An Uphill Battle to Cross the Finish Line, But I Wasn't Alone

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've been following my blogs for awhile, then you know that I started running about seven months ago. I began by running a mile just to see whether I could, which, for someone who formerly ran only when chased (and how often do you think I was chased? Um, never!), this was quite a feat.

I kept running not so much because I liked it, but because it was an effective form of cardio that, on weekends, allowed me to work out without driving to the gym. (My gym is convenient because it's close to work, but it's 12 miles from home, and I prefer to walk and bike on the weekends.)

So on Saturday mornings, I would wake up at 7, run around downtown Cincinnati for about 2 miles, then run to the farmers market. I'd arrive, sweaty and red-faced, buy my fruits and vegetables and walk home (getting a strength workout in as well--I buy A LOT of produce each week!). I covered about 4 miles, 3 of which were spent running. I am usually busy from Friday night through Sunday night, so any time I can multitask, I do.

Then, I had a change in plans one week and needed to miss my favorite Spinning class. Instead of skipping cardio for the day, I rose early and ran. I had so much energy that day, and I decided to keep running a couple of times a week.

I had no intention of running hills (painful and no fun, I thought), and though I had vaguely set a goal to run a 5K "sometime," I wasn't training for one.

Enter, our resident running coach, Nancy, who could sell milk to a dairy farmer. And now read the story of how I ran my first 5K, with the company and support of SparkPeople to guide me!

When Nancy told me that several SparkPeople members planned to run a 5K the morning after the Spark Your Life Convention, I got caught up in the excitement and agreed to run it as well.

Then I looked at the course map: mostly uphill! Still, I had committed, and I stuck with it. And, I lived near the course, so I could practice running the hills.

So I rose early two or three times a week, geared up and hit the road. The hills were brutal at first, and I walked half of them. Honestly, I wanted to quit, run home and go back to sleep several times. But by the week of the race, I felt like I was ready.

Coach Nicole, who ran her first 5K last year, also planned on running the race. She wanted to beat her time and asked me if I had a goal.

"Yes. I want to finish," I said, quite seriously.

"Anything else?" she asked.

"And I don't want to walk any of it," I replied.

Lofty goals, eh?

You see, I'm not an athlete. I faked cramps to get out of gym class, was the most awkward of all the belly dancers in my college rec course, and continue to be completely oblivious to organized sports of all forms.

Who was I to set a goal? I don't have a competitive bone in my body, and I didn't really care what my time was. I told Nicole I hoped to finish in about 40 minutes. I foresaw a brutal, sweaty and exhausting end to the race.

The week before the race was rough. We were all busy trying to get ready for the Convention, I was packing to move apartments, and I had a mighty large baking project for the Convention. I was stressed. I was tired.

The night before the race, I was exhausted. I left the post-Convention festivities around 9, grabbed dinner with my boyfriend (who had moved without my help all day!) and collapsed into bed at 11:30. Thankfully, Nancy and DANIERIN22 had asked for a ride to the race--otherwise I might have been tempted to sleep through it.

I was nervous that morning (see my face above!), but I was too sleepy to think about it. But as I saw how excited everyone else was, I perked up and started to really look forward to the race. I pinned on my bib, warmed up and got ready to go. Plus, a member whom I'd met the day before, KALORIE-KILLAH, was also running her first 5K. DANIERIN22, BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, her boyfriend and his friend were also running, and ITGIRL74, was walking her first 5K! Nancy and MIAMIA7were there to cheer us on!

We lined up at the starting line--somehow near the front--and we were off. I hadn't run the start of the race, just the middle of it, so I didn't know just how steep and long the first hill was. I held slow and steady, focused on my breath (yoga really helps with running, I've learned!) and just ran. I was excited and wanted to run faster, but I worried I'd burn out.

It was a really small race, but the people along the course were so supportive. I felt good when I reached the top of the second hill--the turn-around. I got excited, and shouted "Woo-hoo" a few times when I saw other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I was actually smiling for most of the second half of the race!

