Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chronicles of a beginner.

When you are a beginner, just getting your butt off the couch and running a fraction of a mile a day, the term 5k can be anything but a comfort. The idea of running two miles with out any stopping can be as daunting as I consider a 15 or 18 miler run to be. Up until a few weeks ago Boyfriend was doing all his 5k training on the treadmill at his apartment complex's gym. I had made up a winning training schedule that increased his longest mileage by 1/4 mile a week, and included one day of some kind of intervals or hills.

But a few weeks ago it started to get nice outside, and as much as I needed to train my body to run in real life, so did Boyfriend. The first few times you conquer long runs outside it feels like an eternity. Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is knowing that you aren't going it alone. A running partner, or coach, or just a friend along for the journey, the idea that someone else is right there going through everything with you helps ease at least a little of the pain.

So when the weather got warm enough to venture outside with out gloves I suggested Boyfriend and I try running together. His long run distance was close enough to one of my easy days that it worked out perfectly. We ran about 2 miles and it went well enough to plan to do it again the next week. Only this time we would do 2.5!

Did I mention Boyfriend recently bought two snazzy new pairs of REAL running shorts? Not those god awful basketball shorts that could swish and sway as you run and weight close to ten pounds. He is wearing said adorable grey Adidas shorts with three red side stripes when I pick him up outside his apartment building for our two mile run. He is wearing the black ones with white stripes when I arrive for our three mile run.

Only he doesn't realize he is about to run three miles. The wonderful thing about transitioning from runner to coach is you hold the power. As the coach you make the decisions, the plans, the mileage, keep time and offer words of encouragement when things get tough and seem impossible. As the runner you are only responsible for two things, showing up, and doing what the coach said.

So today when I showed up at Boyfriend's apartment, chattering away about my day, and my fundraising plans, I had no intention of telling him my plan. I just say ok to start running and we take off down the usual train by the Manayunk Canal. Of course we also sometimes run down West River or Kelly but that trail has a marker every quarter mile, and I didn't want Boyfriend catching on to my plan. What was my plan? To run three miles of course. But I know what it's like to do a long run when you watch every quarter mile you are crossing. Quarter miles are too daunting to watch under your feet when you are running the longest distance you have ever run.

The first mile goes by easy, as we spend the whole time talking about our days. The weather is cool enough so that we are comfortable in our shorts and tee shirts as we stride along the gravel path. As we make our way back out onto the street I remind Boyfriend to keep it slow, relaxed and steady. I remind MYSELF that three miles to him, is like twelve miles to me, and is nothing short of a challenge. But I know he can do it, it may feel impossible at times but I know he can do it. We are passed by dozens of runners in both directions, all taking advantage of the sunshine and warmth and I am tempted to pick up the pace, but don't. Our turn around point is at the top of a gentle hill, and I can tell as we make the slow climb that Boyfriend is starting to feel the discomforts of pushing yourself into the unknown. His arms held close to his body, his pace slowing ever so slightly, but I encourage him to keep going.

Steady and relaxed, relaxed and steady, are the mottos of the evening as we make our way back. It's not easy to pretend we are just sitting on the couch having an after dinner conversation but that is the attitude I try to portray. I try to make it seem like this is normal, easy, just an every day thing we do while talking. And for a while it is working but it seems that in Boyfriend's eyes this run could not be over any sooner.

I always start by asking "are you ok?" If I get an answer I always consider it a good thing, even if the answer is no, because if you are able to answer you are more ok than you think. If the answer is yes, I have no more questions. But the answer was "my legs hurt", so then we get into what muscles are hurting and land on the calves. I suggest trying different strides which quickly becomes awkward, and suggest possibly adding an extra day of leg strengthening to the workout schedule.

"I thought I was strengthening my legs by running" Boyfriend says to me, obviously a little taken aback by my suggestion.

"You are, but if they hurt I'm just wondering if they need to be even stronger." I am of course no expert, and I am just speculating based on all the knowledge I have compiled over my years of runs, races and injuries. In all honesty I could have no idea why Boyfriend's calves hurt. I could be making suggestions that are completely bogus, and I make sure to point that out. But by this time we are back on the two path and can just barely see the end of the run. He picks up the pace a bit and I remind him he doesn't need to push any harder than he wants to, he keeps going and I hit the stop button on my watch as we take our final steps.

Done. Our workout is complete. He puts his arm around me, kisses my sweaty forehead and asks me how far he just ran. I hold up three fingers with a proud smile to signify the miles we just ran, and congratulate him on his new PR.

xx Sara


Denise said...

I could have written this post!! my husband is training for his first 5k and i've been going out with him on my easy days. he's up to 3 miles straight now, talking and looking good the whole way. only problem is...he hates it.

Sara Elizabeth said...

Too funny! What 5k is he training for?