An Uphill Battle to Cross the Finish Line, But I Wasn't Alone


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  117 comments   :  18,944 Views

If you've been following my blogs for awhile, then you know that I started running about seven months ago. I began by running a mile just to see whether I could, which, for someone who formerly ran only when chased (and how often do you think I was chased? Um, never!), this was quite a feat.

I kept running not so much because I liked it, but because it was an effective form of cardio that, on weekends, allowed me to work out without driving to the gym. (My gym is convenient because it's close to work, but it's 12 miles from home, and I prefer to walk and bike on the weekends.)

So on Saturday mornings, I would wake up at 7, run around downtown Cincinnati for about 2 miles, then run to the farmers market. I'd arrive, sweaty and red-faced, buy my fruits and vegetables and walk home (getting a strength workout in as well--I buy A LOT of produce each week!). I covered about 4 miles, 3 of which were spent running. I am usually busy from Friday night through Sunday night, so any time I can multitask, I do.

Then, I had a change in plans one week and needed to miss my favorite Spinning class. Instead of skipping cardio for the day, I rose early and ran. I had so much energy that day, and I decided to keep running a couple of times a week.

I had no intention of running hills (painful and no fun, I thought), and though I had vaguely set a goal to run a 5K "sometime," I wasn't training for one.

Enter, our resident running coach, Nancy, who could sell milk to a dairy farmer. And now read the story of how I ran my first 5K, with the company and support of SparkPeople to guide me!

When Nancy told me that several SparkPeople members planned to run a 5K the morning after the Spark Your Life Convention, I got caught up in the excitement and agreed to run it as well.

Then I looked at the course map: mostly uphill! Still, I had committed, and I stuck with it. And, I lived near the course, so I could practice running the hills.

So I rose early two or three times a week, geared up and hit the road. The hills were brutal at first, and I walked half of them. Honestly, I wanted to quit, run home and go back to sleep several times. But by the week of the race, I felt like I was ready.

Coach Nicole, who ran her first 5K last year, also planned on running the race. She wanted to beat her time and asked me if I had a goal.

"Yes. I want to finish," I said, quite seriously.

"Anything else?" she asked.

"And I don't want to walk any of it," I replied.

Lofty goals, eh?

You see, I'm not an athlete. I faked cramps to get out of gym class, was the most awkward of all the belly dancers in my college rec course, and continue to be completely oblivious to organized sports of all forms.

Who was I to set a goal? I don't have a competitive bone in my body, and I didn't really care what my time was. I told Nicole I hoped to finish in about 40 minutes. I foresaw a brutal, sweaty and exhausting end to the race.

The week before the race was rough. We were all busy trying to get ready for the Convention, I was packing to move apartments, and I had a mighty large baking project for the Convention. I was stressed. I was tired.

The night before the race, I was exhausted. I left the post-Convention festivities around 9, grabbed dinner with my boyfriend (who had moved without my help all day!) and collapsed into bed at 11:30. Thankfully, Nancy and DANIERIN22 had asked for a ride to the race--otherwise I might have been tempted to sleep through it.

I was nervous that morning (see my face above!), but I was too sleepy to think about it. But as I saw how excited everyone else was, I perked up and started to really look forward to the race. I pinned on my bib, warmed up and got ready to go. Plus, a member whom I'd met the day before, KALORIE-KILLAH, was also running her first 5K. DANIERIN22, BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, her boyfriend and his friend were also running, and ITGIRL74, was walking her first 5K! Nancy and MIAMIA7were there to cheer us on!

We lined up at the starting line--somehow near the front--and we were off. I hadn't run the start of the race, just the middle of it, so I didn't know just how steep and long the first hill was. I held slow and steady, focused on my breath (yoga really helps with running, I've learned!) and just ran. I was excited and wanted to run faster, but I worried I'd burn out.

It was a really small race, but the people along the course were so supportive. I felt good when I reached the top of the second hill--the turn-around. I got excited, and shouted "Woo-hoo" a few times when I saw other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I was actually smiling for most of the second half of the race!

I knew that I was prone to side stitches during downhill runs, so I focused on deep breathing (a tip I learned from Nancy's blogs) and kept going. This time--no side cramp.

As I headed toward the last downhill stretch, I knew my legs had something left in them. I picked up the pace, focused on the woman in front of me and--surprisingly enough--set out to beat her. A few hundred yards from the finish line I saw BOBBYD31 running toward me. He had already finished but wanted to run back to support other SparkPeople runners and walkers. I got really excited when I saw him, and I just focused on the finish line. I deliberately hadn't looked at my watch, but when the clock came into view, I was elated: 28 minutes. "Just make it across the finish line in under 29," I told myself.

