Two years ago, I never could have dreamed that I could be a runner. I was out of breath climbing a flight of stairs.
A year ago, I could never imagine running 8 minutes straight. After all, I tried couch to 5k and I couldn’t get past the 5 minute running intervals.
So once I got past running 8 minutes straight this week, I took a look at the Week 5, Day 3 plan and was a little disheartened when I read the simple statement of, “Run 20 minutes with no walking.”
I just reached a huge milestone by running 8 minutes straight – a feat which took me TWO tries to accomplish, mind you – and now they suddenly thought I could more than double that?
I was immediately depressed and thought this was the end of the road.
I reached out to my running friends on Twitter for advice on how this was even possible. And – bless you, social media – they came through with lots of support and advice, the primary theme being: go slow, slow, slow.
It’s been really hot this week, so I waited until after 9pm to give this a try. Did I expect to actually do it? No way. I told myself that if I could just make it 10 minutes, I wouldn’t feel bad at letting myself have a walk break. 10 minutes was the best I was hoping for, really.
After the 5 minute warm up walk, I started out at a slow jog, forcing myself to slow down as much as possible so I didn’t tire myself out too quickly. The first few minutes were easy at this slow pace.
As usual, when I got about 5 minutes in, my body started to protest. It usually does this during the first run interval, with knees aching and legs feeling heavy and hard to move. It’s like my nervous system throws out one last-ditch attempt to get me to stop this crazy heavy exertion and go find the nearest ice cream truck instead. The best way to describe it is suddenly being hyper-aware of any little ache or sore spot in your body. It sucks, but I know if I push past it then it will all calm down.
I got close to 8 minutes, and while the aches were calming down, my breathing was starting to fall apart. I realized I could go even slower at that point and did so, regaining a decent breathing pattern while plodding on at a pace that a speed walker could easily lap me with.
At that point I resolved not to watch the clock. I focused on my music instead, trying to visualize the videos to the songs I was hearing. My body reached a comfortable numb state, where it kept moving and I did my best not to think about it. I realized just how muggy it still was as I breathed hard but resolved to keep going.
I finally looked at my time remaining, and was shocked to see that I only had 5 minutes left! At that point, I realized I couldn’t let myself stop now – it’s only 5 more minutes, right?
Those 5 minutes were perhaps the longest of my life. My hips started to burn, my side ached, and despite running as slow as possible, I was quickly losing all of my reserve energy. I was drenched in sweat and it was now dripping into my eyes and making it hard to see. But dammit, I wasn’t giving up at the very end!
At last, I reached the cooldown walk, and I roared a “YES!!!” in response. OK, maybe it was more like squeaked out a “YES!!” as I gasped for breath, but it felt like a roar.
I never expected to run for 20 minutes straight, even when I was doing it. But I did it, proving that I am capable of doing nearly anything. I need to give my body a little more credit, I guess. And trust my fellow social media running friends.
Translation to all reading this: YOU are also capable of doing nearly anything. If the woman who couldn’t even go up a flight of stairs without getting winded can do it, you can too.