Thursday, August 8, 2013

Throwback Thursday: From my first 5k, to running sub-20

Special Edition of "Throwback Thursday" for ya....a little about how I got started running distance (I was a track athlete in high school and college, so when I started 5k's in 2009, that WAS distance) and more about my journey to getting a sub-20 5k---FYI this is gonna get wordy.

I expressed frustration after my last 5k a few weeks ago, I ran a 19:42 (who complains about that?) and just felt defeated. There was a few years that I would have KILLED for that time. This made me really sit back and think about my first 5k and my journey to getting below 20.

 I ran my first ever 5k in August of 2009. I had been really sick and in the hospital for a while earlier that year(& 4 surgeries...scars to show it), and when I was out and recovering--walking was even a challenge. So once I started getting better, I walked a lot, and slowly threw in some running. I had been a "runner" my whole life competing in track and field- but never in distance. A friend asked me to run a 5k, I said okay and I "trained" for a few weeks. I ended up winning the race for women (it was REALLY small, no chip timing or anything) [I think my time was 23:XX?] but I as hooked... I said "I want to do another" and registered to do one in October.

Life got busy as I was still recovering (I lost a LOT of weight while I was in the hospital sick, I came home at 89 the age of 21---no it wasn't an E.D., my body was weak from all the medications, surgeries and not having an appetite), because I needed to gain weight still I had family and friends giving me LOTS of food, cookie care name it.
For the first time in my life I DIDN"T have chipmunk cheeks, I loved that.....
BUT I hated being so frail and weak and helpless. I hated what being sick had done to me physically and emotionally. Which is why when I was asked to run a 5k after recovering, I jumped at the chance to move and get stronger- and it was a chance to compete. I missed the thrill of competition from high school and more importantly college track. I wanted that rush again.
 I went back to college in the fall and got busy and working out took a back seat. Add stress, lack of exercise, and lots of cookies...the weight was getting put on quick, my body was changing. I was signed up to run a 5k in October and had maybe only run a few miles since the last one. I didn't want to bail on it- so I ran anyways.I ran a 25:39 and had to walk multiple times. 
I can laugh at this now. But not then. It may not look that bad, and NO I know I wasn't obese- but this is the heaviest and most out of shape I have ever been, I carried it in my hips and stomach mostly. Hence the belly popping out from the tank. 

I ran another 5k a few weeks later and ran a 26:XX and was walking even more. The time wasn't my problem- my issue was how heavy I felt, and how out of shape I was...I couldn't run 3 miles without walking. My family happened to be at that race, which made it worse....everyone could see I wasn't the athlete I used to be in college.

The weekend after that I went out drinking with some friends for a going away party, the following day I saw photos my friend posted on facebook of the group of us...and that's when it really hit me.  I needed to change. I didn't feel happy or healthy and I knew I was headed down a steep slope. I was at my highest weight ever by 20+ pounds. No that's not cause for concern for most, and no I'm not trying to say I have some fabulous weight loss story- that isn't it....this is just where it all began in my "running life" I was a "track athlete" in high school and college--this is the story where I became a "runner"

I became a member at a gym near the college I was going to, and I worked out every morning before class. Within a few weeks I had dropped quite a bit of weight and was MUCH healthier overall. Not only was I healthier  I was happier. I started running more and I was loving it. I ran a unofficial 5K in March of 2010 in 20:55 (Looking back I think this was a false short course). This is where my obsession of sub-20 began.

Somehow I got it in my head I NEEDED to run sub-20.

Somehow I thought it would make me better.
Somehow I thought it would take away the anxiety I had from being sick.
Somehow I thought it would make me feel like an athlete again- something I missed dearly.
I don't know why it started but it did, and took off like a wildfire.
It was all I could think about, all I could talk about.
When in reality- I had no business with a goal like this...
without having smaller goals as well.

In 2010 I ran 10-15 5k's with the fastest official one being a little over 21.
All were between 21-23, which is fast- but I wasn't close to breaking 20 fast.
1-3 minutes in a 5k....that's up to a minute a mile...
I was frustrated and could not celebrate the little victories because I was SO focused on a big one.
(this is why I am such a promoter of setting multiple goals these days) I'd post my results on Daily mile and they pretty much always said how "bummed I was" when in reality I should have been happy with how I was doing. Why none of my Daily Mile friends never slapped me for being an idiot is beyond me. 

Fact is, I wasn't ready to run sub-20.
Fact is, I wasn't working hard enough or smart enough.
I didn't deserve that that time. Not one bit.

