As many of you know I’m currently training for my very first half marathon! I’m SUPER excited about the idea of crossing the finish line after 13.1 miles. Although I may not be fast, and it may take me a while to finish, I love races!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I got into doing these races as someone who is “bigger”. And honestly, I’m cool with that. I’m not a small lady (and we’re not just talking about booties and thighs- I stand at almost 5’10”!). I know being “overweight” or “plus sized” can be a challenge. But those things should never come between you and a goal. And if your goal is to do a race, then go for it. Don’t wait until you’re “skinny”or “fit” or for when you’ve “lost those last 30lbs” or for when you can “run a 12 minute mile”. Do it now.
I don’t know what initially inspired me to sign up for my first 5k, but I wanted to give others an opportunity to be inspired to sign up for their own by writing this post. I know there are people out there who feel like they “can’t” because they’re scared that other people will laugh or scowl at them, making them feel out of place or unwelcome. They feel that they “can’t” because it will be hard, or painful, or that they will get injured. They feel that they “can’t” because they’ll give up when failures arise (and they will).
Well I’m here to tell you that you CAN.
Before you start working towards an athletic goal like completing your first 5k race, you’ve got to get your head in the right mindset:
1. Me vs. old me. I have been blessed to have found a sport where participants, spectators and volunteers are on YOUR side. Races, no matter what size, are filled with positive, encouraging, and motivating participants that WANT you to succeed. You see, the thing with runners is that when they see another runner (no matter how slow) they instantly become proud just because another runner was born. Being a runner isn’t defined by how far you can go, how long you’ve been doing it, or how many times you have to stop to walk or take a break in between miles (which, by the way, is perfectly ok). The first time you run, you’re a runner. You don’t know how often I have shuffled passed a seasoned runner- huffing, puffing, out of breath and sweating so much you would have thought I had just stepped out of a pool- and heard phrases like “looking good, keep it up”. Believe me. There are NO feelings of sarcasm, jealously or negativity towards newbies. Everyone is welcome and that simple mentality has given me courage and will continue to give me courage to try longer distances, different races and challenge myself because, after all, we’re all in a race against no one other than our past selves.
2. Know your body. Many new runners envision The Boston Marathon when they begin toiling with the idea of running a race. I know, because I did that when I got into triathlons. I pictured Kona Ironman in my head, completely oblivious to the fact that triathlons came in a variety of distances and ability levels. Believe me when I say I’m SO glad I didn’t give up prior becoming educated on all things tri. Let’s get one thing squared away first: a 5k is not the same as a marathon. So when you begin training for your first 5k, refer to it just as that: a 5k. Let’s look at some common race distances and their mile equivalents.
10k= 6.2 miles
15k= 9.3 miles
½ marathon= 13.1 miles
Marathon= 26.2 miles
If you can go back to your high school days, you’ll remember having to do the “mile test” at PE. Picture a typical high school track. 4 times around that track = 1 mile. So to complete a 5k using a track would equal 12 times around, just to put things into perspective. Now, back to talking about your body. At about 345lbs I completed my first 5k. I jogged (slowly) the entire thing with no injury. I knew my body, I knew what it was capable of, and I knew which distance was best for me at the time. Before you start training for a race of any distance, make sure you’ve had an honest conversation with your doctor, and pay attention to any changes (especially pain) you start to feel as you begin to train.There’s a difference between muscle aches and injury pain. Start listening to your body ASAP.
3. It’s all in the footwear. It doesn’t matter if you weigh 100lbs or 500lbs; if you’re 80 years old or 20; if you’ve been running 25 years or a week. If you don’t invest in a good (and I mean really good) pair of walking or running shoes, you will not be successful. I know this sounds brutal, but I speak from experience. When I first began running, I was working out in a pair of sneakers from Target. I hated running. It wasn’t enjoyable. It was painful. It was tiring. I blamed it on my weight. My second pair of running shoes was a pair of Nikes from the clearance section of Sports Authority. I still hated running. My third pair was another pair of Nikes from another sale rack. Running was getting a bit more enjoyable, but I was still having issues. Three years (and 6 pairs of shoes) later, after multiple suggestions from friends and training partners, I decided it was time for me to get a proper shoe fitting and invest in a pair of shoes that are appropriate for the shape of my foot, my gait (the way I step on the ground as I run), and ability level. If you have never visited a running store like Feet First or Fit 2 Run, make a plan to go there for a fitting and analysis and let them suggest a shoe for you. They will even help you find something in your price range! I’m currently running in a pair of Brooks Pureflow 3 and they are hands down the best thing that has ever happened to my feet.
4. H20. Water. Water. and More water. If you’re going to be training (especially in Florida) you’ve got to start a solid 8-10 8oz glasses of water (at least) a day rule. It’s going to take time, at first, for your bladder and body to adjust if you’re currently not a regular water drinker, so keep in mind that if you decide to start the day of your first walk or run training, you’d better make sure there is a bathroom (or port-a-potty) nearby!
5. Register for a race. If you’re going to make a commitment to completing a 5k race, then it starts with actually choosing and signing up for one. The training part you go through after registration is nowhere near as difficult as actually registering for a race is. There are SO many races to choose from, leaving you wondering what’s going to best for a beginner (most 5k races ARE beginner friendly!), and many times just merely looking through the organizer’s website at course maps, feedback from past racers, even race photos can be enough to put you in freak out mode, leaving your registration unfinished. The best advice I can give? Ask around. I’m a firm believer in NOT doing your first (any distance) race alone, as I feel that the inspiration, motivation and camaraderie you get from training and race partners provide you with the mental and moral support that many first time racers need. Join a running club for beginners like, ask neighbors, friends or family members if they’ve ever done a race and see if they’d be willing to partner up with you. Ask co-workers and community members about the best local 5ks and what they suggest. Word of mouth is a great tool for not only picking a race, but finding people who will cheer, support and help train with you all along the way. And if need be, have someone physically sitting there next to you as you sign up for your first race. They’ll be there to help you remember your name when your mind goes blank, and pick your credit card off the floor when you “accidentally drop it”.
6. Find a good training plan. There are thousands upon thousands of training plans floating around out there. I trained for my first 5k (and many 5ks after that!) by using the Couch to 5k app. It’s simple, no non-sense, and an easy way to get into the swing of things. I also LOVE Jeff Galloway and his run/walk programs. Check out his website for lots of doable beginner training plans.
I hope this post has inspired at least one of you to set a race goal and start a chapter in your life that I promise you won’t regret.