When a group from work, Body Kinetics Health Club in Marin County, CA, suggested running in the Marin County Half Marathon (or 10k or 5k), together as a team, I realized I hadn’t run in 20 years, since I was in my 40’s. I thought, “Well, I can certainly walk a 5k (3.1 miles) so I signed up. Before that, the only cardio I’d been doing was spin once a week, and a workout class once a week that included a cardio component. Otherwise, I was mainly strength training 2 to 3 times per week. Whenever I was required to do a jog in a class setting, like around the room a few times, I’d be dying, out of breath. My husband, Jeff, signed up with me and a couple months before the race we began slogging (a very slow jog) 5 minutes and walking 5 minutes. We had a 1.8 mile flat loop. We did this twice a week and graduated to 5 minute slog, 1 minute walk. Eventually we were slogging the whole way. Then we changed our route to a 1.6 mile loop with a long, steep hill built in. I had to do a heart rate check at the top each time because I was worried about overexerting myself, I was gasping that hard, but I never reached my max heart rate, I just reached my max pain threshhold! Initially, I had to walk on the downhill because it hurt my knees, but I worked on form, sitting back more in my stride going downhill. We got stronger. After about 6 weeks of this, I did a trial 3 mile run on the track and was pleasantly surprised that my time wasn’t too bad (12 minute pace) and I actually jogged the whole time.
On race day I was so excited. Right out of the shoot, I was panting. I couldn’t figure out why it was so much harder than the day at the track. I figured it out afterwards when I realized I finished the race with a pace of 10:09, so much faster than my practice run. Turns out I was second in the ages 60-69 women category, fifth in 60-69 men/women. I finished 99th overall out of 371 runners. Ok, it wasn’t a race with a bunch of elite runners, but I was so blown away and proud of my performance. Most of all, being able to run so well is a testimony of the benefits of strength training. What I didn’t have in cardio conditioning, I made up for with leg power. My husband and I are continuing to run once per week. Who knows, maybe I’ll be like Harriette Thompson who ran her first marathon at age 76 (see post below)!