And I did: 28:38!

I was so happy to have finished my first 5K and even happier to see KALORIE-KILLAH at the finish line! And I beat the woman I set out to pass. (Guess I have a smidge of competition in my bones after all!)

We stretched, rehydrated and watched our fellow Sparkers cross the line. We all hugged, cheered and posed for photos. Then we watched the awards ceremony. Coach Nicole's friend Brett won the race, but the biggest surprise was yet to come.

I won a medal! So did several others in our group--we couldn't believe it!

Nancy, who'd been tearing up intermittently throughout the weekend, looked at me with happy tears and said, "You're a runner, Stepfanie!"

I am a runner, Nancy! And I'm running my second 5K this weekend. I want to run the entire thing, match my time and have a good time. I'll start setting timed goals after this race, which will be considerably larger (no medal this time, I think!).

But I've caught the running bug. I'm still rising early, lacing up my shoes and hitting the road. And I'm doing it with a smile on my face!

I couldn't have done this without the support of all the SparkPeople members who were there that day: BOBBYD31, Coach Nicole, Nancy, MIAMIA7, ITGIRL74, DANIERIN22, and KALORIE-KILLAH, plus PATTYSH, who suggested that we participate in the race! Running this race together really bonded us in a way that sharing a meal or a conversation never could have!

Check out the blogs from everyone else who ran and walked the race (on their SparkPages, which are linked above. They're really inspirational!

What goal have you set that you never thought you'd achieve? Have you ever run a 5K? Do you enjoy the competitive aspect of running or do you just run for fun?

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  • 67
    I started running last November, training for the Utica Boilermaker, "the nation's best 15K". I really wanted to participate since it's the biggest event our city has. At first I didn't tell anyone that was my goal, because I didn't trust myself to make it. I eventually did share my goal and people were really supportive. Still, when I finished (in 90 minutes!) I asked my boyfriend if he had thought I would ever do it, and was surprised to hear him say yes! He had more faith in me than I did. It was an amazing experience, and next year I hope to do the Boilermaker again, as well as a 5K, a half-marathon and a sprint triathlon. Everyone should pick an ambitious goal and try their hardest to reach it. The months of training and the payoff at the race were so edifying. I learned a lot about myself in the process. - 10/1/2009   1:38:29 PM
  • 66
    Congratulations! I started out like you 3 years ago... training for a 5K race... next it was 5 miles... then 7 miles... then 10 miles... next week I'm running a half marathon... next year who knows? :-) - 10/1/2009   1:13:51 PM
  • 65
    Congrats - and that's a really great time, especially for an uphill course! I ran my first 5K about 2 weeks ago in 30:28 - in the pouring rain! But still, my goal was to finish in under 40 minutes. I have another one this Sunday and want to make it in under 30. Keep up the good work! - 10/1/2009   1:13:31 PM
  • 64
    Great job and fantastic time! Thanks to CoopsM, Rhynic, TamTam & Nancy I am offically registered for my first half marathon in New Orleans! I'm really looking forward to meeting all the SparkPeople Road Runners! - 10/1/2009   1:09:07 PM
  • 63
    Great time, congratulations!!!! - 10/1/2009   12:54:33 PM
  • 62
    Way to go on your accomplishment! I love the way you so creatively told about your experience. - 10/1/2009   12:17:39 PM
  • 61
    Thats awesome, Stephanie!! :-) I'm so happy for you!! Wish I could have been there for all of the festivities - here is hoping for another convention in Cinci next year!! - 10/1/2009   12:16:28 PM
  • 60
    Congratulations!!!!! More proof that "Anything is Possible" - 10/1/2009   12:06:53 PM
    Great Job! You are definetly a motivator keep up the good work. - 10/1/2009   11:59:17 AM
  • 58
    Congrats on running your first 5k with such and awesome time. I hope to break the 35 minute mark with my next race! - 10/1/2009   11:21:58 AM
  • 57
    Good for you, what a great achievement this is for you, I'm so happy for you I could burst. I too just finished my first 5K but I walked it and my goal was to finish in under and hour and I did 56 minutes. Next years goal is to run the same race in under 40. So good luck to you I hope you do next years also and can do it as fast or better. To your health! Cheers - 10/1/2009   11:17:36 AM
  • 56
    Very inspiring, I have been debating getting into running. To be honest I don't even know how I made it while I was in the military for 5 yrs. I ran but I always had that pressure and often I felt I was going to pass out because I didn't breathe well and I still have issues with that. My husband wonders how I managed to pass my fitness tests but all I could say is that the pressure and the knowledge that failing was no option was what kept me going. But now is different I want to learn how to properly run without fear of time but simply for fun and life longevity. I want to learn to breathe better, run longer, and be motivated to stay with the sport. I have decided that I will be joining the running team from my gym and to train for 8 wks to run a 5k. It will be the first time that I am actually doing the running for me. Your story not only inspired me to try but its more than that, you give me confirmation that its possible and that not only athletes can be athletic. thanks and good luck to you in all your endeveours. - 10/1/2009   11:15:27 AM
  • 55
    This the most inspiring fitness story I have ever read. So much so, that I think I have caught the running bug. I am an avid walk/jogger, but I am ready to step it up! I would like to make a pledge to you that the first Cincinnati spring 5K, I will be there to race with you! Just let me know which one! - 10/1/2009   10:58:50 AM
  • 54
    Stepfanie - I'm so proud of you, congrats! I just ran my first 5K a few weeks ago and Nancy cheered me on as well :) - 10/1/2009   10:58:44 AM
  • 53
    Stepfanie, I want you to know that this article was really inspiring and exciting to me. I'm working on the Couch to 5k program for about the fourth time -- I'm on Week 3, which is as far as I've ever gotten before. Sometimes it is intimidating because I've never been good at running. This goes back to grade school when we had to do the mile run, and one boy in my class finished in 7 minutes, while I slogged along and finished in 18 minutes. I used to think, if I couldn't run at age 10, what chance do I have now at nearly 30? Couch to 5k has slowly been changing that attitude, because I can see myself making real progress week to week.

