What a Difference a Year Makes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It was exactly one year ago today that I blogged about running my first 5K race. "I am not a runner. I really do not enjoy running," it opened.

It was true. Running was something I did rarely because it made my lungs burn and my heart race. It challenged my body (and my mind) like no other workout ever could. I didn't think it was fun and I wasn't sure that I believed the so-called "runner's high" even existed.

Six months after that race, I still didn't call myself a runner. When interviewed by a local reporter, I distinctly remember her asking me if I was a runner. "No way!" I had said—because I wasn't. Even though I had fun during that first 5K race and hoped to do more, I hadn't set any goals to run and I still couldn't make myself stick with it.

How could so many people run and actually enjoy it? Coach Jen and Nancy were both training for the Chicago Marathon. So many of our most successful SparkPeople members had lost 20, 50, even 100 pounds and started running 5Ks and eventually half and full marathons. And they all seemed to be having fun while they did it. Was something wrong with me?

Around July, I started running more regularly (once a week) to take advantage of the beautiful summer mornings. Then I increased to twice a week. By the end of August, I was regularly running three times per week, solely because I wanted to thoroughly test the Nike+ SportBand before I posted a product review. Little did I know it, but my determination to test that little gadget put the universe into motion and resulted in something I never expected.

I had never cared how fast I went or how much distance I covered when I ran. I tried to distract myself by listening to my iPod instead of thinking about how bored I was. But as I started using the Nike+, I began mapping my routes, paying attention to speed and distance, and tracking my workouts to compare them to the SportBand's readings. Suddenly, I wanted to go longer, faster and farther. I started updating my SparkPeople Friend Feed with details about the day's run or my goal for tomorrow's run. I got Woo-Hoo's and cheers from my SparkFriends that made me want to do better and encouraged me to stick with it.

Because of this new interest in running, a friend got me an early birthday gift in: She paid my registration fee for the September 27th Teddy Bear 5K in Cincinnati. It was to be my second 5K—almost a year after I completed my first one. Not only would I be running with my SparkPeople co-workers Stepfanie (her first 5K) and Nancy (one of my biggest inspirations!), but the race was the day after the SparkPeople Convention in Cincinnati and I had heard that several members were also planning to run, too. I knew this would be a race that I wouldn't soon forget.

I spent three weeks training seriously for the race. I was already running three times a week for about 35 minutes (enough to do a 5K), but I set two new goals: to run the entire race without stopping or walking (because during my first race, I wasn't in good enough shape to run the whole way), and to beat my previous 5K time (which wasn't shabby at all, despite all the walking, at 27 minutes and 58 seconds).

To reach those goals, I ran three to four times a week, even while on vacation. I wore my Nike+, mapped my runs, and tried to go faster. I ran father and longer. I trained up lots of hills to prepare for the race, which was rumored to be pretty steep. I read articles about running form and technique and incorporated the instructions into my runs with intense focus. When tracking my workouts, I saw marked improvements in my speed—but also in how I felt. No longer were my calves hurting or my heart racing. I was getting better. Probably most notably, I was actually enjoying myself! I was becoming a runner!

The day before the race, I got what amounted to a year's worth of motivation from the SparkPeople Convention. Members shared their remarkable stories, like ~INDYGIRL who went from bed-ridden to walking and KSIGMA1222 who lost over 150 pounds and has completed several races. That night, I talked with husband-wife members BOBBYD31 (Bobby) and MIAMIA7 (Anne)—also dedicated runners. Bobby and I talked about running for more than an hour that night, about tomorrow's race and my goals for it. He wasn't planning to run it, but the next day he and Anne both showed up and Bobby registered for the race. He agreed to be my running partner for the entire race, helping to keep me on pace to beat my previous time (something that I don't think Bobby would have ever imagined doing a couple years ago when he was 60 pounds heavier). I had my iPod ready to go, stocked with my best Power Songs to get me up the hills and to the finish line. I wore my Nike+ and Bobby had borrowed a Garmin Forerunner from Nancy for better accuracy. (After all, meeting this goal of mine was serious business and we wanted to be prepared.)

