March 18, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #5

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I was wondering how you found your running partners. Were you friends with them before you lost weight, or did you meet them along the way in your weight loss journey? I would really like to start running more, and eventually complete a marathon (sometime in my life). So far I have lost 15 lbs on my weight loss journey, and you have been a huge inspiration to me!

A. First, congrats on the weight loss! The question about my running friends has actually come up a lot lately. The truth is, I was strictly a solo runner until just recently. Before I started running, the only runner-friend that I had was Renee. She had just run her first marathon, and I didn't even comprehend then what that meant. She was the one who encouraged me to sign up for a 5K race, before I had even run one step.

My first 10K run (Evie, Jessica, Renee, me, Kerri)
Once I got hooked on running, I invited Renee and Jessica to do the Indy half-marathon. Jessica wasn't a runner at the time, but I told her she could walk it. She ended up running it and getting hooked on running as well. Jessica is probably the very definition of a "social butterfly"--especially when it comes to exercise. She loves taking classes at the YMCA and she almost always runs with friends (most of whom she met at the Y).

When we decided to run our first marathon, we wanted to train together to keep our super long runs from boring us to death. And it was through Jessica that I met some other runners.

So basically, if you know a runner, that runner probably knows other runners, and so on. I still like running solo on my short runs, because I can go at my own pace, but for anything longer than about 4-5 miles, I really enjoy the company!

Q. Do you warm up and/or cool down after a run?  I'm signed up for a 5K in April and I just ran my farthest distance of 4.59 miles.  I have always had tight hamstrings, but I'd like to prevent them from being any tighter.  What is your pre and post- run routine?

A. I know what my answer *should* be. But honestly, I don't warm up before a run. I just head outside and start running. I only recently started cooling down, and that's because my legs feel much better when I do, especially after a long run. After Jessica and I finish a long run, I'll stop the Garmin and we walk for about 5 minutes. Then I usually stretch for a couple of minutes--nothing crazy, just some stretches that make my legs feel good. That's about it as far as my pre- and post-run routine. I just do what makes me feel good, and the post-run walking and stretching feels good!

Q. Can you tell me what to expect from my first 5K?  Do we all take off at the word "go" like a pack of dogs? LOL. I'm wondering how you can even run in a crowd?

A. This is something that I was scared and nervous and excited about before my first 5K as well. I had no idea what to expect. 

Unless you get there right at the last minute, there is actually a lot of standing around and waiting at a race--waiting for your packet pick-up, waiting in line for the porta-potty, waiting for the start of the race... the race itself is the only part where you don't seem to be waiting.

Once you pick up your packet (in bigger races, you might even do this days ahead of time) and pin on your number bib, make sure you go to the bathroom one more time before the race. When you're ready, you'll go to the starting line. A tidbit of race etiquette: if you're a walker, go to the back of the pack. If you're a run/walker, go just a little ahead of the back. Save the actual starting line for the people that run 5 minute miles, and the 8-10 minute/mile people should be in the middle of the pack. It's really frustrating when you're much faster than the people standing around you and you have to dodge around them. And you'll annoy the people behind you if you stand with the 5-minute/mile crowd and you're running a 10:00/mi.
The Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon starting line
Once you are waiting at the starting line, they might have announcements, or something. Then you'll hear a loud horn (or whatever they use to start the race). It might take some time to get up to the starting line, so you could be shuffling forward slowly (depends on how many people in the race--in Indy, it takes me 30+ minutes to get to the starting line! At a small race, just 5-10 seconds at most). Your race time will start when YOU cross the start line (assuming that they are using chip timing--attached to your shoe or your bib).

Once you cross the actual starting line, you'll be able to pick up speed pretty quickly. You might have to dodge around people for a half mile or so, and you might feel overwhelmed if people are dodging around you. The first race I was in, I almost cried because I thought EVERYONE was passing me. But just try to forget about everyone else, and run your own race. The people spread out quickly, even in a larger race, so you won't feel like a sardine.

