The reward of running

Sometimes all it takes is a little push for motivation.

I’m about to turn 30 next month and at the beginning of the year, decided it was time for a healthier lifestyle. In addition to regular weight lifting, I began running three times a week.

I would go a mile or mile and a half on the treadmill at Anytime Fitness and make pretty decent time. Early last week I was asked by Jayne Szukalowski at Anytime to try the Lighthouse 5K run in Escanaba that was held on Saturday. It kind of took me by surprise. I’m not the kind of person that ever envisioned myself running a 5K. But at the same point, I was pushing myself more and more each time I went to the gym and a 5K really just seemed like the next logical step. So I entered.

The week leading up to the race, I pushed myself even harder on the treadmill and ran 2.5 miles on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The first two miles were doable for me, but that last half mile was tough and my times suffered. My right knee began to bother me a bit and was a constant reminder that yes, I am about to be 30 and I don’t have the joints of a 21 year old any longer.

The day before the race I was a little nervous but I reminded myself that while it was technically a race, that I wasn’t aiming to win. My only goal was to finish.

On Saturday as the race began, it was hard at first to be conscious of my speed. I didn’t want to push myself too hard at the start and have nothing left for the finish. I completed the first two miles on the beautiful course that went through Aronson Island and around Ludington Park and was pretty spent after that, but I kept going. Then the right knee began to act up again. On that last mile, I did briefly slow to a walk twice and then pushed myself to continue. Mind over matter really does work and I was able to push the pain aside. As I came down the home stretch, the sight of the finish gave me new life and dead as I was, I sprinted the last tenth of a mile.

Running a 5K was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done and I probably could have trained a little more before hand, but I did it, and I made pretty decent time as well, finishing the race in 27:30. I know once I can complete that third mile without slowing down, I can get under 25 minutes. My time put me in the 47th percentile for 29 year old men nationwide. I now understand what a runners’ high is though. The feeling of accomplishment and reward after finishing something that takes that much out of you, is like nothing else.

I know I’m hooked now and I will continue to push myself and probably run more 5K’s in the future.

The turnout at the Lighthouse Run was tremendous and it was encouraging to see so many people of different ages and athletic backgrounds, at different stages of their fitness goals.

Anyone can do this. The key is starting slow and going at a pace you are comfortable with. There are plenty of mobile apps and websites to help you find a plan that works for you.

I kept it simple when I first started, walking a quarter of a mile as a warm up, then running my mile or two and finishing with a quarter-half mile walk.

One app I would suggest is called Couch-to-5K. I wish I knew about it when I started. It assumes you are not in great running condition and starts you off slow. The app gives you three workouts a week for nine weeks, and at the end of it you could be ready for a 5K. After you’ve done your first 5K, another app by the same company has a 5K-to-10K app. It all depends how much and how far you want to go.

I’ve found that running not only improves my mood but gives me a daily sense of accomplishment and something to strive for. I highly recommend starting a running routine, you’ll feel better for it.