    This blog entry made me realize I CAN run a 5k too -- and what's more, it made me WANT to. Now I'm all excited about how great I will feel when I get there! - 10/1/2009   10:18:14 AM
    Thanks, everyone. I couldn't have done it without you. SP rocks! - 10/1/2009   10:16:26 AM
  • 51
    I am going to run my first 5K the weekend before Thanksgiving. I have never been a runner, I use to blame it on my large tatas (LOL!). Then I didn't breathe right when I did try. Last year me and 2 of my friends started walking in the mornings and added running a block here and there during the course. Eventually we stopped due to the snow and I did my workouts indoors. I finally got my first treadmill and started running on that as well and realized that I am beginning to really like it. I told my husband that I eventually wanted to run a 5K-well probably jog but do it without walking any of it. Well, he turned my want into a do. He said we are going to do the local one in our community and some of our friends may actually participate. Sooo...I have been running in the mornings to see what I can do and I actually suprised myself the other day and ended up running the entire course and then some of what we could only walk last year. I am nervous but really excited about doing this. Wish me luck and congratulations with yours as well!! - 10/1/2009   10:03:15 AM
    Wow! That was an inspiring story...and I love the sarcasm! I've had thoughts of starting a running program myself. Thanks for sharing! - 10/1/2009   9:42:31 AM
  • 49
    Stephanie, what a great article about your running experience and the spirit in which you have caught the bug! What a great accomplishment and to have done it with fellow Sparkers and runners makes the experience even more rewarding. You now have the bug and will continue to want to run more and more.

    I set out to do a marathon 4 years ago and trained hard for it. I finished which was my goal, but I did not finish as strong as I thought. That competitive spirit that you speak of kind of got the best of me and at mile 18, I crashed and burned...holy cow, I sat on the curb for pete's sake and cried for my mom....but with the support of my running partner, I got up and finished. I really never thought I'd finish 26.2 miles but I did and that's with about a mile extra because I took a wrong turn....doh! I also set out to do an Olympic distance triathlon back in 2008 and did very well and never even dreamed that this old gal would accomplish something like. With that said, I have set out to do what Nancy is doing and make my next marathon a better one.

    Good luck in your next 5k, 10k, 15k, 1/2 marathon and eventually I'm sure you'll get the marathon bug! Woohoo! - 10/1/2009   9:40:01 AM
  • 48
    Great story! I was in my 60's when I was encouraged to do a 5K! I just walk and I was surprised what fun. I got my first medal but I was third out of three in my age group. I have completed 4 races now. Keep it up!! - 10/1/2009   9:30:58 AM
  • LIZZY468
    I ran my first 5k last weekend - had almost the same experience as you.... was nervous, just wanted to finish running and not take any walking breaks.
    Had such a good time that within 30min of finishing my boyfriend and I decided to look on the internet for another race we could do together.... now we're going to go through it all again in the middle of October! - 10/1/2009   9:29:24 AM
  • 46
    Congratulations, Steph!! Way to go, girl!!!

