning on using the “Set a New PR” goal instead of the “Finish a Race” goal I used last time.
How do you train for races? What have you done to improve your runs? What advice have you heeded or ignored? What’s your latest fitness accomplishment?