Running Part 1: C25K

For eight years now, I’ve run off and on. It’s been an adventure and a journey of definite ups and downs, and I decided that I wanted to document it over time!

Nearly a decade ago, I heard about the Couch to 5K program from my friend Anne. At the time, I was at my highest-ever weight. My hips, knees, and ankles hurt all the time. Running wasn’t really an option for me. However, the idea stuck with me, and in August 2010 – 20 lbs down from my highest weight – I decided to give C25K a chance. Indoors. Running back and forth in my living room. I was not prepared to take the plunge in public (or in San Antonio August heat!).

For almost five weeks, I did laps around my living room. At the same time, I listened to my first real audiobook, Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy (read by Alan Rickman!). I only listened during those half-hour running sessions. I loved the audiobook, and it made the running bearable. At the time, I was really surprised at how difficult I found the running. My entire adult life, at all sorts of weights, running around the living room while watching TV had been easy. This time, though, I got severe shin splints. Every step was torture. I chalked it up to my weight, which was heavier than I’d ever run before, and when my audiobook finished right before the 20-minute run at the end of Week 5, I quit the program.

The following January, when I began my weight loss journey in earnest, I decided to try the C25K program again. In my living room again, of course. But one thing had changed. We’d rearranged in there since my first attempt, and my “route” changed. Instead of going from front door to back door in laps, I could run a large circle around the couch, armchair, and elliptical. Because I was on carpet the whole time, instead of transitioning from carpet to linoleum and back, I could run barefoot. Turns out, those shin splits had to do with wearing shoes (probably those specific shoes) and not with my weight. This time, I finished the program on schedule, and went on to run 45 mins straight not long after. I knew I wasn’t actually running a whole 5K, but I didn’t think I was doing too bad. Until I signed up for a real 5K.

March 2011, down about 25-30 lbs, I started “jogging” at the start line of this 5K. As it turns out, I’d never learned how to run properly. My movement was more up-and-down (like running in place) than running forward. I could walk faster than I could run. MUCH faster. And running-in-place-but-kinda-forward was much more difficult outside my living room, even on level ground. That 5K exhausted me, and still took me 54 minutes to finish (about a 17:30/mi pace). I managed to “jog” three-quarters of it and STILL it took that long. I knew then that I had to learn how to run properly.

C25K, round 2 – outside. I went to my local trails, put on my music, and did the only thing I could – I sprinted the run sections. Only by sprinting could I move forward instead of up-and-down. Of course, sprinting all those sections was beyond exhausting, but it taught me to run as well as my messed-up-feet will ever let me run. I never finished this particular round of C25K. A couple weeks in, I almost had a heat stroke because I was still wearing sweatpants as I ran (same ones pictured above), when it was 80-something degrees out. I was just too self-conscious to wear shorts. This particular incident led to a personal challenge to overcome self-consciousness, but that’s a story for a different post.

Instead of continuing the C25K track, I opted to walk my normal hill-heavy trails with running sections whenever I could manage. Mostly on downhill sections. Ha! And I got to the point where I could run maybe 1 mile at a slow pace (slower than 15:00/mi). The first time I ever managed to run an entire 5K was on a treadmill right before my first-ever cruise, set to a very slow 4 mph pace. I just wanted to try and see if I could do it, after running smaller sections for about nine months. I was so excited to make it all the way through without walking, even though my speed was still slow. I took this really silly picture of my calves afterwards, because of how solidly I could see the muscles there. When I got home from that cruise, I decided to run a 5K outdoors on my normal trails. I discovered that I loved the outdoor running – even on uphills – far more than on a treadmill. Not surprising!!

And that takes me to the summer of 2012, when a new phase of my running adventure began. To be continued!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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6 Responses to Running Part 1: C25K

  1. Michelle says:

    I do love the Couch to 5K program but have never had much luck with it. Timing is either off – like starting it right before winter and trying to finish the program when it is snowing and ice is on the ground – or I get such terrible shin splints from it. The transitions from walking to running and back again are horrible for me. While it might not be the program for me, I do tend to recommend it to others because it has such a great success rate!


    • Amanda says:

      Thankfully I found shoes that work for me not to get shin splints. I was wearing the worst shoes back then – they were expensive Asic shoes that were supposedly good but definitely not good for my feet! I had to go through a few pairs before I found the brand that my feet love (Saucony) and I’ll never try to run again in anything else!


  2. Ceri says:

    I just started to C25K yesterday. I’d tried it for maybe 4-5 days a few years ago when I lived next to a running track and found it difficult but still managed it. Yesterday I went on a treadmill and, after the first run, I felt like I was dying. That sounds like an exaggeration but I’ve let myself become extremely unfit and out of shape over the last 2 years or so so I guess I’m going to try building up a tolerance and power walking on the treadmill first.


    • Amanda says:

      I don’t think I could run on a treadmill regularly. I did it that once to see if I could get through a whole 5K but the impact on my knees is just really rough and I never get used to the movement vs stillness of the room around me. That’s why I always end up running in laps around larger rooms in my house, and then power-walking outside on hills to really build up cardio. I don’t plan to run outside (at which point I would also be dying!) until I have more strength and less trouble with (walking) cardio on hills!


  3. Pingback: Running Part 2: Peak | The Zen Leaf

  4. Pingback: Running Part 3: Starting Over | The Zen Leaf

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