Couch to 5K and Back Again

In 2013, when I met my now husband, I told him that I wanted to run a 5k. I was about 70 pounds overweight but had lofty wishes — not goals, let’s be clear. I wanted to run, but I didn’t put the willpower or discipline behind it. You know that saying, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”? That was me.

Fast forward to 2023, coming up on the 10th anniversary of our first date, I gladly report back to my husband: “I ran a 5K today.” Ran may be a little bit of stretch, but I can jog a 5K. So how did that happen?

Run for the Kid

It was an overcast day in May, not yet boiling hot, but the humidity was wavering around us. I was panting on the side of our subdivision’s street, staring at my husband and stepson about 500 feet in front of me. J and I were so proud of L’s involvement in his junior high track team that summer, and it was a perfect chance for me to finally get to the 5K goal with the added benefit of bonding with L. That first jog hurt! I couldn’t breathe, my heartbeat was well over 150 bpm, and I couldn’t go over a block at a time. It definitely was not a successful training session.

The Couch to 5K Plan

I decided I’d be more comfortable training on my own, so I downloaded the Couch to 5K app once again and decided to try it. I’d done the program in 2019 but on a treadmill and that didn’t do me the service I needed it to do when I joined the St. Jude’s Run that year. I’d only run two or three 5Ks before that race, and I ended up walking it. I promised myself that this time would be different.

If you’re not familiar with this program, check out the Couch to 5K website. It’s a popular program that you complete in intervals of walking and jogging, three times a week. You slowly build longer jog times and less walking, eventually getting to 30 minutes of non-stop jogging, which is the time goal for completing a 5K. Those first few training sessions were brutal. I could barely complete Week 1, Session 1: jogging for 60 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds in eight interval sets. But, I kept at it. I forced myself to walk after completing the session so that I could complete a full 3.1 miles because I wanted to condition myself to do a 5K.

By the time July hit, I completed the program and kept going. I was far from hitting a 30-minute 5K, so it took me a few more weeks of jogging consistently to get to that distance. At that point I wasn’t concerned about time or pace. I just wanted to jog a 5K without stopping. And I did it! I was so proud.

The Rundown

At that point, I was jogging a 5K every day, rarely taking a rest day. And that’s what did me in. By the end of September I was tired. I was bored of the same routine and path around the subdivision. Also, work was ramping up with lots of work meetings and a full October of travel, so I knew it was going to be tough to keep up my routine. And that was my downfall. By the end of October I had started regaining the pounds I’d lost and was walking instead of jogging. That continued through the end of 2022. I ran a few 5Ks and returned to the Couch to 5K app several times. I wasn’t in the mindset and didn’t have the determination to get back to my jogging routine. Add in three months of migraines and stress headaches, and I backslid on all accounts.

Begin Again

By the end of 2022, I was ready to start again. One of my And, I can say now that I have run at least one 5K this January. Am I as fast as I was in September? No. Am I as fit as I was in September? No. Am I as focused as I was in September? Also no, but with a caveat. I’m getting there. Two of my 23 goals in 2023 are related to this journey: 1) Walk/jog 21 miles every week, and 2) Run an in-person 5K race. I’m scheduled to run a Valentine’s race on February 5. I haven’t been able to train as hard outside because it’s January in Indiana, meaning snow and ice, and I don’t want to break a hip. But I’m walking, I’m jogging, and most importantly I’m moving my body. I feel positive and focused to get back to and exceed 2022 fitness leve.

And that, my friends, is better than any medal I could win.