Fall of 2010 I started getting more serious with running, I was running more often and I was actually "training" for things. I started making a point to getting educated about running and training, and I started putting in work. I did 2 halves in spring of 2010 and in late fall I decided to set aside my sub-20 goal and start focusing on distance, I figured if I can't get speed maybe I'd be good at slower and longer. (that's what she said?)

I shifted gears in beginning of 2011 as I was training for my first marathon. But because I was actually training for something, I was running more and therefore I saw times going down.
 Imagine that, if you run more and work harder you get faster--weird. 

I think my frustration in 2011 to break 20 was even worse than 2010 because I was in WAY better shape and I was much closer to breaking 20. Most of my times were actually between 20-21 so I had made good progress.

I ran more, I trained harder, and I kept myself motivated.I was getting in way better shape (as you can see compared to the 2009 shot).

At the Medved ALS 5k on Father's Day in 2011, I ran. 20:00.
You wanna talk frustration... nothing beat that disappointment.
I was SO mad. My dad actually came to a race for once, and I promised him I would break 20.
1 second, 1 measly second. 

On July 4, 2011 I finally broke 20.
It was at the Brighton 5k and I don't have any photos or anything to show it. But I did it. 
HOLY COW I did it. 
(I promptly threw up after, that was cute.)
A few weeks later I ran a 19:53 and I was just as happy. Another sub-20!

A few weeks after that I ran a 20:14 and 20:05. 
I was mad, back over 20.
Again, unrealistic thinking that I would ALWAYS be under that "barrier".
Why the hell was a mad about those times, that's fast!

Then... oh then.... I did the Bergen Race in August of 2011. 
A little over a month after initially breaking 20....
I don't know where it came from.
It's a fast course, but more than that... there are fast people there.
I am not just talking "fast" I'm talking this is the USATF Niagara 5k Championship fast.
Surrounded by all those amazing runners really inspired me.
That race is still my PR.

Why am I frustrated with that?
Well for starters that was 2 years ago.
More importantly though...
I can say this next statement... without hesitation
I am in the best shape I have ever been in my life right now.
I feel strong and confident and have worked way harder in this past year alone than I did all through high school and college sports and beyond combined!

In April of last year I broke my foot, and luckily recovered months later (with LOTS of patience)
I worked really hard and I definitely struggled at times. Since then I have trained my heart out... earning a BQ (2x) and PR'd in most distances...except the 5k. 
 I had to work to get those PR's, and work to get back under 20.
I ran have ran sub 20 plenty of times since last year coming off a broken foot, but it took time to get back there.  This year alone all but 1 have been under 20. and 2 of them were extremely close to PR's....close but yet so far away.

So for those of you who wanna say I'm fast, you're right. I won't deny that.
For those of you who wanna say I didn't work to get where I're 100% wrong.
I've worked really hard, and had to educate myself, push myself, train myself and more than anything I had to believe in myself. I don't care how cheesy that sounds- it's true.
The fact that I am willing to admit that I am in great shape right now, is a step

Goals are so important, but you can't let them be the only thing that is driving you. 
I thought about this a lot when I wrote that post about my first 5's really cool to look back and see where we were and where we are now. Celebrate the little things. 
 This weekend I am running that same course that holds such significant meaning to me.
That course holds my current PR, which is 2 years old.
That course was the first time I went under 20 last year after my broken foot.
With any luck, that course will hold my 3 year streak--and a shiny new PR.

I'm not naive. There is definitely a chance to get that PR on Saturday, but I also know that there is a chance I wont. I could have an off day, it could be super humid like my last race and I struggle to breathe, it could be a number of things and I know that. I know I have it in me though, maybe it will happen and maybe it wont. 5k's are hard to predict, every second counts and every step makes a difference. But one thing is for sure, I'm enjoying reminiscing about all the hard work that has gotten me through the last few years. I'm grateful for my goals and my drive and the people who have helped me along the way.

It's crazy that I am putting so much stock into a 5k, that really doesn't matter.
I'm not training for a 5k right now, I'm training for a marathon PR
But hey, crazier things have happened while training for a marathon.

At the end of the day the times don't matter. What matters is I keep trying and I keep pushing myself, because not giving up matters more than any time ever will. Those times I have worked for don't mean anything to anyone but me- it doesn't pay my bills, it doesn't get me special treatment, it doesn't make me a celebrity--and I don't expect it to. All it means is, I'm a girl who has worked really hard to prove it to herself that she can do these things, and keep pushing to new limits.

What got you into running? 
Do you remember your first race?

Do you have an old PR that's nagging you?

What drives you?
Pushing myself to new limits, keeps me going every single day.