See how much fun I'm having? LOL
After a half-mile or so, you'll have some more space and you can pick up speed or drop speed if needed. It's important to try not to go out from the start too fast, especially if you feel like you have to keep up with people that are passing you. Something I always notice at races is that a lot of the people who pass me in the beginning drop to a walk after a mile or two, and I pass them. Just try and keep a consistent pace, and don't worry about the people around you.

Once you cross the finish line, you'll probably be able to grab a bottle of water and some post-race snacks, and perhaps they'll give you medal. You can hang around for a bit or just leave right away. If you're pretty fast, you might even win a prize for your age group--so I've HEARD from my speedy friend Renee, anyway ;)

I still get nervous before every race, but there is honestly no reason to--just try to enjoy it and not think too hard about it! Good luck!


  1. 30 minutes to get to the start line in Indy? That would drive me crazy! So far, the LIMA 5k has the BEST swag after the race! Tons of Pure Protein bars (YUM!), fruit, bagels and even pizza (not for me post-race!)!

  2. Love your Q and A Sundays! That picture of the starting line at Indy is crazy! Just having done my first 5k yesterday it was great to read your comments on it. I was EXTREMELY nervous for it all week. Now that it's done there was no need to be. But I know when I do another one I'll be nervous then too.

  3. I really love these Q and A's, I always look forward to them! I think I might be a recent addict to running! I ran again today and beat my time by 3 minutes!! YAY!

  4. Whew! I'm so glad that someone asked the last question! I am running my first 5k next Saturday and I feel sick with nerves. My #1 goal is to be able to run the entire thing. My #2 goal is not be the last one to cross the finish line. I'm not sure why, but the thought of everyone standing around, looking at their watches waiting for the slow, fat lady to finish is mortifying to me. Of course, leave it to me to blow things out of proportion! : 0

    1. That was so me 10 days ago! I did my first 5K on March 10. Katie's experiences pretty much match my own. I put myself right in front of the walkers. I am very slow but finished without walking or stopping in 43.12. I ended up being #136 out of 188, which I thought was pretty good. It was nice to know that there were lots of people behind me, even if most were walkers. And in our race, they had people posted every mile (and every 0.25 miles at the end...the end was a confusing route so they had a lot of people to show you where to go) and all of them were so encouraging, telling me that I was almost done, or that I had a good pace, etc. And crossing the finish was amazing!!! My family was waiting for me and it was the best feeling ever. I'm currently 70 lbs overweight.

  5. That crowd in Indy is something!! I would be afraid of getting mowed over. LOL.

  6. The 12k I have walked the last several years has a staggered start. We get separated by colors according to speed and they start the fastest ones first and then get it going to the walkers/strollers. Definitely irritating to get run over by the people pushing strollers who are supposed to be walking however.

  7. Is there any chance you know about the mile fun runs? Are they divided in the same way? Does anyone ever walk the fun runs?

    I emailed you before about running with my son, and the reply was very helpful. We are signing up to do a fun run at the end of April. It's 15 dollars and we get t-shirts and baseball tickets also!

    I'm just not sure he will be ready to run a full mile by then with his little legs, although we just started "training" with the nice weather, and we are improving every day.

    1. The fun runs are meant to be just that--for fun. You can walk, run, skip, or crawl, whatever you'd like! I think it's a great confidence booster for kids when they see that they just completed a whole mile (and they might get a t-shirt or medal for it). But I've seen older people do it (without kids), and I think that's great too!

    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all these questions!

      I can't wait to do it. I just didn't want us to be the only people walking, if that were to happen.

  8. I'm going to pass this along to the Mr. He flip flops about whether he's going to run a 5K or not and I'm sure this post could help him know what to expect. Thanks!

  9. I really need to find someone to run long runs with - the boredom is really the worst part for me when it comes to runs of more than an hour or so!


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