I had plans to sit down and write about how successful I’d been. I wanted to write about how easy it had been to go from being a non-runner to completing my first 5K in three months, about how I had shed several pounds and how awesome I felt.
But that’s not exactly what has happened.
I’m not sure what made me decide to take up running in the first place. I had always hated running. I hated running because it caused me excruciatingly painful shin splints and because I was excruciatingly slow. And at some point in my childhood, my running form earned me the painful nickname “Bulldozer” from some mean-spirited peers.
I wasn’t exactly the non-athletic pasty-white chubby kid who was always chosen last in school when we divided up for a playground game of football or softball, but I wasn’t the kid everyone wanted to push the merry-go-round either.
I played softball through most of my childhood and my teen years so I had to endure some running. My theory, though, was to hit the ball over the outfielders’ heads so that I didn’t have to run fast to get on base. It worked. Had I been able to run faster I’d probably have had a few more doubles and triples in my softball career.
For a couple of years while playing catcher for a tournament team, my coach made me run bases every single time I missed a ball during practice. I cussed that coach in my head with every single step I took, but he knew what punishment I needed to motivate me. It wasn’t long until I was able to stop every wild pitch or throw that came my way.
In high school I failed the mile run. You had to finish in under 15 minutes, or maybe it was 20, but whatever it was, I embarrassingly failed.
In college, my friend Thomas and I once were dedicated to running every single morning at 7. But being a college student who worked two part-time jobs and took 18 hours of class, that dedication only lasted a couple of weeks.
That was the end of my attempted running career, at least until July 5 of this year.
I had been contemplating training for a 5K for a few weeks — we’ll attribute that contemplation to peer pressure — had looked for a training program online, and thought I found one I could handle. I pulled a pair of old tennis shoes out of my closet, grabbed my iPod and hit the pavement.
It all came flooding back to me. Pain shot up through my shins, and I could barely finish half of my first day of training. I hobbled back to my house out of breath, feeling defeated.
Friends and family encouraged me to keep trying. So I did a couple of days later with the same results. Each day I felt more and more defeated and the pain was increasing in my legs. By the end of the first week, I discovered I couldn’t even run a minute at a time, then walk 90 seconds, for a total of 20 minutes.
“You need new shoes,” my running friends told me. “You need to stretch better,” they said. “You need to wrap your shins in a crisscross pattern,” others said. “You’re trying to do too much too soon,” some informed me.
So I rested my legs for a week, then backed up and tried again, this time with a new pair of running shoes chosen for me by someone who watched me walk, looked at my arch and measured my foot thoroughly. I never realized shoes mattered so much. Now I know better.
I stretched more. I wrapped my shins like a mummy, and I changed my training so that I jogged 30 seconds at a time, then walked 90 seconds, for a total of 20 minutes.
It worked. I had finally completed my first day of training. Soon I had completed my first week. Then I was jogging a minute at a time, two minutes, then two and a half.
And then, I got sick. Walking pneumonia. It took two weeks before I could jog again.
It surprised me how much I missed running in those two weeks. I felt bad because I couldn’t run. I couldn’t wait to get out there again. Sometime in that first month of training I developed a love for running I had never experienced before.
I’ve had other minor things keep me from running a few days at a time: allergies, long days at work, a sore foot, an upset stomach. But each time I get back out there and I move forward. Right now I’m jogging for four minutes at a time and walking for a minute, for a total of 30 minutes, three times a week. The farthest I’ve made it is 2.28 miles.
I may have missed my goal for my first 5K, but I’m still progressing. I’ve lost a few pounds, I don’t get out of breath as easily, and I feel good about myself again. I no longer have to wrap my legs like a mummy, and the pain in my shins is more of a dull aching.
To all of you running your first 5K on Saturday in conjunction with the Dalton Half Marathon, I wish you the best of luck. I hope to join you next time.
To all of you who had hoped to run your first 5K on Saturday, but didn’t quite make it, don’t give up.
We’ll get there eventually.
Misty Watson is a photographer and reporter for The Daily Citizen. Write to her at mistywatson@ daltoncitizen.com.