Honestly, it’s not often that something comes along and guides you to success in this journey, so when it does, you learn to grab it with both hands and immerse yourself in it. This is the story of how I started running, and the story of how I do a 5K once a week. And hopefully, if you’re looking for a reason and a way to start running (or any exercise for that matter) it’ll help you start too.
A few years ago while doing some reading about how to start running and plans for new runners to build fitness I came across this programme which seemed to be almost the gold standard in beginner running programmes. It’s called C25K (couch to 5K) and is designed to get people who don’t run to a point where they can complete a 5K in about 10 weeks. I’ve tried the programme before but whenever I get to the solid running parts (around week 6) I start to give up because it’s just too difficult.
I started it this time using an app called “Get Running” for iPhone which has encouraging voice prompts but doesn’t offer any GPS tracking which is fine because my Tomtom watch does that for me, but there are a few apps including an official one that you can check out if you’re interested in trying it. It starts you off for the first week doing a Tabata-style 1 minute walk then one minute run which you repeat 8 times and over the next few weeks builds you up to the last run of week 5, which is a solid 20 minute run. It’s gentle enough that even at 130kg I was able to mostly keep up with it.
Until week 6, when it was effectively all running. I found myself repeating week 5 a few times which is fine.
At this point I was doing my local weekly Parkrun on Saturday morning, which is an amazing way to stay motivated and run with people, which naturally spurs you on to push yourself – especially if you’re a bit competitive. Join in, pick someone at around about your running pace and try and keep up with them. You’ll soon be picking faster people to keep up with. It’s timed too, with an awesome stats page for you (if you sign up and print your barcode that is scanned at the end of the event) to keep track of your personal bests and average run performances.
The Parkrun is kid and dog friendly, with a couple of caveats. Check their website for the details.
The most important part of any exercise to me is that it should be sustainable and something that you enjoy doing – if you don’t then you’ll find any excuse not to do it. For me, running is the “last frontier” as an overweight dude, so conquering it was a mind over matter victory for me. I still haven’t managed to run a solid 5K, but I know I will.
I’ve also signed up for the Cape Town Marathon 10K on the 19th of September, which has a 1h50min timelimit, but my goal is to do it in 1h30min. Realistic goals, even if they sound like they’re easily achievable to others. Focus on you and what you can do, not on what others are doing.
The first step, that one out the front door, is the hardest. Take it and running is easy. And think, the faster you do it the faster it’ll be over!