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RUNNING A 5K  By: Jackie Clark

     Lining up with the other runners in my start group, I feel some butterflies in my stomach and a mounting sense of excitement. This is my first 5K race. Thousands of other runners are here with me today, and even more people standing on the sidelines cheering us on. I look over and see my family and biggest fans all huddled around watching, as I am about to take off! It’s time for us to start; the group moves forward slowly at first, like a herd of cattle, before the faster people break ahead and the crowd spreads out. 
     As I keep up a steady pace, not trying to wear myself out, I think back on the weeks of preparation I spent: the daily jogs, the stretches, the fitness workouts at the gym. Proper nutrition was another element of preparation and also my worst enemy. As a new marathon runner I felt it was extremely important to stick to a sweet free diet. I know my body and myself well enough to know that sweets provide me with nothing more than a stomachache. It was important for me to feel my strongest and diet was essential to accomplishing my goal.
     The week leading up to the race, I drank lots of water and abstained from alcohol to ensure I was sufficiently hydrated. Runners know to eat about four hours before a race. I stuck with something safe with my soon-to-be jostling stomach: oatmeal with a banana. It was nothing unusual as it was and has now become my go-to breakfast meal. It gives me just enough energy to push through those morning trainings.
     Knowing that I have prepared for this helps me as the miles go by slowly. Steadiness is my goal, not speed. I have built up my endurance over the weeks of training, so I can keep up a good pace without tiring. My body falls into a rhythm as my feet pound the pavement. I try to run on my toes. I have found it takes the most strain off of my shins and allows me to distribute my weight more evenly.
     Hearing my shoes hit the ground; the measured puffing of my breath, and the sounds of the people around me gives my mind something to focus on besides the act of running. Always when I run, I look for something to distract me from the effort and the tiredness in my legs, something that motivates me. It is clear what motivates me now: making it to the finish line with a good time.
     The final stretch approaches. The spectators cheering for us make me feel like an Olympic hero, like Rocky Balboa. I give the last quarter mile my all. The energy I have saved up comes in handy now as I pick up the pace and pump my arms faster. The last hill is before me; the finish line looms in the distance. My legs are tiring, my lungs burning, and my heart working double time, but I make it across the line. 
     Cooling down with a walk and plenty of water, I feel better in mere moments. What a feeling of accomplishment! I am not tired, but bursting with vitality and an I-can-do-anything feeling. My happiness and clarity of mind must be due in part to endorphins; the chemicals released by exercise that make a person feel good. I understand now how people become addicted to running and that natural high. It’s an exhilarating sensation.
     Accomplishing my first 5K was one of the most exciting times in my life. I actually lived a transformation. I felt my body and mind change for the better. I knew if I could stick to a routine and accomplish this then I could take anything on. I loved the rushes, the pain, and frustration because in the end it was worth it once I crossed the finish line!


About horowitzrun

Jeff is a certified running, cycling, and triathlon coach, and is the author of "My First 100 Marathons" (Skyhorse Press 2008) and "Smart Marathon Training" (Velo Press 2011). An obviously addicted runner, Jeff has run at least one marathon in every state and on 6 continents, including marathons in South Africa, China, Bangkok, and Antarctica. Jeff is available for group, one-on-one, and virtual coaching. Options include: 1. Basic Training Plan. This includes a customized training schedule geared towards a goal race, with a detailed running schedule that would include all distances and target times for each workout, including speedwork, tempo, and endurance sessions. 2. Complete Fitness and Race Plan. This includes the plan listed above, plus the non-running workouts and drills that runners need for better overall fitness and performance. You would get strength & core workouts, as well as run-specific training drills and stretches. 3. Virtual Coaching. This includes all of the above, implemented on a week-by-week basis. We review each week's progress at week's end so that adjustments can be made. The program is tailored to suit you right up to race day. It involves more contact, on a weekly or even daily basis. 4. Full Coaching for athletes in the Washington DC area. All of the above, plus a weekly workout together including speedwork, drills, and strength training. 5. Individual track sessions. One-on-one track-based workouts. Contact Jeff for pricing.
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