Running Toward Health

I challenged myself to run at least one 5K race a month in the 2012 race season.

by Darlene Sneden • More.com Member { View Profile }

2012 is my year. I made up my mind to change my eating habits and get fit. And I'm on track! I've lost weight steadily since January. And I added a fitness component once I'd lost enough weight that I wouldn't blow out my knees. I started by walking. Then, week by week, ever so slowly, I added a jogging component. Now I run most of every workout. I'm proud of myself and for what I've accomplished so far: a healthy eating lifestyle and a regular exercise routine.

As part of my bid for a healthier me, I challenged myself to run at least one 5K race a month in the 2012 race season, which runs March-November. So far, I've run two in March, two in April, one in May, and two in June. My goal is to be able to run a 5K (with or without killer hills) in less than 30 minutes by the end of the season. I haven’t been able to do it. Yet. But I'm determined to try! Are you a runner? Are you in your mid-50s? Would you let me know how fast you run a 5K? I'd be ever so grateful to know! 

One of the more memorable races of the season, at least so far, was the third annual Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN) 5K, which is organized and run by a group of Montclair (N.J.) High School students to benefit an Essex County non-profit that helps the area’s homeless families. The student organizers provided great race day fun, from the warm-up calisthenics led by a local trainer, to the live band, and a swag bag that included, among the gift cards for free classes and other cool stuff, a yummy cookie from race sponsor and local food chef/blogger Suzanne Michaud.

Race day dawned warm and sunny. The course in Brookdale Park, which straddles Bloomfield and Montclair, N.J., is a hilly one, and a real challenge for me. Hill running wears me out. I walked to the park, picked up my race bib, pinned it on and started to warm up my middle-aged body; with each twist, bend, squat, and trot my muscles began to soften and elongate. All of us, 134 runners strong including an entire girls lacrosse team, lined up at the start; I stayed well back from the front, giving the faster runners a clear opportunity for a quick start.

The gun sounded, and we were off, down the length of the track and out the gate into the park proper. I searched for my stride and found it pretty quickly; my breathing took longer to find, but eventually it kicked in too. Around the park I ran, keeping pace with a much younger woman dressed in blue in front of me. No one passed me, which was a delightful first for me. At about the 1.25-mile mark the young woman in blue slowed her pace; I slowed too. Then she started to walk.

I ran up to her and managed to squeeze out, ”Hey, keep running. I need you. You’re pacing me!”

She smiled as I ran by. A few moments later she passed me with a wave. Happy, I settled back in behind her, my pace runner. The sun shone brightly, and the sweat trickled down my back, down my face. On we ran.

At about the 2.25-mile mark, the young woman in blue slowed to a walk again. As I ran by her I rasped, “Keep moving, girl! I need you!”

Thankfully, she picked up her pace and passed me with a smile. We headed up the hill to the finish line. I saw the clock in the distance down the length of the track … 30 minutes and counting … and I picked up my pace, breathing hard.

I crossed the finish line in 30:38.6, a personal best! As I caught my breath, the young woman, and I smiled at each other.

As I walked home from the race, I realized something:

am a runner.

can run.

How about you? What have you realized about yourself?

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