We were off! iPod on, Nike+ working, Bobby setting the pace. I felt good! I attacked the hills, thanks to my training, without losing any steam. There weren't many participants in this small race and we started realizing that I was one of the lead female runners, the discovery of which not only shocked me, but helped push me to keep the pace because I was in the running (pun intended) for a medal! During the last half of the race, I realized that I didn't need my iPod, which was becoming more of a nuisance than anything as the strong winds blew the earbuds out of my ears repeatedly. I turned it off and focused on the moment, encouraging the other runners and walkers we passed and checking my watch for timing.

As we rounded the final corner to the homestretch, the crowd was cheering and I saw the clock. I pulled ahead and crossed the finish, shattering my previous time (27:58) by more than 2 minutes. Nancy was there, snapping photos and crying tears of joy for each of us (we've nicknamed her "SPARK_CRYBABY")—she was like a proud mama! 25:45. I couldn't believe it!

A year ago, I never thought I'd be a "real" runner. But now, I can't imagine being anything else. What I've learned and accomplished, I couldn't have done on my own. I posted 8 lessons from my first 5K last October, but with time comes wisdom. One year later, I have four more:

1. Set a goal. My problem before is that I didn't have a goal. But once I set some goals (to do the race, to run the whole course, and to beat my time), I was motivated to stick with my training plan. Having a goal to work toward can keep you going—especially when it has a time constraint, like a race that has to happen on a certain day. Even on mornings that I was tired and didn't feel like running, knowing that my race was coming up inspired me to get out of bed and stick with my workouts.

2. Start where you are now. I realize that many people reading this might be far away from running, let alone completing a 5K. But every successful SparkPerson who runs, climbs mountains, completes marathons or loses 100 pounds started somewhere—with a single step or a single pound. So many people have started where you started and done amazing things. What they didn't do is start out running or racing or losing dozens of pounds in a single day. Focus on smaller goals and build from there. We all start where we start, but with consistency, we can all get where we're going and achieve some amazing things we never thought possible! Don't believe me? Read Heather's story; she walked the race with us—her first 5K—and won a medal.

3. Find support. This is what SparkPeople is all about! I stayed accountable by posting updates to my Friend Feed and getting encouragement from my SparkFriends. On the day of the race, Bobby became my coach and helped me so much. I could have never kept that pace and momentum without his guidance. Even the greatest athletes in the world have teams, trainers, coaches and fans. Even the SparkPeople coaches need encouragement—and we often get it from members like you!

4. Keep trying. I used to give up when running was hard or boring. What I didn't realize is that it was both hard and boring because I didn't do it consistently enough. The more I trained, the easier it got, and the easier it got, the more fun it became to challenge myself and reach new goals. The competition (with myself) motivated me to try my hardest—not just the day of the race, but all the days leading up to it, too. Nothing worth doing ever comes easy, and the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.

Have you used any of these 4 lessons to reach your own goals? If not, will you?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


