One year ago tomorrow I completed run 3 of week 9 and graduated. It was an early morning run, we had snow on the ground and consequently I was very slow, which made the run very enjoyable. My first post-graduate run went back to intervals because I didn't really enjoy non-stop running. It is only really now that I'm confident I can run 5k non-stop if I want to. And what have I learnt in this year?
First of all - and this is the most important thing for all those struggling on the programme - graduation is not the end. It is the beginning. If you see it as the end it might turn out to be just that! So many people reach graduation and then after a couple of weeks just stop. My running buddies of a year ago vanished really quickly. For 6 weeks we cheered each other on, shared our runs, our ups and downs, encouraged each other and ultimately graduated pretty much together. And I'm pretty sure they're not running now. So if you're coming up to graduation get yourself a plan, make sure you stick to 3 runs a week (as far as possible), make running a part of your life, add variety. Try not to let things slide, but don't overdo it either, or you might get injured.
Then don't expect the same kind of progress as when doing the programme. From zero to 5k in nine weeks is pretty fantastic. Every week there is some kind of improvement, longer, further, faster. It can be demotivating after graduation to find out that suddenly you're getting slower, that 30 minutes is sometimes not possible, that you have to walk a couple of times during a 5k. But don't give up, just carry on, it's all mileage "banked" in your legs. And a few weeks later you might start improving again. Or not!
Running is a pain - but I always feel good after a run. Even if it was crap, some aspect of it will have been good (in retrospect). I was still out there at the crack of dawn while my colleagues were still in bed. I have already done my 5/4/3 k, what have they done? It may have been the slowest time ever, but I was outside in the fresh air getting some exercise.
I wonder what I will discover in the next year? There is still a lot to learn.