When I started c25k back in the first week of March, I knew that I had to sign up for a 5k race to give myself a time limit. Without that, I would just procrastinate and skip runs when I felt like it. So on w1r2 I googled for a charity run 9 weeks later, and a few days after that I signed up for the NeuroCare Head Start 5k Run 2014 near Sheffield.
Yesterday was the big day, and I had managed to time things so that it was also my graduation run.
I arrived at Sheffield an hour early, not quite sure what to expect, found a place to park the car and wondered around amongst the other participants. Being dressed in my brand new c25k graduation shirt (yeah, I know... a little optimistic) and running shorts, it didn't take long before it got cold to just wonder around. Fortunately Her Ladyship had accompanied me, so I ended up walking around in her overcoat and running shorts. I bet it looked real smart!
During the group warm-up, I set up Runkeeper to track my run and give me audio prompts every 5 minutes so I would know how I was doing during the run. All I needed to do was to click the "start running" button when we were told to get running. That moment arrived soon, so I pressed the button.
Nothing happened. I started to jog and kept stabbing at the button. Nothing happened. Took the phone out of my arm band and pressed the button. Nothing happened. Kept jogging and stabbing the "£$%%^^"£$% button on the $%&%^"£$% app. Nothing happened. So in the end, while jogging, I managed to slip the phone back into the armband and put the arm band on.
To still give myself an idea of progress, I decided to count the songs. Each lasts... what? 3-4 minutes? So I reckoned that there would be around 8-10 songs in half an hour. After the third song, as my breathing got harder, I lost count. We were running a circular route around a lake in a country park, so at least I could get a rough idea by seeing which side of the lake I was at. I had a vague idea about where the finishing line might be, so tried to pace myself so I'd have energy for it all.
And then suddenly, when I turned a corner, I saw the finishing line much sooner than I had expected. By then I had no clue about how long I'd been running, but I was in a good rhythm, and didn't feel totally exhausted. Managed to speed up a little. And a little more. And a bit more. When I got to within 100 meters of the finishing line there was a chap with a microphone calling out encouragements to the runners as they were about to finish, and when I heard him shout "come on, Tomas" I went into as much of a sprint as I could manage.
I completed in 30:06. Very proud of that, even though it would have been even more cool if I could have managed to slip below the magic 30 minutes. But never mind. It's my personal best by more than two minutes.
So what did I learn? Well... I wish I had had a clue about the distances, as I think I could have increased the speed a little sooner towards the end. On the other hand, it was liberating to just find a rhythm and run, without the constant interruptions with voice prompts and worrying about distances. Also, I had given myself two days off from running and walking before the event, so I felt fully recovered without any sore muscles at all. I think that helped.
Finally, it was a great feeling to be running with other people (and on a decent, level, nice path). That was probably the biggest motivator. Just a little faster to overtake that lady there. Oh look, a bloke just passed me, never mind, but the teenager who seems to be struggling... maybe I can get past him. Oh yeah, I did. And so on...
All in all, it was a great feeling, and I truly feel that now I am a runner. To think that when I started 9 weeks ago, I struggled to run for 60 seconds. Wow. All thanks to the c25k programme, the great support from this forum, and a little bit of stubbornness and determination.