Over the last several months, I’ve shared my personal journey of how I’ve lost weight on a budget in a sensible, sustainable way. I’m pleased to report that I’ve been successful at maintaining my weight loss (of over 30 pounds) for more than 3 months now. I truly believe that finding a sport or exercise that you love and that challenges you is key to healthy weight maintenance, and for me, that’s been running.
Today I thought I’d continue the story and share how my journey as a runner has evolved over the past few months. I’ve been doing races for the past 15 years and had been content for a long time with just to say I’d finished them. Most of the races I’ve run I’ve ended up placing in the bottom half of finishers. For many, that is a great goal – to say you’ve finished a race. But over the past few months as I’ve dropped the weight and been consistent with running 15 or 20 miles per week I noticed something. My times naturally got faster!
And somewhere during last fall I decided I wanted to tap into more of my potential. Instead of being a race finisher, I wanted to try my hand at being a race competitor. After all, I believed in myself enough to cross the finish lines of half and full marathons – why couldn’t I now try believing in myself to run a better, faster race?
There is a 23-pound difference in these pics! Losing weight has definitely helped me improve my running times!
I’ll admit, it’s taken some real processing to allow myself to run my fastest and compete. We often hear sayings like “just compete against yourself” or “you’re all winners, whether you finish first or last.” Are such sayings truly helpful – at least to what I want to accomplish? Or are they holding me back? Letting me remain complacent when I could demand more of myself? Is “competition” a dirty word? What I’ve decided to embrace is that competition means I’ll do my best, when you do your best. It’s OK to go after that prize, to run my heart out, and let the cards fall as they may.
So for the past several months, I’ve pushed myself harder than I thought I could go. I have incorporated interval work, tempo runs, days of faster running, and slowly increased my weekly mileage. Thinking of myself as a race competitor has done some amazing things for me:
- It’s easier to eat better. When you’re eating to perform – whether it’s running, weight lifting, swimming, or whatever your sport of choice – you start paying attention to what foods are helpful and which ones are slowing you down. It starts to become more of “what foods will best aid me?” and less of “what foods should I avoid.”
- It’s easier to workout. Working out is a means to an end. If I want to run a sub 7-minute mile (one of my 2015 goals), I’m going to have to put in the work. Plain and simple.
- I think more positively about myself and my ability. I may not be the fastest runner out there, but I’m running to the best ability I have with what I’ve got and that feels good! You can apply this same approach and attitude, no matter your current level of fitness.
I also want to add that I’m really not working out a lot more than I was 4-5 months ago, it’s more about what I’m doing during that workout hour. If you have 30 minutes to workout at the gym, there are any number of things you could do. You could coast by, or really push yourself. Trying pushing yourself some days and compare how you feel leaving the gym on those days.
Last Weekend’s 5K
The distance I’ve been really focusing on for the past few months is the 5k. While 3.1 miles doesn’t sound too long (especially when compared to distances like a half marathon), it can be every bit as challenging if you are truly trying to race that distance!
One of my goals this year is to run a sub 25-minute 5k. I came close last month when I ran one in 25 minutes and some change at a cross-country local 5K here in Tacoma (and placed 2nd female overall!). Well, last weekend I ran a Shamrock 5K in hopes of achieving my goal.
The first mile was tough, because I didn’t trust my gut and start the race closer up to the start line than I should have. So the first half mile was spent weaving around slower runners. I still completed the first mile on track to meet my goal. But somewhere during the 2nd mile, I was stopped to let a car go by! I’ve never had this happen on a chip-timed course. Unfortunately, it happened a second time – and this stop lasted even longer than the first. After the second stop, I really struggled mentally. Part of me just wanted to quit entirely, throw the race. But another part of me was trying to fight and earn the seconds back.
All in all, I finished in 25:08, 9 seconds shy of my goal. I did place #8 in my age group (out of 766) and was 95th woman overall (out of over 5100). While I’m thrilled with that, I’m definitely disappointed that I didn’t hit my time goal or try to fight harder for it in the last mile.
Let me remind you, I used to be a mid-packer, and sometimes back-of-the-packer. I’ve never run track in high school or anything. I just made a choice to try harder. And the crazy thing is, it’s kind of working.
Where I Go from Here
I think yesterday’s race left me realizing that growing as a runner in this new way is definitely going to take time. I have much work to do to improve not only my speed, but also my mental toughness. I did not have enough tools in my toolkit (so to speak!) to handle the unforeseen obstacle of being stopped during the race. This race could be kind of a bummer, or an opportunity for me to learn and grow and improve for the next race. I’m choosing the latter.
By the way, if you’re local, you might be interested to know that my next two races are the Tacoma City Half Marathon and the Sound to Narrows in June. If you’re running either and spot me, please say hi. I’d love to meet you!
Thanks, friends, for letting me share more of my personal journey with weight loss and fitness with you. I am happy to throw any virtual encouragement your way or answer any questions you may have about running or participating in a race! In case you missed it, you might also wish to read my series on Losing Weight on a Budget if you’re at a place where you just need some practical advice and encouragement to start your journey. I’d also love to hear your stories: how have you pushed yourself before?