6 Things I Learned from My First 5K

5k

by guest blogger Maria Luci, associate editor at Rodale

The alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. on Sunday. As it buzzed, I lay there and thought to myself, What the heck am I doing? Why am I getting up before the crack of dawn to run?

Somehow, I willed myself out from under the covers, laced up my sneakers, and ate a healthy breakfast. Then it was straight to the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s famous steps for my first-ever 5K.

But this story really begins five months earlier when a friend texted asking if I’d sign up for a “fun” run with her. I’d never run a race before and hadn’t actually run legitimately since my middle-school track days. Suffice to say, it’d been a while since I’d even done a mile.

However, I am an employee at Rodale, home to Runner’s World and Running Timesso I figured I should probably say yes and get my butt in gear. Running is part of the job description, right? (Just kidding!)

I’m happy to say that after months of training, the race went well and I realized that the experience did more for me than just tone up my rear. Running taught me a few things, too. Who would have guessed?

Here are six things I learned from running my first 5K:

1. Running IS fun! OK, I know a lot of you are probably rolling your eyes at this. I didn’t believe it at first either. Just the thought of running made me feel somewhat nauseated and slightly offended. I was the person who said things like, “WHO would ever want to run?” and “Look at that person running in the cold—they’re crazy!” And I’ll admit, it wasn’t fun at first. But after the first couple of months, I really started to enjoy myself. I might even go so far as to say that I began to crave running. There’s nothing like a runner’s high—and nothing like seeing your times go down and down. Running went from a chore to a treat. But yeah, I will admit that while running is fun, getting up at 5:15 a.m. to do so still isn’t.

2. Music is everything! My goodness! This should probably be #1 on this list, now that I think about it. I first started training for the race without any music…on a treadmill. Worst decision ever! It was so boring, and all I could think about was how long I’d been running since I last checked, which typically turned out to be one minute. But then I discovered the wonderful world of running playlists. Making my playlists was almost as fun as using them, and I soon found myself a connoisseur of high-intensity motivational beats. My favorite song to run to? Independent Women Part I by Destiny’s Child; gets me going faster every time. Girl power!

3. Running is cheap therapy. During training, I moved (always a pleasure…not!), my husband changed jobs, family visited, I caught a cold, and I made my way through a variety of other anxiety-producing experiences. But I soon realized that whenever my mind began to race with worry, a hard run did wonders to calm it down. As soon as my feet were pounding the pavement, my troubles began to fade. After every run, I felt lighter and accomplished.

4. Don’t listen to everything you read online. Ha, I know, I know! The irony of this statement. BUT, it’s true. I read a bunch of articles on running races before the big day, and some gave me great advice. I learned that you should dress as if it’s going to be 20 degrees warmer outside, that your number goes on the front of your shirt, that you should avoid dairy and high-fiber products before you line up at the starting line, and that you should have everything prepared to go the night beforehand. But I also read that you should never wear the race shirt the day of and that your first race will stink. I ignored the former since I thought the shirt was pretty cool and I didn’t really have anything else weather appropriate. Guess what? EVERYONE was wearing it. And yes, I’m sure at some big-time races it’s a faux pas to wear the shirt before you finish the race, but who really cares? And as for the race stinking: totally not true for me! It was an awesome experience, and I finished with a great time. Another friend who ran her first 5K that day also confirmed this point; she loved it and finished strong. So yeah, don’t believe everything you read, and know that every race is different…and that it’s probably OK to go ahead and wear that T-shirt.

5. You need to believe in yourself! That’s the only way you’re going to get to that finish line. That and putting one foot in front of the other.

6. Races are addicting. The feeling of all those people running beside me, the sensation of actually passing some of those people, and the realization that I’d run the entire way all combined into the most amazing, totally addicting runner’s high. Immediately after crossing the finish line (and catching my breath), I exclaimed, “I can’t wait to do that again!” To which my husband replied, “I was afraid of that.” (Note: What’s worse than getting up at the crack of dawn to run? Getting up at the crack of dawn to watch someone run.)  But yes, I did run home (not literally) and signed up for another race—this time one with an afternoon start!

Has running ever taught you anything? Share in the comments!

marialuciMaria Luci is the manager of Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen and the social media editor at Rodale’s. She grew up in Virginia, but now lives in Philly with her husband, a black cat, and a good deal of houseplants. When not editing, she’s often eating organic food or running… or eating when she should be running.

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12 Responses to 6 Things I Learned from My First 5K

  1. Renee June 20, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Nice, Maria! Congratulations! And I am totally with you on the music. Couldn’t really imagine running without it. My playlist is eclectic to say the least. Will add your Destiny’s Child song!