I knew that I was prone to side stitches during downhill runs, so I focused on deep breathing (a tip I learned from Nancy's blogs) and kept going. This time--no side cramp.

As I headed toward the last downhill stretch, I knew my legs had something left in them. I picked up the pace, focused on the woman in front of me and--surprisingly enough--set out to beat her. A few hundred yards from the finish line I saw BOBBYD31 running toward me. He had already finished but wanted to run back to support other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I got really excited when I saw him, and I just focused on the finish line. I deliberately hadn't looked at my watch, but when the clock came into view, I was elated: 28 minutes. "Just make it across the finish line in under 29," I told myself.

And I did: 28:38!

I was so happy to have finished my first 5K and even happier to see KALORIE-KILLAH at the finish line! And I beat the woman I set out to pass. (Guess I have a smidge of competition in my bones after all!)

We stretched, rehydrated and watched our fellow Sparkers cross the line. We all hugged, cheered and posed for photos. Then we watched the awards ceremony. Coach Nicole's friend Brett won the race, but the biggest surprise was yet to come.

I won a medal! So did several others in our group--we couldn't believe it!

Nancy, who'd been tearing up intermittently throughout the weekend, looked at me with happy tears and said, "You're a runner, Stepfanie!"

I am a runner, Nancy! And I'm running my second 5K this weekend. I want to run the entire thing, match my time and have a good time. I'll start setting timed goals after this race, which will be considerably larger (no medal this time, I think!).

But I've caught the running bug. I'm still rising early, lacing up my shoes and hitting the road. And I'm doing it with a smile on my face!

I couldn't have done this without the support of all the SparkPeople members who were there that day: BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, Nancy, MIAMIA7, ITGIRL74, DANIERIN22, and KALORIE-KILLAH, plus PATTYSH, who suggested that we participate in the race! Running this race together really bonded us in a way that sharing a meal or a conversation never could have!

Check out the blogs from everyone else who ran and walked the race (on their SparkPages, which are linked above. They're really inspirational!

What goal have you set that you never thought you'd achieve? Have you ever run a 5K? Do you enjoy the competitive aspect of running or do you just run for fun?

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STARMONICA 4/14/2019
Awesome! Wish all of you achieve your goals. Report
LRBARRIOS 4/10/2019
Great story! I've never been a runner. I never really liked it. The only time I ever did run was when I was 19 years old in the Marine Corps (can't really just so "no" there). I turn 50 next year, so I decided I'm going to celebrate by running a half marathon. I've already picked the race (Cow Town Half Marathon) and I've got exactly 1 year to train for it. I'm doing my first 5K (a mud run) this weekend. I actually look forward to my running days now. Excited to see where this leads. Report
Awesome! I have a total hip replacement and I am forbidden to run. :-( I miss it a lot because I used to run a lot when I was younger. I really enjoyed reading your blog! Thank you for the encouragement!!
Jan Report
how encouraging. i'm going to try my 1st 5k this memorial day. walking it is no problem but i want to try and run it. i'm up to running 3/4 mile straight so far. i get set back with shin splints though. any suggestions anyone? Report
Congratulations!!!!!!! I look up to you. Keep running!!!! Report
Oh my, what an inspiration you are!! Congrats on running your first marathon. That is exciting and to beat your goals is even better. I am still working up to running more and hope that as I lose more weight, I will do it more and more. I love when I run/jog. It actually feels good. The longest I have run/jog is 1.25 miles, but its a start. Congrats again and keep it going!