    What goal have you set that you never thought you'd achieve? Never thought I would lose 240 pounds and I SO enjoy that I did!

    Have you ever run a 5K? No, but I aspire to run. Right now, I'm doing walk-run-walk to get a little running into my exercise routine. So far, so good!

    Do you enjoy the competitive aspect of running or do you just run for fun? I think there might be a little competitiveness there! ;) - 10/1/2009   9:23:50 AM
  • 45
    oh thanks so much for sharing,, i'm in my second 5 k this Sunday,, you make me think i can do better than i did before,, - 10/1/2009   9:01:47 AM
  • 44
    Great story! Just goes to show what you can do when you set your mind and have great support! I'm training for my first Half-Marathon right now and am really anxious/excited about it. - 10/1/2009   8:47:20 AM
    Wow, wow, wow! I would love to run a 5k someday. You are a real inspiration! Congratulations! - 10/1/2009   8:41:22 AM
    Congratulations! It looks like you had a blast. I wish I lived in Cincinnati! - 10/1/2009   8:36:09 AM
  • 41
    That's awesome, and a good time too! I've only run one 5 k, but plan to do others eventually. I would love to do a 1/2 marathon too sometime. I don't run as often as I would like. I really like to challenge myself. It gives me that extra push. Thanks for the great story. You should all be so proud! - 10/1/2009   8:26:55 AM
  • 40
    Awesome! Very inspiring. I'm not a runner, but I do run/jog/walk intervals once in a while for cardio on the weekends, especially when we go camping. It's an easy form of cardio and you only need shoes for equipment. I need to work on my form, so I recover faster and can start going longer.
    Thanks for sharing! - 10/1/2009   8:26:32 AM
  • 39
    I'm running my second 5k this weekend as well - probably the same one Stepf is running since we're both in Cincinnati (I saw Coach Nicole there last year too!)

    I don't know if I'll beat my time from last year, but I'm gonna try! I'm totally not a runner either, but it's something I know is good for me, and I semi-enjoy it :) - 10/1/2009   8:16:04 AM
  • 38
    Due to injuries, my sister and I walk (not run) with the dog. Lately, inspired by stories like this, we've been considering walking a 5K (or maybe 10-that dog can go!). - 10/1/2009   8:08:09 AM
    Wow, great story. I am not a runner at all, old with bad knees and plantar's faciaitis (sp) in one heel. But I did get a reformer and run lying down. Sounds easy, it is a killer. Your story is so inspirational!! You rock!! - 10/1/2009   7:56:28 AM
  • 36
    Congrats!! I think I gave running a fair chance in college when I ran the very hilly loop around campus a couple times a week for months, but I still hate running! I wish I could turn out to like it, like you did. - 10/1/2009   7:50:52 AM
  • 35
    Congratulations Stepfanie!! You're such an inspiration to us all! - 10/1/2009   7:22:13 AM
  • 34
    WOO HOO Stepfanie!!! Once again, I am so so proud of you - that was an awesome run - what a way to kick off your new running career!!! It was an honor to run with you :) oh - and thanks again for the ride! - 10/1/2009   7:19:02 AM
  • _SPARK526
    WHAT A GREAT POST!! Congratulations to you and all the finishers (and even all the starters...some of us never even get to THAT point!) One thing that struck me--sorta off-topic--was the route signs in the bottom picture. WAITWAIT...50 East is a block from my Virginia. I'm starting my own little personal challenge to walk or bike (no running for these old knees, alas) the equivalent of Route 50--all the way from start to finish, Atlantic to Pacific--in this fiscal year (October 1 is the start of the year for Feds--Happy New Year to us all!). That's about 8.5 miles a day. I've now got your photo taped to my treadmill--see ya in Cincinnati :) Thanks for the inspiration! - 10/1/2009   7:17:12 AM
  • 32
    I ran/walked my first official 5K. I signed up the day before the race. I really wanted to see how I would do. I clocked in at 42:32, not fast considering that I can walk a 15 min mile. Now I am working the Couch 2 5K program and my next run is in December. Can't wait to see how I do then because I can only improve.

    Congratulations Stepfanie that was an amazing time. And to think that you started off just wanting to know if you could run a mile. You did it, girl!