ARNETTELEE 1/22/2021
thanks Report
CECELW 10/18/2020
That is wonderful!! Good for you Nicole!!! Report
LIS193 9/20/2020
Awesome! Report
Thank you, Nicole. Your exercise videos have been a great help to me and I look forward to the day when I too can run again after surgery. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Your story always inspires me. Today I'm setting a new goal to lower my glucose levels! Report
awesome! Report
I ran my first 5k with Spark at 257lbs! My 10th at 247 lbs. I am about to lace up again, start my training, I feel blessed that I am healthy again and able to do so! Report
Coach Nicole, thank you for your blogging about your challenges. It helps me to realize that I am not the only one that has trouble doing some of my chosen activities. It is easy to think (when seeing you so often on the workout videos) that you are already capable of anything, but it helps me to know that you are human too, just like me, and with the same work you are blogging about I can get to that higher level of activity too! That is really an inspiration to me! If I ever happen to meet you, I'd like to shake your hand and say "thank you" in person for all that you do to help and inspire so many people, including me. THANK YOU! Report
Is everyone wearing the same kind of running shoes Report
Great blog! Report
OMG - your comment: I am not a runner. It makes my lungs burn and my heart race. THAT is why I'm not a runner. I thought it was just me. I thought I must be doing something wrong. I always wondered why on earth people would run in all kinds of weather -- how painful and uncomfortable it had to be to add the temperatures of extreme weather on top of the pain of running.
Maybe I could do this.
I've always said "I will walk all day, but I won't run 5 feet".
I have a new viewpoint to consider now.
Thanks for the inspiration.
Susie Report
I'm not a runner! But I bought some running shoes a few months ago and sometimes I actually run a little bit. I jogged to work this morning (2.5 miles) despite the cold and some snow on the sidewalks, and I'm glad I did it. Nicole, you inspire me - if I keep at this, maybe it'll become fun at some point, like it did for you! I know my legs feel stronger whenever I go for a jog. Report
Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder we all have to start somewhere. For years I have admired runners and thought I could never do that. The first part of your blog could have been written by me--the lungs burn and the heart races. I'm a lot older than you, but I'm in good health and with time and practice, I should be able to enjoy running myself instead of just standing on the sidelines watching others run and enjoy it. Report
Loved this blog! I am a mountain climber. I fitness hike daily with a friend who is my biggest motivation. You are 100% correct, without a goal and/or a plan, it would never happen. When I began, I could barely make it up the shortest trail in an hour, today I can make it in 15 minutes. Thank you for reminding me where I came from and encouraging me to never give up. Report
Thank you for the great story. Your time is awesome! I started running about a year and a half ago and I didn't think I would ever be able to run a 5k. It does take patience and goal setting. I am now able to run 6 miles and will be running a 1/2 marathon relay in November. Running is incredible! Report
Love this blog!! You are an inspiration! Thank you Report
Nicole, I love the pictures! You look so happy and fit. They make me smile.

I also really appreciate the advice you give about starting where you are now. It was a timely reminder for me. Thank you. Report
What a great blog! I so want to do this some day! OK--there. I've said it. I want to be a runner. I want to love running. I want to feel that rush that runners talk about, too. Thank you for inspiring me. I am proud to be beside you in the picture.
Keep it going!
Best wishes,
Patty Report
thanks so much for setting out your 'rules' concisely. i have been slowly working on running myself and consistency is definitely the main thing! i think i will now use your tip of setting a goal (beyond mailbox to mailbox) to challenge myself to do more, and keep doing more ;) this was just the kick in the pants i needed! congrats on beating your previous time and thanks again for all the good work you guys are doing all over this site :D Report
Since I've been heavy all my life I didn't know the joys of running until last year. After completing my first 5K at 335 pounds; I was hooked. I set a personal goal to run the entire Columbus Commit to be Fit 5K back in the spring and did so. Setting a goal is one of the only ways to wrap your brain around a task. Keep going and we'll all be out there with Bob, Nancy, Anne and everyone else. Report
Coach Nicole you are so awesome. I have lost over 100 lbs with the help of spark people and I had never really considered running. I may have to rethink my position. You are so beautiful inside and out! Report
Nicole, you and all the other people willing to share their stories are why Spark People is a success. I'm in tears reading your story. So happy for you and inspired by you. You guys are so real. I so enjoyed spending time with other Sparkers at the convention and listening to their stories and feeling their enthusiasm and knowing if they can do it I can, too. Nicole I loved your after lunch workout, even if you where out to kill us. Keep up the good work; both in your running and at SP. Report
This is ABSOLUTELY TRUE! I hated running too. It still isn't my passion, but I have kept up with it for over a year now and enjoy it more and more with each passing race. CONSISTENCY is definitely a key, but having a GPS tracking device with me has made ALL the difference in competing with myself for better and better runs. By November (1 yr anniversary of my first race), I will have run 5 Half Marathons, 1 5K, and 1 10K. I think I can call myself a runner, too!
Aces to you Nicole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Report
Glad to know I'm not the only crazy emotional girl that got choked up reading this! What an awesome story and you totally motivated me! I've been trying for several months now to get my lazy self up at 5:30am so I can work out before work and have no excuses to slow me down by the time I get home. You totally just pumped me up! Ok, tomorrow morning I'm starting....right where I am! Thanks for the encouragement! Report
Well, you can call me SparkCrybaby#2, because I got all choked up reading this. Nicole, you're an inspiration to me, and I'm so happy for your success. Congratulations on running a great race, and for improving yourself. I second PollyanaSunshine. You definitely rock. Report
Nicole . . . that's fantastic. I LOVED reading this and I appreciate and understand every word. I'm a runner too . . . (though I'm very slow . . technically I'm a 'jogger') ;) But I don't care. Almost 100 lbs ago I couldn't move quickly for 30 seconds straight. That was July of last year. September 12th this year, I ran my first 5K . . . and I did it in 33:10. Not bad for a girl that HATED running for most of her life! Now I'm signing up for a bunch of them . . . and I plan on beating each previous 5K time . . . I'll also be running my first 5 mile race this November! Next year will be a 10K, and a half marathon. Setting these goals and reaching them is the reason I am now a runner (just like you!)

