Finishing the 5K challenge

By Katie Albrecht Contributing Columnist

May 2, 2014

The gun went off and I told myself, “You have to push.”

It was Saturday morning and I wanted to complete my first 5K, the Lub Dub, in my best time and with no regrets. Only one little problem: you can push yourself too hard.

In the two weeks prior to the Lub Dub, which is a hilly 3.1-mile course, I felt confident in my abilities. I had trained hard. I was able to run faster and for longer distances, even completing a three-mile run.

On Lub Dub Eve, I pushed thoughts of the race out of my head in an attempt to keep from psyching myself out. Saturday morning was beautiful, making it easy to pull on my running clothes and prepare for the race. Excitement turned to fear when we arrived at the race, and anxiety set in as I took my place at the start line with the 430 other participants.

I ran. Then, the pain came. I’m unsure what caused it, but I couldn’t find relief no matter what I tried. At the two-mile marker I was still trying to convince myself I could complete the course without walking, after all, I had trained for this the past eight weeks. However, I succumbed to the pain and began to walk. I walked for a brief period before returning to a run. I continued to alternate between running and walking, when needed.

“Thank you, God,” I thought when I saw the finish line. It took 43 minutes and 9 seconds to complete the race. I had hoped for a faster time, but I won’t let that diminish my accomplishment. A short eight weeks ago, running two blocks would leave me winded and exhausted. But, I did it. I finished a challenging 3.1 miles.

I’m grateful for the experience because it allowed me to grow as a person. I never thought I’d be a runner or enjoy running for entertainment. Surprisingly, I cannot wait to get back to it.

The act of running isn’t necessarily enjoyable. I do, however, like the feelings it provides, a high of adrenaline and motivation that cannot be found in an energy drink or coffee. I focus on things that make me feel happy to take my mind off the physical discomfort. Every runner has good days and bad days. The point is to not give up and recognize that it is going to be a challenge. This is only the beginning for me. I plan to complete other 5K races.

In addition to the benefits I’ve realized, the experience has also had a wonderful impact on those around me. I was able to motivate my parents to make healthier choices and included my sister and niece in a few workouts. My husband, and Couch to 5K partner, has been my rock. He completed the Lub Dub in 24:45, placing fourth in his age bracket and 14th overall. Eight weeks ago, he could not have done that. I am proud of our completion of the Couch to 5K program and the personal growth we’ve each experienced. It’s been remarkable.

My challenge is for you to make better choices toward personal wellness. You won’t regret it.