As it happens, competing in that first 5K has completely changed my perception and focus when it comes to running. In the beginning I was super focused on time. A good pace left me feeling elated while a bad pace made me feel like a failure.
In the past few months, though, I've stopped worry about it.
Because it doesn't matter.
Seriously. Unless you're trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, time doesn't really matter. Not in the big ol' grand scheme of things. At least not from where I'm standing. Of course, as a fairly new runner maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Then again, as someone who fully embraced last place in her first ever race, I'd also like to think I'm perhaps wise beyond my years. Y'know, all thirty of them.
Now, of course I understand that people have goals. For my second 5K I wanted to do better than my first, and I did. For my third, I'd like to do at least as well as my second, if not better. It's good to have goals as they help keep you motivated and inspired.
But if you're a brand new runner, kinda like me six months ago, then don't worry about time. Really. Don't even think about it. Don't even really think about distance either. If you're a brand new runner, there's only one thing you need to focus on:
That sounds a bit obvious, I know. Maybe a bit too obvious. But I'm here to tell you, even if you start out with the best of intentions, getting into a regular running routine is fucking hard work.
Oh sure, it's great in the beginning because you're excited at doing something new. High on endorphins, you go buy new running shoes and build a playlist. Just yesterday you were camped out on the couch and now you're running. Who woulda seen this one coming?
Yeah. About that.
What goes up must come down and eventually the high wears off. Suddenly 6:30 am no longer sounds like an appealing time to wake up. Not if it means going for a run (ugh). Personal shit gets in the way and you lose your running mojo. The Couch to 5K app actually warns you about this around Week 7, with the little cartoon coach cheering you on to break through the wall.
Her virtual wall is easy. The one in the real world is another matter entirely. I mean, hello, she's a cartoon. Are you really going to take advice from an animated Jillian Michaels knockoff?
If you're anything at all like me, there will come a time when you are desperate for an exit strategy. And if you're brand new to running, chances are you're not going to be very fast, and that slow pace is the perfect opportunity for nixing this whole "running" plan. (Whose idea was that, anyway?)
Which is why I'm telling you that if you're going to focus your energy on one thing, focus on making sure you run. Doesn't matter how long or how far, not as long as you're moving. It's easiest if you set a goal. For me it's making sure I run three times a week. Maybe you want to run for an hour. That gives you flexibility, like run for an entire hour one day and be off the hook, or you can do two half hour runs or three twenty minutes, etc. Maybe you need to mix it up and run for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds and do that for a mile. Find something that works for you and stick with it.
Look at it this way: last week I ran three days. If I average out my averages, my overall mile time over the course of the week was, rounding up, a 15 minute mile. That's not exactly fabulous, right? Not when you consider back in the spring I was running, like, 12 minute miles. (Repeat: it's not me, it's the heat. It's not me, it's the heat. It's not me...)
Anyway, a 15 minute mile is like an "Eh" on the scale. However, if I shift my perspective just a bit, I'll see that over those three days I ran a total of 6.58 miles and for 95 minutes. Now those are numbers I like. I mean, 6 1/2 miles. That's, like, half a half-marathon. Sure, that was over the course of three runs, but still.
15 minute mile: Blah. 6 1/2 miles: Woot!
It's such a simple thing, changing perspective, but it completely changes your attitude. Lion or Gazelle is completely irrelevant. Just keep running.
Love from the ashes,