Dopkigirl Report
I will never be able to run a marathon because of certain health problems, but your article has given me inspiration to the things that I can even more. Thanks for a great article. dallasfan4. Report
I Know I have a couple competitive bones in my body. 2010 sounds like a good year for a 5k or 2. :-) Report
I Know I have a couple competitive bones in my body. 2010 sounds like a good year for a 5k or 2. :-) Report
That's a great time. I was happy with 30.28 for my first 5k. I find if you're training for a run outside on a treadmill. It helps to use a 1 or 2 percent incline so its more like running outside, worked for me. Report
This was definitely a motivator to push me to try to achieve at least running a mile. You made me believe it was possible. GREAT JOB! Report
Thanks for an awesome inspiring post. I'm hoping to run a 5K before my 54th birthday in March - and that's really a stretch for me because when the time changes, I have a hard time exercising. Setting this goal will give me something to work toward. Thanks for the boost !! Report
Awesome Blog! and such inspired collective energy! (I read this right after the SP convention and I'm revisiting) I am an (ahem) aspiring runner that will begin Day 1 Week 5 of the C25K tomorrow, and I will be doing the best I can do at the Women's 5K Classic (Breast Cancer Benefit) on October 17th in Allentown PA. Surely, it won't be pretty, nor will it be an amazing time, and there are hills to climb, and climb them, I will. :~) Report
Great blog! Report
Congratulations !! That's a great time and to do it among so many Spark Friends will probably make it hard to have another 5K race measure up to your first. Wish I had been there. Report
I was comment #69. Now I have completed my first 5K throught the streets of Ann Arbor, MI. What a blast! My husband ran the 10K, so I was alone in this, but I ran the entire course, went through the football players' tunnel and ended up at the 50 yard line at the Big House, otherwise known as Michigan Stadium. The most awesome part was passing other people as I kept steadily running. I even got to run past the dental school where I graduated from 27 years ago. Thanks for the inspiration, Stepfanie! Report
I, too, am absolutely NOT an athlete. I am tempted to do some sort of race, maybe a WALK at first. One day, maybe a 5k, but I can't imagine running for that long! Report

You did AWESOME in your 1st 5K. When I did my first one last spring I was 'coerced' into it, but I trained and ran/walked the entire thing; time 36 minutes; not bad for a 335 pound guy. This past spring I signed up to support my company in having the largest group running the Columbus 5K. My only goal was to run the entire thing; mission accomplished. The sense of bonding with your fellow runners is immeasurable. It's true that getting caught up in the pace of the day can make or break your race.
I'm sure that you'll be out there setting new goals and knocking them down! Report
Congratulations! That is fantastic! I am at the point of running for about 2 minutes (long, long way to go) but hope to run all of a 5K next spring. Report
that's awesome..hope to get there one day Report
cool , good job Report
I ran my first 5K last weekend in Boston, Ma. I was nervious about it because up until a couple months ago I had always been a sprinter, I did track and field for 8 years and the thought of a mile warm-up scared me stiff. My sister and I ran our 5K in 30.35. Our goals were to not come in last, funny now because we saw walkers, and to set a base time that was under 30 minutes so our next 5K would be faster, that's 2 10minute miles and one 12-15 minute mile. To finish in the middle AND in our goal time was amazing. She and I are looking for more races to run next month.

Good luck in your future runs!!! Report
I almost felt like tears of joy were coming out. I have always wanted to run a 5k also and its nice to see that there are other people with doubts that I have and surprise themselves and complete a goal. Very inspiring, and now I think Im going to train for one myself. Maybe one day I will enter a marathon. Report
Awesome job, Stepf! I presume you're doing the Reggae Run this weekend - I know you'll rock it! See you on the roads sometime :) Report
When I first started to read this, I thought, "Oh, another 'inspirational, I-did-it, you-can-do-it-too' blog." But, I have to say, I was really inspired and encouraged by this blog; there was something very honest, open and 'accidentally encouraging' about it. Congrats to you for your accomplishment and thanks for the inspiration! Report
Way to go girl! Congrats for sticking with it. I'm a walker, try running every spring and fall but just can't keep it up. My 60+ body won't keep at it. Report
Good job! I'm running my third 5K in four weeks! Report
Wow, Stepfanie! Congrats on having such an amazing first 5K experience. I am just starting out with running, and reading your story is so inspiring to me. Best of luck with your next race!! Report
Good for you! Keep up the good work!
Jeanne Report
What a great blog! You are an inspiration! I just did my first 3 mile walk for Alzheimer's a couple of weeks ago and I told my husband that I wanted to start thinking about doing a 5k run, so I will need to take some time out and read all your blogs and others' blogs also to figure out how to start preparing!

