Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How To Be a Fat Runner

Running my second 5K race ever (and the
first in seven years!) last weekend.
1. Put some gear on – whatever is comfortable for movement and sweating. Decent running shoes, hopefully, or something resembling them.

2. Put one foot in front of the other and make running motions.

That's it! You're a runner!

Yes, even if you're fat. Like I still am.

OK, OK, so if you've been reading along for the past few months you probably know that it's not quite that easy. I mean, it COULD be, but if you're going in cold I wouldn't recommend it. Chances are you'd get winded and tired quickly, and get discouraged and give up.

I've entered into being a runner in a couple different ways now. A few, actually.

1. Joined the cross country team in high school, eons ago.

2. Couch to 5K, self-directed. (Rinse and repeat, several times.)

3. No Boundaries 5K training program at my local Fleet Feet store.

Let me tell you, hands down, there is nothing like trying something really challenging but being part of a supportive group as you are doing it. That has been the key for me. And here I am never thinking of myself as a real big group/team kind of person.

I have performed better and enjoyed myself more by learning to run in a group, and with the support of experienced coaches and mentors. I highly recommend trying it if you have that kind of thing available nearby.

I signed up for the program not knowing anyone, not knowing if I would be the fattest, slowest, whateverest person there. But I tell you what! None of it mattered. It turns out that the running community is one that strikes me as being open and welcoming to all levels of athleticism. Runners know that it is not easy. Runners know that things might not always be what they seem at first glance. Runners know that we all have our stories.

Are there judgmental, douchey runners out there? NO DOUBT. I am lucky to have been shielded from those kinds of people. The running group at Fleet Feet is nothing but supportive. The best cheerleaders ever. They know that anyone can run if they are trained properly. And I hope that I have helped to prove that.

I started the program at just around 300 pounds at 5'8", and I could run a little bit having been doing C25K on my own for a few weeks, but not much. I now weigh a little more than 10 pounds less after three months of training, and I can also run a 5K distance with relative ease.

Three months! If you ask me, that is pretty amazing.

Can fat people run? Hell yes. We might run slower than the average bear, but we run. Make no mistake.

By the way, I finished the 5k race on Sunday at just under my goal time of 50 minutes: 49:40! That's a 16:03 pace.

It was a challenging race. We were running in conditions we hadn't really faced before. Oh sure, give us sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice, voracious wind – no problem! (Not in hindsight, anyway.) But 75+ degree temps and sun beating down? Yikes! I also made the mistake of overdressing (see photo) and not carrying water with me. I thought, "It's just 3 miles – I've never had to drink on our training runs, no big deal!" Ha! Famous last words. Yes, there was water along the way in various forms – volunteer tables, someone with a hose in the street (now that was nice!), and a kindly gent and his son riding bikes and asking us if we needed water... but it would have been so smart of me to carry. Lesson learned.

Still, despite that, I am proud of my results even though I know I probably could have finished a little faster. The good news is that I am registered for another race on May 16th and will be able to put my new knowledge into practice. I may even try to wear fewer clothes. (Horrors!)

Last night Fleet Feet had a little party for us, but not before we went out for our final group run of the session. I managed 2.5 miles at a 15:35 pace which was pretty thrilling. And this was on a day when I had already logged in two miles in the morning, and was still nursing aches and fatigue from Sunday.

This morning I did about a half hour of strengthening yoga, and feel like the achey lower back I picked up is finally easing up. Everything feels better when I am in motion – so pardon me while I go out for my Galloway-prescribed walk.

Are you an unconventional runner? What has your experience been like?

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