  1. Great post, Laura - I love how nostalgic it is and how you recapped the lows and highs of training for a PR (along with the frustrations).

    My first race was actually the Airport 5k! Crazy. I took the last two years off of running - not sure what happened, I sort of fell out of love with it and I was really unhappy with my career path at the time - but have gotten back into it this year. It's frustrating to me because I'm slow. Real slow. I routinely run 10:30-12:00 miles, and I just feel like I'm a turtle. I could probably run one mile under 10 minutes but that would definitely take some work, which can be very discouraging. But I'm definitely running when I go out, and not casually jogging; I think right now with my first half marathon coming up I need to worry about running the whole course instead of how fast I'm running. It's hard coming back into running and being slower than before, but it gives me a lot to aim for in the future. I feel like my old self again though - ready to tackle a new run, even if yesterday's felt like crap, and ready to work towards my goal of becoming faster.

    1. AHHH we were both at that Airport 5k, if you come back to Rochester to Visit we MUST meet up :)

      Starting fresh isn't a bad thing, work for the goals and give it time and you'll get there!!

  2. Hey Girl! The best advice I ever heard was to go into a race with a "cautiously optimistic" mind. You know you're in shape and can run a PR, but don't put too much pressure on yourself. This was a great post and you have put in a lot of hard work that has paid off over the years. It is so awesome to read about your workouts and races here and on dailymile. Good luck this weekend. Can't wait to see how you do!

    1. I really like the "Cautiously optimistic", definitely a smart way to go into a race!!

  3. I only started running in April of 2012, and I got started running because I enjoyed a couple short runs I did on holidays in Mexico when I didn't feel like being trapped inside a gym. I was hooked instantly.
    My first running race (I had done a couple of triathlons) was in September of last year. It was a 5K and we had been at my friend's wedding the night before, which was a two hour drive away. I too had been seeking the sub-20...I had been as close as 20:11 in training. I toed the line for my first ever race not knowing at all what to expect, so I lined up a little further back than I should have. I felt great when I finished and knew I had a sub-20, but was shocked when I saw that I ran a 19:00 even! Then my shock turned to disappointment when I found out that the course was short, the turnaround was 50m short meaning the course was 4.9K. GRRR! My 'adjusted' time was 19:23, which was still great, but it just felt like a disappointment.
    So ya...I can relate to a lot of what you're saying!

  4. Hi Laura,
    Can you believe I recently found your blog while trying to educate myself on running! I 'ran' my first 5k last December after I had decided it was no longer good enough to say "I can't run". I hate not being able to do something. It went ok, for a freezing 10am Dec 26th after much eating! I then signed up for a sponsored 10k goal. Sporadic, undisciplined training for 6mths & I ran the awful, hot & crowded Dublin mini-marathon in June. For some reason I was now hooked. I have signed-up and been training consistently since for the Dublin Half in September! My times suck compared to you, a 30min 5k :-( , but I keep reminding myself that a year ago I couldn't run for 4mins & now I'm logging 20miles/31k per week. It's good to keep pushing (punishing?!) yourself though, otherwise none of us would be where we are. Who knows, maybe by this Dec I'll run a 25min 5k?
    Your efforts are inspiring. I now want to swim & cycle over winter & maybe, just maybe do a tri in a couple of years :-)

    1. Jacqueline, I read your comment and had to respond! The FIRST time I decided I want to start running was for the exact reason that you did - I hated not being able to do it. Now I love the sport. My 5K time is closer to where yours is, but I keep reminding myself of the same thing as you - I couldn't run for five MINUTES, now I can run for five miles. Great job girl!!

    2. Thank you Amy! It's a real comfort to know there are others like me. Sometimes you look around & it can seem like it's so easy for everyone else. Of course that's not true, in fact someone recently told me that in running there's always a level of discomfort & that means you're pushing it - feel good about that! There are still days I can't go 3 miles so
      5 miles is a really decent distance, good for you. Mind yourself with that injury, even though its frustrating not being able to get out! Never thought I'd say that :-)

  5. This is such an awesome post and I was so excited to read it when you texted me. It's so interesting to hear you reflecting on your races and how you have grown so much as an athlete and a person. I know you will PR soon and I really hope it's this weekend. :)

  6. I absolutely loved this post to see how you got back into running and your entire journey! You know I can relate on the surgery front and feeling frail and fragile. After all of these surgeries, I realized when I first tried to run again how much muscle I lost from sitting around all day and all of the medication I was on. In the beginning, I got into running for the wrong reason of losing weight. After running my first race, everything changed for me as far as racing goes. There is NO other feeling than being cheered on by strangers and running with thousands of people who are just as addicted as you! It was the Broad Street Marathon in Philly and ever since then, I've been through these surgeries, found a new love for running, and educated myself on SO MUCH. This process completely flipped the feeling of "having" to run to LOVING to run.

