What I learned from training for and running my first ever 15K
A month ago, I ran my first ever 15K. I’ve run several 5K races in my day. Running has not always been my strong suit but I really enjoy it. At the gym – when I go – the treadmill hasn’t always been my favorite machine. I’ve grown to love it. This year I’ve made a dedicated choice to say yes to do things that I wouldn’t normally do to discover what my mind and my heart are capable of. So, when I signed up for the Hot Chocolate Run, I clicked on the 15K option. Immediately after my payment went through, I was like, “what did I just signed up for?!”
My virtual mailbox got its first email about training for the Hot Chocolate 15K a week later. “I can do this!” I say to myself. I was moving at the end of January so technically I didn’t start this schedule when I was supposed to. A week after I settled into my new digs, I started to train.
Filled with determination, I start off the week with a nice 30-min run/jaunt thru the streets of my new neighborhood. The weather, cold and wet. Running on the streets is definitely different from running on a treadmill. My heart and lungs were definitely not in the best shape as I wanted them to be. Building my stamina was going to take a lot of work…especially since I have only a month to train.
The week went by with no problem. The next week didn’t go as well. Life happened and I lost motivation to train. LESSON HERE: unexpected events can really cause a blow to the flow of work leading up to the big show. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: embrace the occurrence. Feel the feels, positive or negative. Take the time you need to recalibrate, but hold that focus. Don’t deviate.
So, I allowed myself to feel. It wasn’t quite good for my training, but I had to. I couldn’t just put it in a box and say “I’ll get to it later.”, because I knew if I did, my brain would be there instead of on the race. This unexpected event put a small dent in my training. It was pretty rough. But I told myself that I made a commitment and I wasn’t going to back down.
A week and a half of the initial shock dragged on. But then it was back to the grind. I was lucky enough to have a roommate who reminded me that I needed to get back out there and train. It definitely was difficult to get back into it, but I did. Every other day, I made time to go out there and do my 30-minute run. Working towards a 14-minute-mile. I never got there, but I got pretty close: 15.5-minute miles.
March 5th arrived…
The night before I had picked up a shift at Kona Kitchen. The closing shift. Yeah, I’m insane. Why do I do these things to myself? (I’m still thinking up an answer to this question. Come back at a later time to find out…) So, that morning, I wake up at 5:30. The race starts at 7:40 for the 15k-ers and I wanted to make sure I had a good breakfast and LOTS OF COFFEE! I heard from someone that having a hearty high-carb dinner the night before is ideal, so I believe I had a huge plate of fried rice loco moco (TONS of rice!). I didn’t sleep very long that night. LESSON HERE: make sure to have a good night’s sleep the night before a long early morning run. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: Don’t pick up a server shift the night before a long early morning run!!!
My incredible mom was my support that day. Last year it was my best friend, but he wasn’t around. ❤️ My mom was the best. She stuck thru the cold for almost 2.5 hours to catch me at the finish line. She made me a sign but didn’t get to use it, because she wasn’t ready. Lol. I’m super grateful that she was there. More on that later. LESSON HERE: Having a support system makes the run a bit easier. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: Let people know you’re challenging yourself with a big run. People are quite receptive and they are more than willing to support you. Don’t be afraid to ask for support, either.
7:40 am rolls around…
I’m standing in corral “k” at the Seattle Center with the Space Needle towering in the sunrise to the east, surrounded by runners who run 15-16 minute miles like me. The coordinators of the run think that’s fair. However, it takes 20 minutes for corral “k” to reach the starting line. Here we are being moved along like cattle, inch by inch. It was a cool 40-something degrees. Along the way, I see a few of my friends who have already completed the 5K earlier this morning. Erwin encourages me: “Just go at it at your own pace. Don’t rush it. But when you’re going downhill….sprint it!” Lol. Thanks for the advice, Erwin! His advice didn’t steer me wrong, tho. I have to also thank Ray and Macy for the encouraging hugs and “you can do it”s. Once I leave the starting line I begin a slow jog.
