Couch to 5k review and my first 5k experience! GUEST POST

I’m sure you all remember Sarah and her great post about starting the C25k program earlier this year.  Well, she’s only gone and finished it, and run THREE 5k races already!  I can’t wait to hear her couch to 5k review, so take it away Sarah! 

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I’m back! Thanks so much to Pam again for letting me share my story here. I hope it helps even one of you reading to get hooked like me (spoiler alert!)

You guys, it’s been such a long time since I posted here about my first ever run I can’t quite believe how much has happened in that time. Are you ready for a rundown of 8 weeks in one go? Let’s get into it then.

So, when I left you before I’d only done run one of week one. I have a little confession to make, I still haven’t ‘technically’ finished C25K. I have however run three 5k races now, but I’ll get on to those in a bit. I’ve completed each run right up to the end of week 7, and I definitely noticed a pattern. Day one of each week was really tough. I struggled to keep my legs moving at all through some of these days, really it was a shock to the system. However, I noticed a big improvement on day 2 of each week. I couldn’t believe how much I seemed to be adapting to this! I couldn’t run for a bus before and now I was running 4 and 5 minutes straight. The last day in each week felt great. I started feeling strong, and like I could maybe even run a bit more than I was being prompted to.  I’d learned from my mistakes though and didn’t push it!

If you’re some way through C25K, stick with it.  Not to spoil anything but you get a great little message after week 4, look out for it. I feel like this a good time to introduce another trick I’ve been heavily reliant on – a group of girls that (excluding Pam) I have encouraged to start the program too.  We all talk about where we struggle and what’s felt good and really motivate each other to keep going.  More than once they’ve talked me off the couch and into my running shoes. During week 4/5 I spoke to the girls about how I was suffering from overheating and feeling really uncomfortable.  Now as obvious as the reason for this was, I think sometimes you just need someone else to say it.  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have been used to seeing me with the red zipper that I’m basically sewn into.  The girls talked me into leaving it behind for one run.  It was weird. I felt really exposed, and much more conscious of myself. As soon as I started running though, that all changed.  The looser t-shirt and feeling the wind on my skin made such a huge difference I can’t even tell you, but there was nothing wiping the smile off my face – even through the 10 min straight jogging parts when I thought my lungs were going to just give up.

It was around this point that I started to change up my equipment. I figured I’d made it this far into the program so I was serious about it and was time to stop just settling for what handy.  I got myself an arm band and some Bluetooth headphones in the hopes I would feel less distracted by the wire from my normal headphones swinging about. It worked a treat.  Below is what I use, they’re simple and pretty basic but I love them and wouldn’t run without them now.

My trusty equipment!
My trusty equipment!

I’ve had to play about with the headphones as they had a tendency to fall out, this is something I find with all headphones though as I have an inner ear piercing which makes sizing and comfort difficult. This set was great though as they came with multiple sized fittings for the buds.

Anyway, I digress – back to the running! With this set up, feeling lighter and breathing easier I was onto a winner. Consistently I was outdoing my previous runs and feeling better and better about my upcoming 5k. I was using the same route each day, and just adding bits in where I needed to lengthen it for the times of the run, which by the way feels great!  I really found in the longer runs, say the 15 min plus, you can just settle in, set your pace and let your mind wander.  It’s something that all in the group have agreed with too.  You’re not waiting for that little voice to tell you to start walking, and you’re really just starting to find your rhythm.  By the time you’re up to running for 20 mins you’ll be feeling like you could go even further.  Which is then exactly what I did.

So while it’s true I didn’t finish C25K, I was pushing my run to 5k halfway through week 6.  When you’re walking for 5 mins and then running for 20, I don’t think it’s a huge jump to get to the 5k distance.  Again though I’m pretty sure having mile long legs helped with this, as the 5 min walk warm up I must cover a good bit more ground than most.  Maybe I should stick to the walking races?  It was such an amazing feeling the first time I ran over the 5k mark, I didn’t even care that my legs were nearly jelly, I had a huge smile on and couldn’t wait to check my Strava results (and of course throw in a few selfies).

Red lipstick is my secret super power!

