From 5k to Marathon (or not)

by MCM Mama on April 27, 2012

I’m an adult onset runner.  Sure, I used to run around the neighborhood in high school when I wanted to lose weight.  And I did lose the “freshman 15″ by running the summer after my first year of college.

But I was 37 when I ran my first race.  In March of 2007, I ran an 8k, which I erroneously thought was only four miles (that last .97 pretty much sucked.)  In October of 2008, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.

They were happy for me, really.

In less than two years, I went from “I run 30 minutes 3 times a week to fit in my jeans” to marathoner. At the time, my oldest was in preschool, my youngest was a toddler, and my husband traveled for work.  But, like many of the moms I know, I did it anyways.

So, how d0 you get from “point A” to “point B”?

Believe that you can do it.  This is the first step in nearly every success  in life.  If you’ve already completed a couch to 5k program or are already run/walking, you’ve got a great start.  Now you just need to add to it.

Set a realistic goal.  Choose a distance/a race/a date that allows you to build slowly.  Stretch goals are fine as long as you allow enough time to get there.  Even better, set some incremental goals on the way to your final goal.  I built slowly from that initial 8k.  I ran a spring 10k, then the Army 10 miler that October.  The next June I ran a half marathon.  Then I began my official training for the marathon.  This allowed me to build both my physical endurance and my mental confidence.  (And I’m in no way saying that everyone should have a marathon as a goal. )

Make a plan.  Figure out when and how often you can run each week.  Search on google for some ideas of plans (I’m a fan of Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, and Runners World for plans that build slowly.)  Schedule each week, but remain flexible.

Get your family/friends involved.  It truly took a village to get me to that first marathon.  Beer Geek took days off so I could run my 20 milers.  Friends took Shoo for short stints so I could run while Jones was at preschool.  Long runs were wedged into visits with my parents.  But even more than the actual time they all gave to my training, their support and belief in my ability to cross that finish line carried me on days when I just didn’t think it was possible.

Own it. Be proud of what you are doing.  Don’t hide your progress.  Find a group of friends who want to hear about it.  (Or do what I do and make half of your facebook statuses about running.  Ignore the virtual eye rolling from your friends.)

Most importantly, remember this is fun!  While there will be days where you don’t want to run, most of the time running should not be a chore.  Most of the time running should bring you joy, stress release, or a feeling of accomplishment.

For those of you who’ve followed a similar journey, what tip would you give someone just starting out?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miz April 27, 2012 at 5:59 am

you make me hope I can get my back ok and become an adult onset’er too.

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2 jessica (pace of me) April 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

I LOVE THIS! “Adult onset runner” = classic. What a great story. And fantastic tips!!! Thanks for sharing!

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3 Laura April 27, 2012 at 8:21 am

Great tips! The believe in yourself piece is key… and the determination to plow through some hard work. Your story is really inspiring!

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4 Michele @ nycrunningmama April 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

Awesome post!! Agree 100% with what you said. It’s all in your head. I had run most of my life, but my race was a marathon. I believed I could do it, I had a plan, and I set a realistic goal!! =) Love that you picked up running later in life – such an inspiration for so many females that want to start but are afraid b/c they are “older”

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5 Harold April 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

You are just showing what can be done if you are motivated enough. Barriers become obstacles to be worked around and you have to be flexible to get where you want. :-) Congrats!

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6 Kierston April 27, 2012 at 8:48 am

Great tips, awesome post! Thanks for sharing this! I started running less than a year ago and I’m absolutely loving it :) Have a great day!

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7 Andrea April 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

Your last two posts are really good. Keep them coming!

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8 Darlene April 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

I’m a real “adult onset runner” – first 5k at age 55 and then I skipped the distances in between and went to 13.1.

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9 Kris April 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

I love this – I too was an AOR! I ran my first half marathon for charity, at age 35. At the time, I was more than 60 pounds overweight too.

A plan is super important, as is building at your own pace! Yes, people will run faster than you, and you may have to walk (Jeff Galoway’s system saved me!). Maybe more than you want to. But you’ll get there!

For me, I found having a mission (my charity run) was critical – because in the beginning, running SUCKED. Now, 4.5 years later? I’ve run 2 full marathons, at least 8 half marathons, and this summer I’m doing my first half ironman triathlon. Keep with it, and it will reward you for it!

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10 Erin April 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

great post and I LOVE the “adult onset runner”. Ha! Me too. :)

My tip would be to believe in yourself and not be afraid to push yourself. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. No matter who you are or where you are at there is always someone going further or faster. Take pride in what YOU do. :)

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend. :)

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11 hikermom April 27, 2012 at 11:37 am

I would say, take your time and enjoy the ride. SO many people start out too fast, feel terrible and quit. Build your mileage up slowly to prevent injury and burnout and try and enjoy the journey. I also think entering a race of some sort is a good way to give yourself a goal and keep you motivated.

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12 Heather April 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

I guess I would say to take your time and build up to it. Don’t start training too fast or too far – you could burn out and end up hating to run!
Great post!

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13 Lorrie Craley April 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I didn’t start running til I was 48 years old. I was always active, but not a runner. Since then, I have run 3 half marathons, a 10 miler, a few 5 k’s and for my 50th year, I completed a marathon. I ran with many injuries in the past and have now taken some time off to heal, but miss the feeling of satisfaction when I have finished a run.
Keep it up!!

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14 Caitlin April 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

This is a really motivating post that really shows that you can do ANYTHING and it’s not years of experience that are necessarily going to propel you across the finish line, but DRIVE!

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15 PavementRunner April 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Great post… set goals, achieve them one at a time. That’s the way to get it done.

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16 misszippy April 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I like that term: adult onset runner. Me too.

I want people to learn to like running for running and keep themselves in check before “over-racing.” I think that helps set up a lifetime of running love. Just my odd perspective on it!

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17 Yo Momma Runs April 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Great tips! It’s such a fun adventure to start something totally new (that isn’t a drug addiction) as an adult. We get to a point in our lives where everything feels done and consistent, so adding racing gives me something new to look forward to.

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18 Michelle @ Running with Attitude April 28, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Great post! And I love the term “adult onset runner” – that’s definitely me, didn’t start running and racing until I was 43 :)

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19 Suzanne May 1, 2012 at 8:24 am

Very well said!

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