So great job in your second 5K . . . . and here's to your third!! :) Report
Congratulations, Runner Nicole! It's a wonderful story...and I can't believe it's been a YEAR since that first 5K article that you wrote! Wow...so much has happened this year.

I am just starting to walk-run-walk, and I'm hoping that next summer I'll get the opportunity to run in a 5K. I am also interested in training for a mini-triathalon. I especially like to bike.

WOO-HOO! Report
Thanks for such an encouraging blog! This was just what I needed to read this morning. A year ago I set out with the SP plan to learn to run a mile. I made it through week four, but then laid it aside and never really tried to run a mile w/o walking. Three weeks ago I started all over again and am finishing up my week of 3min run/2min walk intervals. I'm still looking for the "thrill" of running and trying to enjoy it. You've inspired me to just stick with the plan and not quit trying--thank you!!! I'm going to go lace up my shoes now and go for my run/walk! Report
I was one of those people who didn't understand the runner's high either. I scoffed at runners, wondering why on earth anyone would want to run. That was until April. I run 5ks now. I run in the morning. I get it now. I'm going to take your advice and start to set some better goals though. Right now, I running just for exercise and I need to figure something else out! Report
Nicole - I LOVE YOU! You are so honest in your blogs and I really appreciate that! I am "not a runner" either. I dabble in it when I can't get to my hot yoga class or just want to get outside and a good walk just isn't enough. I run 1 minute and then I walk 1 minute and run 1 minute etc. My polar HRM gadget really helps with the motivation. One day I will be able to run 1 mile straight without walking. That's a goal for me. So proud you enjoyed your 5K. Report
You rock! Your blogs are always inspiring! Thanks for sharing. You are a blessing to everyone! Report
Thank You for this blog. I have been thinking about taking up running for awhile now. I can walk pretty fast most days,and have thought about running my sisters keep telling me it's a bad idea (you'll hurt your knees etcc) After walking a 3K for "Race For A Cure" My brother and I decided the walking wasn't enough. sure it was fun being with the rest of the family but , I walk all day at work.... Walking wasn't enough. It gives me courage to see that Coach Nicole wasn't a runner either. As soon as I finish here I am getting myself outside for a run. I will do a run when we do this again. Report
WOOHOO!!! Congratulations, Nicole!
I was never a runner. Then last spring i started and 3 weeks later, just after turning 50, ran my first 5K in 32:29 on a course that was 2/3 UPhill. That one number ignited in me a competition with myself to keep besting my personal best for time or distance or both depending on my mood. It's an attitude to take with one on and off the running trail.......Anyway, thanks for this follow up post from last years adventure. It always pays to keep an open mind and try things ones regected before because we are always changing! Report
Nice to see you ch.Nicole...next time Im really setting my goal for a Marathon Report
Thank you for sharing your journey with us! You truly are an inspiration. I WANT to be a runner but I have to encourage myself to be a walker first ;)

