It all began on January 7th, 2013.
That was the day I decided to embark on a journey towards becoming a happier, healthier me. I had a plan, and a goal of losing 30 lbs. before my 30th birthday on July 28th.
Along with that “plan”, I made a list of goals that I wanted to work towards during that time.
Some I was successful with – for instance: limiting my alcohol consumption, cutting evening snacks out completely, drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water a day, and keeping to an exercise schedule.
Others, I have failed miserably at – such as, “learn to love salad”. That one is admittedly still a struggle for me…
But there was one that stood out among all others as something I really, really wanted to do.
It’s almost surreal to think about it now… I wrote that goal down on my list, and then looked at with pure skepticism.
I can’t do that. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that. Losing 30 lbs. isn’t going to make me able to run. I hate running. I’ve ALWAYS hated running.
But I wrote it down anyways. I remembered hearing about so many people I knew who had been at the Army Run in Ottawa last September, and how I wished I could be a part of that someday. It sounded like an amazing experience, a wonderful cause, and an exhilarating feeling to be there. I wanted to know how that felt.
And I wanted to be able to say I actually ran the 5K course.
I looked upon that goal as a sort of “pie in the sky” we’ll-see-how-she-goes type thing. I wasn’t really sure it would ever happen.
But as 30 lbs of weight melted into 50 lbs lost, suddenly all things seemed possible. My confidence was buoyed, and I bumped that 5K up on my list of things to accomplish.
In early June, I began following the Couch to 5K program, and it’s funny to think how before then, just jogging from one hydro pole to the next was a real challenge. I had started doing my “hydro pole jogs” on my lunch hours a few weeks before starting the program, and I recall thinking, There is no way I’m ever going to be able to do this. 30 seconds of jogging is my MAX! And this was after completing 20 weeks of TurboFire – I was in better shape than I’d ever been, but still the 5K seemed unattainable.
I was on a mission, though, and I kept at it. Three times a week, with the jogging intervals gradually increasing, C25K had me up to a full 30 minutes of jogging, uninterrupted, by August 3rd.
I remember on that “last” jog of the C25K, feeling so victorious. I could run a 5K! My app told me so!!
And that’s when I was faced with a harsh reality… my so-called 5K that I’d been running in 30 minutes? HA! Yeah right!! Not even close. I drove my route in my car and discovered I wasn’t even running 4K in 30 minutes. Once I mapped out a new route that I was sure was 5 kilometers long, I discovered it took me more like 38 minutes to complete it, and those extra 8 minutes were tough.
And so, for the rest of August and September, I worked on that 5K. I whittled away at my time, pushing myself each run to go faster, work harder, and get that time under 30 minutes.
Last Thursday, I managed to get it done in 30:25. I thought I might get it under the 30 minutes on Saturday morning, in my last “practice” run, but it ended up pouring rain, and while I did persevere and go ahead with my run, it was more of a comedy of errors than anything. My clothes were soaked after just a few minutes, and the water weight kept dragging my too-lose pants down. I had to keep stopping to tighten the drawstring on them, as well as to tie my shoes. On top of it all, my phone got wet in my pocket and ended up in a bowl of rice to dry out afterwards… definitely not the best run of my life!
Sunday morning came early, with my alarm going off at 5:15 AM. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have to drag my butt out of bed as I normally would have at that time, because I was full of nervous energy and already bouncing with adrenaline… It was ARMY RUN day. It was time for my 5K!
My friend Brenda was the one who signed me up for the Army Run, and so I went with her and her family to the race site in downtown Ottawa. Brenda, Wayne, Brittany, and Cowan have taken part in the Army Run 5K for several years, so on the way there, they filled me in on what to expect and gave me last-minute advice.
Despite all of that, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for being there in those crowds, seeing the packed corrals, and hearing that deafening cannon that signaled the race was on.
It was incredible.
My first plan was to try and follow the “30 minute pace bunny” – a guy dressed in bunny ears holding a sign that said “30 minutes continuous”, but I very quickly lost him in the hordes of people crammed into that corral. In fact, because of a last-minute pee stop, by the time we got to the corrals, they were so jam-packed we couldn’t even figure out how to get in them. Along with many others, we decided to wait until the crowd started moving, and then we hopped the barricades to actually get inside and start the run.
It was several minutes after the cannon boomed before we even started moving towards the starting line. It was like moving along in a herd of cattle. There were SO many people. But once I stepped over that line and my chip was activated, the actually running part began, and I was off!
It felt great. I felt like I was flying. There were moments when I was slowed up by people in front of me, or jostled by other people trying to get by, but overall, I felt like I was going pretty good. I found I had to stay focused to avoid bumping into other people, especially when I decided to dodge around people – for a while, I was muttering “sorry, sorry” the whole time, until the crowd thinned out a bit and I had more space.
With my iPod playing great running tunes to keep me going – Katy Perry’s “Roar”, Eminem’s “Berserk”, Britney Spears’ “Work Bitch”, Icona Pop’s “I Love It” – I honestly felt like I was having the best run of my life. There were people along the route holding up signs and cheering us on, and every time we ran by someone who had started earlier with the ill & injured, we clapped for them, knowing many were injured members of the Canadian armed forces.
Normally, about half-way through my runs, I get tired and laggy… I can honestly say that I didn’t feel that way at all on Sunday morning. I felt energized the whole time, my legs kept pumping seemingly effortlessly, and at some point I actually started thinking maybe I would get that under-30-minute time I so hoped for.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. I guess all the extra dodging around and getting slowed up here and there by someone in front of me played a part, as I crossed the finish line 35:07 after the gun sounded, and my chip time was 31:01:03.
I wasn’t disappointed though… In fact, I was thrilled. I reflected back on where I was on January 7th, when I wrote that “run a 5K” goal down on my list, and thought it was kind of surreal to know that almost 9 months later, not only did I cross the finish line, but I was only 1 minute off my targeted time. When the soldier at the finish line handed me my “dog tag” and congratulated me, I was beaming. I did it.
I was proud of myself, I was proud of the thousands of others who ran that day with me, and absolutely amazed when I saw the map of the route the half-marathoners were running. I was tempted to say “I could never do that”, but honestly, if the last year has taught me anything, it’s to never say never.
Is the half-marathon in my future? Probably not… but I’m at a place in my life right now where I know that if I really wanted to, and I trained properly, I could probably do it – or at least make a valiant attempt.
I still wouldn’t say running has become a passion of mine – but I’ve enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. I no longer dread going out for my run, like I did in those early days. I look forward to getting out in the fresh air to clear my head, pushing myself, and seeing if I can challenge myself even further. I like the way it feels to know my legs are stronger, and my whole body is in better shape because of it. I like the sweat dripping off my face and that feeling of accomplishment when I’m done.
For now, I’m going to keep working on getting that 5K done in less than 30 minutes. I’m going to keep running until the snow and cold and shorter days drive me back indoors. And then, when springtime rolls around again, I can guarantee I’ll be back at it again.
Because there’s one thing I know for sure after being at the Army Run 2013 – and that is that I want to be there again in 2014!
Special thanks to my family and friends who sent me messages of encouragement on Sunday morning, and to all of you who have sent me blog comments and emails to ask how the run went. Once again – I have the best cheerleaders ever!! I’m a lucky kid! :)