I have one nemesis on this route though – the hill. Oh man, that hill! I ran it every time, and even now I think it would destroy me.  It’s not even a long hill, or a hugely steep hill, but it’s the only one I have on that route and it fills me with dread.  Strava very kindly recorded it every time as its own special segment for me, just so I could see how badly I was coping with it! I’ve given you a screenshot below of my times on this hill.  I may go out one day and run the other way in hopes that it tracks the way down too.  Is that cheating? I think now that I can safely say I can run a 5k, I will try to get better at hills.  I live in an area that has a renowned coastal path and a LOT of forest trails – surely in there I must be able to find a good hill? Watch my Insta feed for photos atop every hill I can find.

57th? Are you kidding me?! I was ready to collapse after this!
57th? Are you kidding me?! I was ready to collapse after this!

 

 

So, shall we move on to the races? I’ve run 3 5k races in a row now, and each one was very different.

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First up, Nashville! The reason I started running in the first place.  This was the big one. I’d been travelling for over 24 hours by the time I got to bed in Nashville. Prepping for the race was the last thing on my mind, I just hoped it would be a decent sleep. We got up early, walked about a million miles to the race start.  Got the bib pick up wrong, sprinted in the pouring rain to the actual start line as we were now late….only for the race to be postponed for almost an hour due to bad weather.  Who knew you weren’t allowed to run in such heavy rain, not me, I’m Scottish – that’s basically summer here.

So everyone abandoned the start line and headed off for shelter under the opposing building, but as soon as we got to go the atmosphere became electric.  I’d never ran with anyone watching before, and this was something else entirely, there was cowbells and people cheering and live music and it was just so different from what I was used to.  It was big, fun and noisy.

The first thing I noticed though was that there were so many people.  Not just in general, but really in the way.  I know that must sound quite rude, but I’m used to an empty street, having to move round people and find spaces to move in was a little frustrating.  Admittedly, it did feel pretty good knowing that I wasn’t going to be last!  Needless to say I didn’t keep up with Pam though.  I lost sight of her pretty quick, but that allowed me to run my own race and focus on how I felt.  The humidity was something I hadn’t considered, and it felt like running through treacle.  I took a lot more walking breaks than I wanted to, including pretty much every hill. I kept thinking that it must be a mile, it must be half way, where the heck is the halfway drink station? Spoiler – it was well after I thought.

I was absolutely exhausted for most of this run, appreciating every slight downhill more than I thought possible. Eventually though I could see the people around me begin to smile more and get noticeable more excited – the finish line was near! I caught sight of the giant inflatable sign just over a bridge and round a bend, so made a decision to sprint to the finish and get it done. Man, was that the best feeling ever?! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I crossed the line, but there was so many people just milling about it was pretty disorientating.  The sight of one person made me happy though, no not Pam, the medal people! They draped my medal round my neck and it darn near floored me – that thing is so heavy! It is so beautiful though, look at it!

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I can’t stop showing it to people.  I am crazy proud of myself, and I’m not even ashamed of it. I found Pam, we had a little celebration and then headed away from the finish line, straight into the gauntlet of goodies. This I was definitely not prepared for. It’s been weeks and I still don’t think I’ve eaten all of the protein bars, vegetable crisps, baked goods, fruit and other things we were given. We headed off to the live concert stage, got a free beer (sadly this does not happen at every race), and had a little cooldown dance and hen wandered back to the car.  I didn’t want to take my medal or my bib off.  I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it.  And then I realised that I didn’t want to stop there.  Did I well and truly have the bug? Well my time was 34.24, and I was already determined to beat it, so I’d say so.

What a haul!
What a haul!

Luckily, I had another race to run in a week’s time.  This time it was along the Hudson near Pam’s stomping ground.  We only made the decision in the morning to go for it as we weren’t sure how we’d be feeling after the travel and I was pretty sunburnt and feeling sore from being stupidly pale in 30 degree heat (90 in freedom units for you Americans).  We got to the race area and started to get ready.  It was absolutely freezing! I could tell this was going to be a very different atmosphere to Nashville. Pam kept me right though and we wandered down to the start line. I could tell Pam was hurting and really hoped she wouldn’t do the race just to make me feel better about it. I was kinda grateful she dropped out, glad she wasn’t gonna hurt herself even more but felt like I’d dragged her all the way to the race and wasted her morning.  However, she makes the best cheerleader ever! Couldn’t help but smile every time I seen her neon pink jacket.  And she also takes the best running photos.