The first 5K didn’t phase me. Even the “treacherous” hill down Western Ave behind Pike Place Market on the waterfront didn’t phase me. I gunned it up the hill passing a few people. I felt pretty good, drinking my water that I had in my bladder pack. LESSON HERE: make sure to stay hydrated during your run. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: So they have drink stations – and marshmallow stations 😋 – along the route, but I’m pretty bad at staying hydrated. I’m one of those people who need more water than normal. About a week or so before the run, I made a pit stop into REI with the intention to buy a hydration pack (came out with more than that…you know how it goes!), a backpack you can carry a 2-3 L water bladder on your runs (depending on how big the pack is. Lucky for me, there was an REI Garage Sale happening that day! I found this pack marked down almost 85% from retail!
I made it past the 5K mark with still much energy to spare, but I knew that there were two more 5K’s to go! I mentally tried to prep myself for the next 10K’s. I found that I was NOT prepared at all physically for this. As I approached the midpoint, I could feel the fatigue setting in. But, I was determined to finish this challenge I put myself thru. No one made me do it. I made me do it! The route made its way onto the Aurora bridge. I was previously warned by some who have run this route before:
“It doesn’t look or feel like an incline, but it’s a slow incline. Even when you’re doing downhill, it’ll still feel like an incline.”
That was weird, but it was true. It actually felt like I was going uphill on a decline! What sort of physics is that?! Yet, I pushed thru! There were children as young as 5 (!) on this run with their mothers. Mothers and fathers with strollers. Folks dressed in tutus. Men in short shorts. Old men as old as 70 or 75 passing me! (*see photo in slideshow) And there I was half-heartedly wanting to sit my ass down right in the middle of the street and have one of those golf carts pick me up. There were MANY opportunities to turn around or cut the route short where I could jump over the median and cut thru. But I wasn’t going to be dishonest to myself. Even when I could feel the plantar fascitis happening as I stretched out my ankles and feet, even when I felt like crying, I told myself that this isn’t that bad. I was running for a good cause. My feet will be just fine and I will make it to the finish line and get my medal for accomplishing this feat! LESSON HERE: As underprepared as I knew I was for this run, I couldn’t let myself down. It’s like breaking a promise to myself. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: Remind yourself WHY you’re doing it. Why you put yourself in this position. What are you doing it for? The medal? The pride? The satisfaction of completion? This will give you the motivation to reach that goal. I plan to apply this in ALL things I challenge myself with. Remembering that struggle, but because I didn’t give up over the tears and pain I was able to cross that finish line!
There it was. The finish line. Photographers capturing the pain, the struggle, the agony, the relief, the happiness, the joy, the ACCOMPLISHMENT! A moment captured in eternity to commemorate what has been endured, not only in that 2-3 hours but in the days and weeks leading up to it. It is a moment that can be lived over and over and can teach the lessons to later challenge-takers.
After getting my hot chocolate and melty chocolate fondue in a plastic mug that I hope is recyclable, my mom and I head to the International District to satisfy a craving for dim sum! What a fantastic reward for a job well done! And do you know what I did to myself afterward?! … I said “yes” to covering ANOTHER shift at Kona Kitchen! WTF?! We finish our meal at our favorite dim sum place, Honeycourt, my face no longer bloated and we head back to my mom’s for a quick nap before we both have to work that night.
Limping around the dining room at Kona, I had both a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I gave myself one of the best gifts I could give myself. I said yes to an incredible challenge I had no idea I could accomplish and I told myself that I was going to.
In the end…LESSON HERE: There will be struggles with every day, small or large, short-term or long-term. It’s just a matter of giving yourself the necessary space to take on every day. WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT: Stay determined! Stay true to your “WHY”. Do it because YOU say so, not because they do.
Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your feed back. What sort of challenge have YOU overcome and how did it make you feel? What sort of support did you have when you felt like giving up? Share in the comments! ❤️