  2. Maria Luci June 20, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    Thanks, Renee! Yeah, my playlist is a manic mix of all sorts of songs!

  3. Donna in Delaware June 20, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Maria, I so would like to try running, but I am a BIG CHICKEN!!! I am, like you were in the beginning. Running, who me? The thought makes my chest hurt! I think of myself having a heart attack or something similar. I was a sprinter in grade school (many moon ago) and a tennis player in junior high/high school. That was the last time I did any running, except with my now deceased Labrador, I ran after him to get my clothing back! I must admit, I admire you and Maria Rodale for signing up for 5k’s, or just jogging PERIOD!

    Would you believe that my heart is hurting just responding to this blog! Just had a stress test, that was fine, EKG was fine, so what am I waiting for you ask? Courage, that’s what!

    Have fun on your next 5K! I’ll let you know when I’ll get the courage to start training.

  4. Alice Green June 20, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Maria, I have great admiration for you. And when I first started reading this, I thought how can she be doing this at her age! Ha. Then when I finished and saw your picture, I thought, What? Is Maria that young, sweet thing? For some reason I thought you were maybe in your early 50′s, maybe because whwnever you wrote something you seemed so mature and wise. But now I wonder how you can ever be old enough to be married! Ha. Isn’t it something how our imaginations can run away with us? But regardless of my misguided imagination, I admire anyone who can run. And am glad that it is so rewarding for you. And I admire your husband for getting up to watch you run. If I had to watch someone run, I’d have to take a good book with me or I’d never make it to the end of the race. Of all your 6 reasons, number 3 is the one that, to me, is the most important. Anything that can relieve the stress of life’s challenges is great!! Stress is my biggest challenge and nature and books are my way of dealing with it. If running does it for you, then I say – go for it!! Thanks for sharing, as always!

  5. Maria Luci June 20, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Alice! This is Maria Luci writing, Maria Rodale is probably who you were thinking about. Here’s what she looks like: http://www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com/about/ :) But thank you! :)

  6. Alice Green June 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    No, I do know what Marie Rodale looks like and I expected her words of wisdom. So I do mean you when I say I thought you were older, just because of what you have written before and the way you reply to people. You just seemed to be wise and mature beyond your years. Of course, that is my problem….thinking words of wisdom and kind, gentle replies to others would be coming from an older person. There is no reason that young people can’t be just as wise and just as kind as us older folks. And, in fact, I am delighted to know what you look like and that you are young and wise and kind! And glad you are part of Rodales family!! I feel like I’ve known you for years, and consider you a friend. I admire all the folks who share their stories with us as I know it isn’t always easy to expose ourselves to others. Thank you for sharing with us. Even at 71 I still have a lot to learn from everyone!

  7. Maria Luci June 20, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    Haha! Thanks, Donna! Your comment made me laugh. That’s very much how I felt when I signed up for this thing. After I hit the “register” button I immediately thought I’d made a huge mistake. Turns out, I didn’t!

  8. Maria Luci June 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    That’s so sweet Alice. We’re so happy to have you as a reader.

  9. Donna in Delaware June 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    Maria, one of these days I am going to surprise you and Maria Rodale when I win the 5K. Probably in my dreams!! Happy to have made you laugh. I suppose the joke’s on me though. I could probably win this thing someday.

  10. Marty June 28, 2014 at 5:33 am #

    This was so inspiring for me to read. I was a runner a LONG TIME ago….(80′s…high school) and while I always enjoyed it, I’ve let it slip and done more walking/hiking lately. While this has been “good therapy” also, there’s nothing as exhilirating as moving at a faster pace accompanied by an excellent playlist. So….I’m now committing to a morning run! (…the next time it’s not too hot and humid, that is!) Thanks!

  11. John July 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Great Article — However I disagree with the Music. I’ve been running for close to 30 years now and gave music a shot but I found it disturbed my run. I like to hear the breathing and the sound of my feet hitting the ground. Running with music drove me crazy….. But of course, that’s just me – I have PLENTY of running friends that the Music is their first priority…

  12. Jen July 8, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

    Great article! I’m a subscriber to both Runners World and Running Times. I always encourage non runners and new runners to sign up for a 5k because its so doable from a training perspective. Even if you’re busy, tired, have kids, the Couch 2 5k program works well! Running really is addicting, I was ‘never going to run’ but I ran in hs 21 yrs ago and then restarted in 2010. 11 Ragnars, Boston, and lots of pacing jobs, I love what this sport brings to life!

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