I am the undisputed queen of running expressions
I am the undisputed queen of running expressions

I had done no running while on our week long vacation and I instantly knew that was a mistake. It was such a different crowd from the Nashville race. All in, 73 people finished the race. 73.  I’d been amongst thousands the week before! I pushed a lot harder than before, and loved that it was a much flatter course.  I felt like I was taking a lot of walking breaks after about 1.5 miles, but not for nearly as long. I had to stop mid-way and take my zipper off, which included some fancy bib repining manoeuvres. I had ran alongside a young girl for part of the race.  She was doing cartwheels while sprinting away then just waiting for people to catch up.  I don’t understand that kind of energy, and to be truthful I could have done without that taunting me as I struggled and breathed heavier than ever while thumping my heavy legs down.

I heard the timers shout 19.28 as I passed two miles. I couldn’t believe it. Had I actually been running under 10 minute miles? No wonder I was feeling so exhausted. I kept going, pushing as hard as I could, and finished with as much of a sprint as I could manage for the last .1 mile. It seems like a tiny distance but it means a lot to me to make that extra effort.  I finished in 30.50, which was a substantial drop from the Nashville race. I was pretty chuffed with myself, and glad that I’d done this race. I’ll definitely be looking for some more flat races to try and beat that time.  I looked through the official timings afterwards, and I’d come 48th. Nearly sub 30 5k and I wasn’t even top half? At least I was second in my age group right?  Well, not really as I was second of 2! I spoke to Pam and had a laugh about that, and reminded myself that I’d been really proud before I realised that, and that is what I should be focusing on.  Onwards and upwards!

So weekend 3, race 3. ColourMeRad in my home town, Glasgow. This was a last minute race as one of the girls, Mei Shan, in our group was already signed up to run this, but a member of her team had to drop out. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of these races before, and I’d always thought they looked like a lot of fun but had never felt in the place to be able to run it before. This was what Mei Shan had started training for, so it felt really good to be able to take part in this race with her.  This was classed as fun run, so no timing and no strict start times.  Groups of people were being started at ten min intervals, and you could jump into any start time.  Seeing people that had already finished were walking about and absolutely covered in paint, I couldn’t wait to get started and get my own multi-coloured war paint.  Right from the start I had Nashville flashbacks – so many people just walking! It didn’t ease up the whole way, I’d say there was about 40% of people making an effort to run it but the rest were just walking. It was super frustrating as the paths weren’t very wide so we got stuck behind people a lot, often having to run way off the path to get round big groups of people.  There was a queue at each colour station too (6 all in throughout the course), which was nice for the break but felt like it messed with the flow of the race quite a lot.  I don’t think Mei Shan found it quite so frustrating, but I promised her that her next race will feel much better.  It was a big difference running beside someone the whole way though.  As it wasn’t timed we kept the pace pretty easy and were able to have a bit of a chat on the way through so that felt really nice. I didn’t even record the run as I wasn’t bothered about the time, it was all about the experience for this one.  And it really was an experience!  I sprinted the last part again, and finished the race covered in paint power, smiling and feeling pretty chuffed with myself.  There was a big party section just past the finish line with music and powder packets being thrown into the crowd, this was great fun and a good way to wind down afterwards. As we wandered off afterwards we took some great fun photos, and made a beeline for some food and baby wipes to clean off what we could.  I headed home happy, tired and definitely caught with the running bug.

 

So that’s it guys.  I’ve done C25K, done 3 5k races, and then promptly sat on the couch for a week.  I need to get myself back out there, so I’m going to try different routes now and just run for fun rather than to get to a certain distance or stick to a plan.  I’m going to be looking at booking some more races here in the next few months, and trying to get the rest of the group involved too.  I’m really hoping to do Colour Run in July which is similar to ColourMeRad, and will be signing up for the Run Rock n Roll UK races, maybe it will be a road trip with the running group, maybe I’ll see some of you there?

I’m aiming to get to a comfortable sub 30 by the end of this year, which shouldn’t be too much of a push if I can find some nice flat routes.  I’d love for you to give some motivation to get there, you can follow my progress below.

Thanks for having me guys, hope you’ve enjoyed my story.

Have fun out there!

Sarah x

Thank you SO MUCH to Sarah for an amazing couch to 5k review, hopefully it will give you some inspiration if you’re thinking of starting running yourself!  You can follow Sarah’s adventures on Instagram.

Taking over the world, one hair colour at a time...
Taking over the world, one hair colour at a time…

Until next time guys!  Remember to check out the fun on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Pam x

 

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