  7. I am loooooving this post right now. Everything you have said is so, so true. Running is all about getting out of it what you've put in and I think a lot of people (non-runners but also some runners alike) don't realize that. Sure, can you go out and run a 5k? Absolutely. But to do it well and recognize that you have to make big moves for such a short distance? That is hard to perfect but it sounds like you've done it. :)

    I kind of started running when I was little but then did it as cross training for crew in college. My first race was the Komen Race for the Cure in October 2005. I finished in a hair over 30 min. While 30 minutes was my goal, I really just wanted to finish without stopping and I did. It's funyn how your goals change as you do. I'm shooting for 24:00 at a local 5K on 8/24 but that's kind of out of reach since I haven't putting in the time as I should be. No fault but my own. My ultimate goal is to just grow and to continue to do better than the last time.

    Keep up the amazing work!!!!

  8. This is a great post. I love reading about your progression. I got into running as a way to ease my anxiety. It was my last resort, something I had been told would help depression/anxiety/mood issues. I haven't stopped running since (well except for the current injury, but I'm hoping to get back out there after a few more days).

    I think I'm still in the new phase of running where I get excited to see what I can do. Each longer distance IS a PDR because I'm still so new to the sport.

    This post explains your other one (about being upset about your previous 5K time) a lot better. Yeah, you may be fast, but these are your goals. You have the right to have them and you sure as heck should go after them! I know you'll get that new PR soon. Fingers crossed that it's this weekend!

  9. I totally get it. For me, PRing in the 5K, while I'm training for my goal marathon, gives me a huge confidence boost.

    Being under 20 min. is great, I still haven't done it. I'm excited to get back to shorter distances next year, and reading this, made me even more excited!

    Good luck at your race!

  10. My 5K PR is from back in high school when I was swimming competitively & training for 18-20 hours a week. My goal since I started running a couple years ago is to break that time. I'm hoping to do it this year but since I'm not focusing on 5Ks I'm not going to be too devastated if it doesn't happen.

    I went through very similar situations with swimming with the surgeries, weight gain, time-based obsession, etc. My goal with running & triathlon now is to never let it get back to that place

  11. I loved reading about your journey so far as a runner! You're such an inspiration! Good luck on Saturday...I predict you WILL have the new PR! ;-)

  12. I am not a speedy runner, but when I was healthy I popped out my first half sub 2hrs. Now with this stupid injury I cannot even hit that pace for a 5K. That time still gets to me.

  13. Wow, I really loved hearing all this! We all go through some rough patches. I just wrote today about how right now getting back from my injury is frustrating but it's keeping me going. I am competitive and driven to get's how I've always been. Running is NOT easy for me but the challenge is always so worth it to me in the end. I can't wait to get back in running shape and get back at races....CAN"T WAIT! I've been making the effort to get more educated about actual training and not just running. I hope it works. I've been DYING to get in the 24-25:xx range in 5k's.. so that's my goal :)

  14. Thanks for sharing that story! I can relate to a lot of it.... in high school my fastest 5k was 26 minutes... even in college my fastest time was 23/24 min for a long time. Took me till 2009 to get in the 21's. Your story gives me hope that maybe I will eventually break 20 :). Congrats on your speediness, keep it up! Good luck in your race this weekend!!

  15. I secretly (okay openly) love these types of post!! It is amazing to see how far you've come in your running journey. Girl, if I could run a sub 20 5k I would be flying high for the rest of my life! Haha - all of your hard work has certainly paid off and made you one epic athlete!

    My dad got me into running - now we run races together. It is a nice way to see him while I am away at college.

  16. Good luck this weekend! I have a PR of 22 and change and have been trying to break it forever! I took 6 weeks off running in January and have had to start all the way over. I'm hoping that come winter and maybe after my marathon I can finally do it. But then, you know I'll want to beat that. LOL!

  17. WOW, girl. You're so inspirational!!

  18. Wow. LOVE the new blog design!

  19. "if you run more and work harder you get faster-weird." Are you saying this directly to me, lol?? Love this post. Write on! Love the blog design, too. ;)

  20. Laura, what an incredible story! I got into running after a life-changing surgery. I had a bone tumor in my leg that plagued me for a decade. When I started running I was literally starting from scratch. It was so hard! Any time I get down on myself, I look back at how far I've come, like you just did. It does wonders! Awesome to see how far you've come! Inspiring!


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