A Tale of a Beginner Runner’s 5K Training

4 Jul

Happy Fourth of July! Today, the plan is to completely relax and do whatever our little hearts desire!

Filling in today is the one and only Gwen Guerke, who has a weekly column titled “Tell Gwen” in the Delaware State News. I feel so honored to have her write a guest post today! I can usually find her at the starting line at every local 5K. I’ll never forget the time I asked her what she was listening to as she was dancing right at the starting line, and she said “Justin Timberlake”. She usually wins her age group, and she’s also a yoga teacher! She’s simply awesome! Here is her story of how a friend of hers asked her for help training for her very first 5K at 50!

Sometime in March, I think it was, my friend Jo Facebooked me that she wanted to run her first 5K. She wanted to know if I would help her train.

No problem, I said.

A little about Jo without giving up too much: when she turned 50 in February, she hired a personal trainer with the traditional goals in mind. Lose weight and get into shape.

She lost more than 20 pounds, then raised the bar. She wanted to run a 5K.

Isn’t that great?

When I stopped to think about it, I really had to wonder “Why me?”

I’m not young or speedy, nor am I thin like the girls on the cover of “Runners World.”

However, I’ve finished my share of 5K races. I never ran at all until I was 51 years old. Don’t ask how many races I’ve run because I never kept track. I’ve completed two marathons, at least a half dozen half marathons, several 10-milers. I’ve run on trails and on the road. I run whether it’s July or January.

OK, so I’ve logged lots of miles and I’m pretty good in the endurance department. No speed. I’ve had my share of minor overuse running injuries, and as a result I know the chore of having to start conditioning all over again.

I’m a journalist, but I don’t keep running logs or records, so my experience training with Jo is anecdotal and relying on memory.

I figured I’d give it a go, and if she stuck with it, so would I. From my experience, getting out there and doing the first mile is the hardest part of any run, training or race day. Also sometimes people decide they think they want to run, but when they discover it’s hard work, they change their minds.

Initially, I suggested Jo wear good running shoes and buy a decent sports bra. The rest of running attire becomes through trial and error, especially in the spring and fall when the weather is variable and unpredictable. There’s also the issue of deciding how much you want to spend.

We started by doing intervals, beginning with a warm-up walk. I told her to tell me if she was in true pain. We’d stop. We’d talk through the discomfort of getting started.

So off we went along the streets of downtown Milford. Walking for 5 minutes, then slow jogging for 5.

Jo was, and still is, great. She doesn’t complain, and we carry on a conversation while training. It’s a distraction, and that’s OK because we are usually training from 45 minutes to an hour.

Since I don’t have a Garmin that measures miles or heart rate, I do the intervals by minutes using my unsophisticated Timex sports watch.

A couple of times our training hour has been just walking. When the heat index was something like 105 degrees, we walked.

Her goal is to run the Delaware Hospice on July 13 right here in Milford. I’m sure she’ll do well. The goal is completion. We haven’t talked about a time or a strategy per mile or pacing.

We’ve got about a week before the race, so we will be running more and walking less. We will need to talk about some other race stuff, like is it OK to walk and what about the water stops and how to start and finish strong.

We’re building confidence, and we’re learning the joy of participating. And I hope Jo will want to do another 5K after this one.


Thank you so much, Gwen, for a trainer perspective on running! Although I will not be there for the Delaware Hospice 5K, I will anxiously waiting to hear how you both did. And Jo, I’m so proud of you!


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