My first runs – a Couch to 5K success story

In my first post, I talked a little about how I got into running at the “ripe old age” of 37. In this post, I’ll dive into how my first couple months of running went. But first, some more background.

I actually did have past experience running. I participated in Cross Country my junior and senior years  at Brewer High School, did Indoor Track for all 4 years of high school, as well as a couple stints in Outdoor/Spring Track.

Therefore, I did come back to running — albeit after almost 20 years — with some past experience of both training and competing in the sport. But needless to say, any sort of running fitness was long gone.

And so began my journey on the first day of Spring in 2017.

How did I get through those first few weeks? Well, Couch to 5K of course. I knew I needed a plan to get off the couch (or out of the computer chair), and C25K was definitely the most well-known. Looking back C25K was the start of what has brought me to where I am today.

Interestingly, I have tracked every single run from Day 1 using that app my book club buddies introduced me to (see last post for more on those guys) — good old Strava. Now my Strava entries serve as a diary of how far I’ve come. Let’s review some of the early entries from last spring:

March 21st, 2017: Morning Run – Couch 2 5k Day 1. First day of spring, here’s to new beginnings. 2.0 miles / 20:52 moving time / 10:01/mi pace.

March 23rd, 2017: Morning Run – Cto5k Day 2. Very cold morning with wind. More jogging during the walking times… 2.2 miles / 23:22 moving time / 10:18/mi pace.

March 25th, 2017: Sat Afternoon Run – Cto5k Day 3. Ventured further away from home. Had right calf pain most of the way… 2.2 miles / 22:23 moving time / 10:03/mi pace.

So those were my first 3 runs. Nothing under 10:00/mile pace, and I was huffing and puffing to even get to that point. Since this was still the walk/run portion of C25K, that pace was a result of running way too hard to maintain somewhere near or under 9:00/mile pace during the run portions — which were at most 90 seconds to 2 minutes — and walking somewhere near 12:00/mile pace the rest of the time.

As a side note, even today I still run right around 9:00/mile pace for my easy runs, but now I can run that pace for multiple hours. Amazing how the human body adapts.

Now is probably a good time to discuss my dramatic weight change since starting running. The picture below is from my second run on March 23rd. I’m just under 215lbs. At the time of this writing (January 2018), I’m right at 180lbs after a good sweaty run. That’s 35 lbs I’ve shed since starting running, and yes, it has been truly life transformational. But more on that in future posts.

Skipping ahead a few runs to April 5th 2017, I had my first significant setback. If there ever was a time I could have quit before I really started, this was it.

April 5th, 2017: Cto5k Day 8 – Stupid calves locked up on me in the snow, walked home. Not enough warm up I guess… 1.5 miles / 15:33 moving time / 10:17/mi pace.

Looking back, I was trying to run way too hard on calves that were way too cold and still severely unconditioned.

But low and behold, I didn’t quit, and now it’s fun to look back on runs like this to see my progress. On this run, luckily I was only a few tenths of a mile from home and easily made it back. Nowadays, the freedom gained from running allows me to go on long runs that take me many miles from home before I turn around and head back. I do this now with barely giving it a second thought.

By run #10 of the C25k program, I found I was actually running the entire time (and not stopping when the lady’s voice would tell me to walk). Here’s that entry:

Aprill 11th, 2017: Day 10 – All running again! Deviating from the Cto5k workout and just kept running again. 2 PRs! 2.2 miles / 21:38 moving time / 9:28/mi pace.

This was only two runs and exactly one week after the above entry where I had to stop and walk home because of my calves. Glad I didn’t hang it up after Day 8 for sure!

Ultimately, I kept using the C25K app until completion during each run to remind me how long I had been running, and to know when to head toward home. But while the C25K program doesn’t have you running non-stop until week 6, I had gotten strong enough to run without stopping in about 3 weeks of running just 3 times/week.

Each person is different, and while I was running non-stop relatively soon, take things at your own pace. Just get out there and start!

Next post will be about the first races I started participating in June, July, and August. But first, a few more entries from May 2017 just to see the gains I made in such a short time.

Again, I was probably running way too fast for my fitness level at the time. I know that now, but I was also running a lot less miles so it was doable.

My first 4 miler:

May 4th, 2017: Day 20 – Run #20 since March 20, hit 4 mile mark, (mostly) negative splits. 4.2 miles / 37:08 moving time / 8:45/mi pace.

A nice run in Myrtle Beach while on vacation:

May 8th, 2017: Day 22 Morning Run on the beach. Waves crashing, tunes playing, in God’s creation.  3.1 miles / 28:31 moving time / 9:06/mi pace.

And finally, a couple hard runs to finish off the month of May.

My 30th run on May 27th, and a picture with the boys after that run.

May 27th, 2017: Run 30 – Afternoon 4 miler, strong run but had nothing left in tank. 4.1 miles / 34:00 minutes / 8:16/mi pace.

Lastly, my first 5 miler.

May 29th, 2017: Run 31 – Afternoon 5 miler, Solid pace, Negative splits. 5.0 miles / 43:14 minutes / 8:31/mi pace.

From barely being able to run 90 seconds at a time a little over 2 months prior, to a 5 mile steady run at 8:30 pace. Amazing progress to this point, but more was to come.

Next up, the summer road races begin!

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