I ran a 5K. Now what?

Not me. Close, but not me.
I ran my first 5K last Monday. It was OK. Not a huge milestone or a great accomplishment, as some of my friends predicted. Certainly not "life-changing", as one of my marathon-addicted relatives assured me.

It was OK.

I started running in February (or maybe March?) with the "Couch to 5K" app for my phone. The description reads:
Get off the couch with the OFFICIAL Couch-to-5K® training app from Active.com! This oft-imitated program has helped thousands of new runners move from the couch to the finish line. Spend just 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week, for nine weeks, and you’ll be ready to finish your first 5K (3.1-mile) race!
I can attest that this is just how it went. When I started, the training program had me run for 1 minute, walk for 2, run for 1 minute, walk for 5, etc. The initial workouts weren't bad, even for a couch potato.

Each week's workout got progressively harder, but never ramped up quickly enough to be beyond my capabilities. It was just enough of a stretch to make it a challenge to be overcome. By the end of the nine week program, I was regularly running more than 5K, three mornings a week.

Perhaps that's why my first official 5K race was anticlimactic. I'd already run that distance several times, so there was no physical accomplishment to speak of. I had no intention of challenging anyone for primacy in the standings, so my time didn't matter much, either. It was slower than my normal training runs, but I wasn't surprised by that.

My left leg hurt the morning of the race, but since my leg had been hurting for weeks, I knew that the pain would go away once I started running. Endorphins, probably. Besides, this was my first registered 5K, and I didn't want to forgo it, or quit after only the first mile. The upshot is that I ran the race anyway, start to finish.

Did it give me a newfound sense of accomplishment and wider vistas of pleasure at having done what I'd set out to do?

No. The most lasting impact of it has been the unremitting, bone-deep pain just south of my left hip. Not a muscular pain, it feels like a hard bruise. Since there's no discoloration, I can only assume I've done something to the bone. The frisson of tough guy pleasure at the thought of having run a 5K on a fractured leg is small compensation for the constant pain.

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  1. The orthopedist told me "no jogging." That put a kibosh on my plans to jog with Mason and maybe see if we could run a 5K together. Shoot, he can already run a half-mile at full sprint--if I could get him to pace himself, he might already be capable of a 5K.

    1. The process of working up to 5K wasn't nearly as ugly as I thought it would be. Early on, there were hills which were rather daunting. By the end, I was up and over them before I was truly awake.

  2. Ben Weasel from the punk band Screeching Weasel is a regular runner, but has never entered any sort of marathon and tell people off when they suggest he do so. He wrote an amazing essay called "Practice Does Not Make Perfect" about his attitude (and its implications for life in general). Sadly, I can't find much about it on-line -- it seems like it's only ever been published in his book Punk is a Four-Letter Word -- but I did find this quote: "I don't love running; I just practice running." In the essay he talks about how the act of running is far more important to him than how many marathons he's been in, what his average heart rate is, how long it takes him to do 5K, yada yada yada.

    Like Larry, I can't run for medical reasons (I cycle instead), but I did appreciate his point of view.

    I wonder if there's a Couch to Cycling 30K app :-)

    1. I just want to get my heartrate up into an aerobic state and keep it there for a half-hour or so, several times a week. My cholesterol is higher than it should be, hence the exercise. I'm not looking to set any records or win any medals.

  3. Great job, Tony. This year, I've been running for the first time in my adult life. It gets easier. I usually bicycle, which I prefer for less impact on the legs and I get somewhere. Running gets my heart rate up sooner, though. The older I get the more I find how important it is to keep moving, especially with a desk job.

    Keep at it, find the right aerobic activity for you, and stay healthy.


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