I sometimes get stuck on thinking about all the weight that I have to lose & don't focus on a smaller goal. I finally set a goal for myself & recently lost my first 20lbs! It's amazing when you finally reach your goal. Report
I ran my first 5K in May by accident. I had signed up for the 3K route but missed a turn and ended up doing the longer run. I haven't looked back since and now I run 5K two or three times per week. I still don't love running. I do love the feeling of finishing, though. Yes, your four steps have applied to every goal I've worked on with SparkPeople. Now that I've achieved my goal weight and struggling to figure out who this new person is -- slim, healthy, active... oh my! -- I think the steps can be applied to maintenance, too. Thanks for sharing, encouraging and being REAL.

...Pam Report
I love the lesson #2 - Start where you are.

So many people (myself included) think that since they can't do something perfectly, they won't even try. Taking steps toward the goal is at least going in the right direction, and worth every step that is taken.

Thank you for this blog - I loved it! Report
Nicole, I just joined SP a couple of days ago, and actually I discovered the website because of one of your videos on youtube (I was searching for "cardio workout"...). So, for a start, thank you so much!!

I never enjoyed running, and I could think of a million petty reasons why. But I also never actually TRIED it seriously enough. Lately I've been itching to change my mind... Meanwhile, I'm glad to say that yes, I have used these lessons to reach my goals! I'm back to training judo the very way I should, seriously, with goals and focus. I fall a lot, both literally and metaphorically, but now I can see that I'm on the right track, and I can do it!

Loved your blog, and congrats on your great achievement! Thanks for all your help and commitment to us all! Juliana. Report
You go girl!! You are an inspiration to me! I am going thru all the feelings you have, plus the shin splints~ biofreeze is my new best friend, but i push on. I have your cardio blast workout, you keep up the great work. I will keep working to run as my body allows....
Ladyb Report
What a great blog! I really enjoyed your story of how you became a runner. Congrats on an amazing race! Report
Ugh - I so hate running, always have, always will - For me a good session on an elliptical or a brisk (ex infantry soldier kind of brisk) walk is my preference.

That said, what a great blog! Report
Awesome blog! I loved the first one from a year ago and it gave me a lot of helpful advice as I was gearing up for my first 5K (9/5/09)...and now that I am a "runner" I enjoyed this one even more because you are spot on for advice! I never thought I could be a runner, but thanks to C25K and the Spark community cheering me on, I graduated the program and ran my first 5K! Since that time I have been consistently logging miles 3x a week and will begin training for a 10K next year with the plan to run the Disneyland 1/2 marathon next September. So yeah - I've got that setting a goal thing down! LOL

I know that pretty much anybody that wishes to become a runner CAN if they just find a training program that works for them. Great blog Nicole and I can't wait to hear what your next plans are now that you have done TWO 5k's! Report
This was a very encouraging and inspiring article. Way to go. Report
A person doesn't have to be fast or do long races to be called a runner. Anyone that adds running into their workouts is a runner according to "No need for speed" by the Penguin John Bingham. You were and are a runner! Good blog! Report
Nicole-of course you are a runner! What a good blog! I was very glad to share Bobby with you. He does the same for me always there for me! You will only get faster and stronger! Go Nicole, go! Anne Report
we sucked another one into running didn't we. yep YOU ARE A RUNNER!!!!
great blog. Report
I don't enjoy running, I walk/jog on my treadmill and enjoy it. When it comes to run, I would like to some day train to run a 5K, don't know if I can, I hate the feeling of gasping for air. I did enjoy your blog. Thanks! Report
most definitely the "set a goal" lesson. ! I've had in my mind many things I'd like to do, but it's only when I actually set it down (on my SparkPage, on paper, out loud, etc) did it ever seem to have a hope of happening. Report