~Leslie Report
Great good for you !!! Report
You are an amazing lady! This will serve as my inspiration. Congratulations!! Report
You are amazing! :) Thank you for giving me extra inspiration to start trying to run again post baby.
I'll let you know how I do. Report
Stepf... hahahahaha!! You & *me* BOTH!! Not a real athlete... briefly did 'do' gymnastics...and briefly did the captain cheerleader thAng... and I stress BRIEF. One year each, tops... a little ballet and there you have it. Running? hmm... nope, but I'm trying what's called a wog (which you probably know, means walk/jog, but for those, like *me* who didn't) and... I think I like it. I don't know that I could ever be a runner, but LOVED your blog!! How fun and funny it was, and I sooo relate to where you were coming from!! hahaha!!
Take care! Have a safe & FUN weekend!!
¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
(¸.·´ (¸.·´ *Annie Report
Way to go! Almost makes me want to start running! Report
I started to train to run/walk my first 5k in June. I hadn't run for 32 years and when I did run it was dashes when I was a teen on the track and field team. Well I made it through my first 5k at 45 minutes in August did my second one in September at 44 seconds and continue to train , my goal is to do one 5k race a month until I can run the entire way and then aim for a 10k and go from there. I would love to do a half marathon and hope to do one in a years time. A year ago I would have told you " I DO NOT RUN" now I say I run , I may be at turtle speed but I run. WINKING AT YOU ALL!
pj Report
Congratulations, Im so proud of you! You are awesome! Report
I'm on week 2 of the Couch to 5K program, and will be so glad when I actually enjoy running someday! Right now what keeps me going is the sense of accomplishment afterward. During the running I'm just not a happy camper, LOL.

Oh well, in time :) Congrats, Stephanie!!! Report
First off ... congrats to you!!! Awesome! BUT for me ... I'll walk or power-walk ANYWHERE or I'll bike many miles ... but run ... sorry that would be a big NO! VERY large breasted women don't run!! I shouldn't have to explain that one! BTW ... mine are the ones I was born with and I wish women who want augmentation would consult people like me so they know what a PAIN they really are!!! Report
I'm SO not athletic, and the very thought of running leaves me cold - BUT, I keep reading blogs from people who run. Hmmm, maybe one of these days...... LOL Report
I've never run a 5K. Report
Great story! Makes me want to try again. The first time I ever ran was with my husband and I was just going to do a mile. I ended up doing the whole 3 miles in 30 minutes and literally couldn't walk the next day. I ran off and on until I hit my 40's, but never made it to a 5k due to injuries. Now that I'm 55, I think it's time to try again. After all I should be wiser, right? Report
Yes, I agree that Nancy is very persuasive. She's got me running too, and after years of post-childbirth orthopedic problems, I was convinced it was impossible. For almost 10 years, walking pain-free seemed like enough of an accomplishment. But I tried running, and nothing hurts. Almost 9 months have gone by, and I'm still doing it, so I must be doing something right. I have completed two 5Ks and one 8K, and I am looking for another 5K to sign up for to help keep me motivated. Thank you, Nancy, and thank you, Dr. Mayo Friedlis. Without you, this wouldn't have happened.

On a related note, in a week, I'll be walking in my local Walk for Hope (to cure breast cancer) together with a small team of "Sparking Marylanders. " Report
Congratulations for 5k! Reading this made me want to get up and go run. :) Report
Stephanie - I'm very proud of you - I'm happy to walk the 5k - can't imagine running that entire time, and uphill - no way - Way to go! Report
Gah - I'm so proud of you Stepfanie! Report
I have just entered my first 5K - in today's mail. It is on Saturday, October 17th. I feel pretty good about my progress and look forward to it. I am hoping to finish in under 30 minutes.

Any runners with advice out there - please let me (and others) know!!! Report
That was a wonderful blog! I started running a couple of months ago just to see if I could as well and I've also got the runners bug. I never ever would have thought I'd be a runner, it's crazy, lol! Hope to run a 5K soon. Report