    Congrats to all of the other Sparkers who were part of the race as runners, walkers, or supporters. Seeing you all realize your dreams lets me know that mine are still possible. - 10/1/2009   6:40:23 AM
  • 31
    Boy, I could've been reading my story here. Except I haven't yet run my 5k. And I mostly train indoors on my treadmill. And I can barely finish 5k in 45 minutes.

    Less than 29 minutes? You rock, girl! Congrats. - 10/1/2009   5:29:59 AM
  • 30
    Congratulations! It sounds like you had the best possible environment to do your first 5K - great support, friends all around, and a positive attitude! Welcome to the world of running addicts!
    Oh, and I do wish you could have a Spark event in the UK or Europe - the US is a bit far for me to come, although I would have loved to. Maybe in a couple of years, when the community really grows over here? - 10/1/2009   4:46:55 AM
  • 29
    I'm sooo sad I missed out on the fun!!! Next time FOR SURE! - 10/1/2009   3:22:47 AM
  • 28
    wow...thats like a 9 min mile....great for a first time runner! - 10/1/2009   1:53:43 AM
    As someone else who completed 5K several years back, I felt everything you wrote about. This is a wonderful article and thanks for sharing. More importantly, congrats on your accomplishment. - 10/1/2009   1:28:30 AM
  • 26
    You are inspiring... I'm hoping by next spring I'll be able to attempt running!! Congrats on your win! - 9/30/2009   11:26:44 PM
  • 25
    Wow! Way to go - a 5K is one of my longer term goals! You're definitely an inspiration! - 9/30/2009   11:13:14 PM
  • 24
    Congrats. Anyone who can run a 5K deserves a medal, I think. You've inspired me. - 9/30/2009   10:54:28 PM
  • 23
    Impressive. You are in inspiration! - 9/30/2009   10:44:18 PM
  • 22
    Way to go guys! Kalorie Killah is also one of my good sp friends and has given me advice as well to start running. I have been running a couple times a week and I am already seeing a serious improvement! I can run around my entire lake which I could only run one quarter of before so I am very happy! It feels so good to run, it frees my mind and body like nothing else can it is just exhilarating! And sp is what gets us to realize that we can do this, I love sp and Iove my spark friends. This site teaches you so much and even if you aren't a health nut because of spark it still drastically improves your health and well being in even the smallest ways that add up into big changes! I remember I couldn't jog one side of my block, I never held myself accountable for the foods I ate, I didn't know half the foods I ate where not so good foods disguised as "healthy" I rarely exercised and I hardly had a glimmer of self confidence. Now even if I am not completely on track everyday I always try to find ways to make my life a healthier one. I try and log my food and workouts, I try to be mindful of what I am eating and I make sure that I log in as much as possible to keep my spark alive! Congrats on everyone who ran their first 5k that's awesome and I can't wait to run my own! - 9/30/2009   9:50:54 PM
  • 21
    Wow! What a killer first 5K!!! And, don't worry wanting to finish and run the whole way are GREAT goals. And you went well above and beyond that. Again, GREAT time and congrats!!! You're a runner. :) - 9/30/2009   9:33:47 PM
  • 20
    Stepfanie, I am absolutely thrilled for you! Like you, I ran my first 5K at the end of August and then a second 5K just a few weeks ago. Once it gets in your blood you are hooked! I wish for you many races in your future running and may you enjoy each and every one. YOU ARE A RUNNER!!! - 9/30/2009   9:31:38 PM
    Way to go on running your 5k! I am not a runner at all; but I just completed my first 5k 2 weekends ago, in the rain! I planned to run a little here and there and actually ran more than I expected. Still walked the majority of it but it was fun and I plan to do it again. Especially now that I have such inspiration as the other members of spark people! - 9/30/2009   8:25:11 PM
  • 18
    I love how you wrote that you would never run unless being chased. Before SparkPeople, I thought the same way - or even worse - I was more likely to turn and stand my ground than attempt a run. How far would I get anyway, surely anyone could catch me.

    Enter and the amazing people who came along with it.

    Three years later, look at me now! I've run two half marathons, and several 10k events. I love my morning runs, and all the sunrises and moon shots I've seen. And the most strange thing of all --- look who's actually a "leader" of other's learning to run. That's right, a leader! The Rookie Running Team is something that I'm very proud to help out with here on SparkPeople. It's so much fun to watch people transform week by week, as their confidence grows.

    If you can walk - you can run. Don't ever let doubts run your life. Stepfanie and I are living proof that you just have to take that first step. Great things can happen.

    I LOVE SPARKPEOPLE! - 9/30/2009   8:18:57 PM

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