Graduating high school was kind of a no brainer for me. Aside from stupid math (and chemistry, also STUPID), I always carried As and Bs. College was pretty much the same, although I dealt with some personal life issues that made graduating with a high GPA something that gave me a great deal of pride.
Still, though there are eight cumulative years with high school and college, I am probably more proud of graduating from a nine week running program. Seriously. Aside from math (which we've already determined is stupid), this was harder than any course I took in high school or college. In hindsight, I wish that I had blogged about it on a weekly basis, but I honestly didn't believe that I'd ever be able to run thirty minutes without stopping. By not blogging about it, it'd be easier to brush aside failure.
Except that, hello, I totally did not fail. Aside from skipping a day here and there due to illnesses, I consistently ran every other day. And to my surprise, I never had to repeat a day. I managed to get through the plan for each day without failing. Sometimes I felt like I could not run another step, but I managed to make each step. Weeks one and two were hard. I remember gasping for breath during the sixty second run intervals and thinking about how I must be fooling myself, because there was NO WAY I was going to be able to do this. Sixty seconds doesn't seem like that long, but it kind of is. The moment when I first began to feel like it was really working was week 3, day 3. I actually thought that I had skipped one of the run intervals because it was so easy, but when I checked and discovered that I didn't, I instead ran throug half of the cool down, simply because I felt like I could.
This was a huge confidence booster to go into week 4, which was really hard for me. The last of the four run intervals (five minutes) was difficult for me to get through and there were a few times when I almost didn't, but I struggled through it. I struggled so much going into week 5 that I was certain there was no way I'd be able to handle week 5, day 3 which involved a (gulp) 20 minute run with no walking. None! It seemed like such a huge leap to me, but somehow, my feet kept moving for 20 straight minutes. Not quickly, mind you, but they did it. What I discovered is that I felt better, I felt stronger without the walking intervals. Maybe I don't walk briskly enough, but I felt like it was so much harder to start up running again after walking. Not that I didn't need the walking break, because I did and I understand why you need the walking, because you can't just start out running 20 minutes. I actually had a harder time with the first two days of week six, because it goes back to the intervals.
The interesting thing about the couch to 5k program is that once you get to the final few weeks, the increases are so minor compared to how far you've come that they don't stress you out any more. Once I ran for 25 straight minutes, it was no big deal to go to 28, because what's 3 more minutes? And going from 28 to 30 minutes? Big deal, that's only a 2 minute increase! I still don't really love running while I'm running. I love the free time to listen to music and just think, but I don't so much love it in the midst. I love how good I feel afterward, when I'm doing my cooldown and reflecting on how far I've come.
So, now that I've graduated, I can go back to sitting on the couch, right? Just kidding. I actually want to focus on increasing my distance and speed. Right now, my pace is about 10.5 minutes per mile (sometimes slower!), which isn't bad, but I'd like to increase that. I'd also like to be able to focus more on distance. Instead of focusing on how many minutes I can run, I'd prefer to start focusing on how many miles I can run. Mainly, I would just like to keep running! I am signed up for my first 5k a week from today--any tips for how I should prepare the week before? I'm excited, but honestly a little nervous. However, I decided that even if I end up having to walk part of it and even if I somehow am the last to finish, all that matters is that I'm out there doing it. And what really matters is that when it comes time to cook out on the fourth? I've earned myself an extra hot dog.