We moved to Florida at the beginning of May and I began running outdoors roughly 3 days a week in response to the lack of a gym that’s convenient to work/home. When I started running I used the Couch to 5K program. This was back in early spring 2011, and when I started I could barely jog for the 1 minute intervals. I followed it through and was just getting to be able to jog for 20 minute stretches when we moved to NC in August of that year. After moving it took a while to get settled in a new routine and find my groove again.
Eventually I had a nice routine of treadmill running twice a week mixed with an interval cardio on the bike/arc/elliptical day and strength training twice a week. I ran outside occasionally but didn't feel safe running in my neighborhood and had to make a special trip to run. I also hiked up/ran down a local mountain once a week depending on weather. (I miss that!!). I knew from my past experience that I needed to start my workout routine again as soon as we moved and didn't take long to get on my shoes and explore the park that is about a quarter mile from our house.
I realized that aspiring to run in the Florida summers meant I had to do it early in the morning, and I became a morning exerciser shortly. I’m glad for this habit because I feel so much better for the whole day if I've exercised before work. Once I decided to forego a gym membership I purchased a weight bench and set of up to 20lb dumbbells using my credit card rewards points. I settled in to my 3 days a week running alternated with 3 days of strength and a rest day. That was going well and I added some accessories to my home gym like a jump rope and a new yoga mat. I ran my first 5K at the end of June and crushed my under 30 minute goal with a 27:41. I read Chi Running in July and started being able to run longer with less pain. I started reading more articles, blogs, and books about running but still didn't consider myself a runner. I began mixing up my runs with one interval and one long each week.
I got to a point where I felt like I either needed to commit fully to running and sign up for a long race, or change up my routine and add in more biking and different strength. I started checking out races nearby and was aiming for a 10K but having trouble finding one. In September I realized there would be a half marathon right here in Orlando in December, and that I could start on week 2 of any 12 week program. I made the decision to sign up and used a combination of several plans to make my own. I had been enjoying my running to that point, but the first few runs after I actually signed up for the race filled me with anxiety. I’m not sure why, maybe because I felt like there was no turning back. Being on a schedule that is focused on running and uses more rest, yoga and strength to supplement the running has significantly improved my ability to run longer and faster.
I used to use a Couch to 10K app on my long runs and the longest I’d ever run without a walk break was 30 minutes. After I started upping the miles on my long run I decided to run until I felt like a break, and am happy to report that aside from my 2 minute “fall, shake off & evaluate” during last week’s run I ran for the whole 8 miles. The week before I ran for the whole 9 miles and ran my last two miles the fastest! In my short tempo and interval runs my splits have been improving, and I recently ran my fastest mile which was an 8:29! When I started I was lucky to hover around 12 minute miles. I fully believe that anyone can learn to run and can improve to a point where they can do more than just finish races.
Although I’m still five weeks out from my half marathon I am already daydreaming about my next race(s). I have had my eye on a few and actually registered for a 10K here in Orlando on March 1st. Registration opened today and they had discounted rates for the first registrants. I was 19th so I only paid $5 to register! I've also been pondering adding other endurance sports to my roster. I don’t have access to a pool but I do have a nice bike. There’s a duathlon at the beach at the end of January that looks intriguing. I know I can run a 5K then bike 12 miles, I’m just not sure how I’d do running another 5K after!
It should be pretty clear by now that I've recently crossed the line where I now consider myself a runner. I like learning about it, doing it, talking to people about it and the way I feel about myself as an athlete. I honestly never thought I’d be at this point. I always thought I’d use running as a cheap form of high calorie burning cardio, but now it’s more of a meditative practice that just feels right.