As I mentioned in my last post, after my first half-marathon, as I moved into finals time in grad school and the holiday season, it could be very easy to lose momentum in progressing in my running. I don’t want running to be “just something I did in 2013,” so I don’t want to stagnate or worse, with no upkeep or “taking a break,” risk backsliding, getting frustrated with regressing, and leaving it behind. Especially in the winter, I know slowing down on my training, regressing in progress, or quitting altogether would be a death knell for the positivity I’ve been able to utilize in my everyday life.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still be grumpy and get upset, but considering I’m a girl with a major clinical depression and anxiety disorder diagnosis, most anyone who’s met me for the first time this year would probably have no idea. I’m motivated and motivating, encouraged and encouraging, and I believe a lot more in myself and in others.

However winter is upon us, and with darker nights setting in earlier, my mood tanks. All I want to do is hide in bed watching Netflix marathons and not washing my hair for three days.

But this must not prevail! So I signed up for two 5K’s this month in an effort to motivate me to do some speedwork this month – if with finals I don’t quite have the time to get my full long runs in (I was supposed to do 10 miles this weekend and let it go with all the finals I’m swimming in), I can at least work on that goal.

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Photo courtesy JostRunning.com

In October, some folks I connected with via Twitter and I did JostRunning.com’s Oktoberfest virtual race. I opted for the 10K in preparation for the Army Ten Miler, but this month I opted to go for the 5K to try and hit my goal of a sub-30 5K.

With a virtual race, I get to choose when, where, and how I do my distance. I choose my conditions. I use Jost’s virtual races as motivation for training when I need a little sparkle boost, because their medals are gorgeous and I live by a philosophy of if I overcame some sort of setback (like winter depression making me languid), I have no problem with treating myself to an award for it.

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Photo courtesy Women’s Health Magazine

So to hit my sub-30 5K for the first time, I knew I wanted to give myself a totally flat course. I’ll tackle a sub-30 5K on a hilly course in the future, but let’s get a flat course sub-30 under my belt first. The question was – hit the local high school track some time during the daylight and piece together a winter appropriate but speed-friendly outfit, or hit the treadmill in my basement any time that was convenient for me and where whatever I felt most comfortable in?

I don’t have the money to buy good winter running clothes for freezing temps, but the treadmill often bores me to tears. The trump card was my lack of convenient time to hit the high school track in the daylight. Treadmill it was.

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Tonight after a tearfully frustrating reminder that the 6 long days until my semester is over are going to be very, very long indeed, before I could focus on the yet more work I had to do for school, I knew I had to run. The allotted week for the Jost 5K option began today until Saturday, and I went ahead and got it done.

I laced up, popped in my headphones, and set my pace for 6.3mph, or a 9:31 mile pace. If I could stick to that, I’d finish in 29:30.

The first mile went by fairly easily, which I credit to running a 9:05 single mile on Friday night just to get some activity in before guests arrived for the evening. The slightly slower pace felt fine after that. But stretching it into the second mile began to feel more difficult.

The treadmill can be both easier on a runner in some respects and more difficult. On the one hand, without changing the incline on the treadmill, there’s the obvious easiness of running a totally flat workout. There’s no wind resistance, either.

On the other hand, there are no sights to see to keep the mind occupied and off the difficulty of this physical exertion. And coming up to the second mile, I could really feel the muscles in my shoulders working hard to keep my form balanced and upright. I suppose when I run outside and don’t have to keep up with a moving track or fall and risk flying gracelessly across my basement, I let my upper body collapse a lot more than is allowable while running on a treadmill.

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Photo courtesy Runner’s World

I had to slow it down after about 2.25 miles. I took about a 30 second walk break, but it wasn’t enough to fully regain the ability to sprint the last .8 miles in the time I had left. I upped my speed as much as I could allow myself in the last quarter mile, but ultimately finished in 30:27.

Although technically a PR, since it was a virtual race and I set myself up with a totally flat course, I’m not recording it for myself as a PR.

I’m still proud of it though. I paced myself so well during the Richmond Half Marathon that I didn’t at all feel like diving into the grass at the finish, which I think is a healthy thing for a longer distance, but for a shorter distance like the 5K, I wouldn’t have felt right if I hadn’t given it all I had. So when I had to lay out on my back when the run was over, I knew I’d given it all I had.

And while I wish I hadn’t started to feel so woozy at that 2.25 mark that I thought I might pass out, I wish I could have pushed through at the 9:31 pace to the end, I’ll take the workout I put in tonight.

I felt disheartened at first I missed the sub-30 by so close – but it’s all about perspective. December is a time many people take for reflection on how they spent the last year of their lives. For me, I’m pretty proud of myself. Going from totally sedentary and thinking running was a horrific activity only masochistic people do, to being able to run 3.1 miles in 30:27?

Prepare to get crushed, 28 seconds. Maybe I’ll never be a sub-25 5Ker, but there was once a time I thought I’d never be a sub-30 5K-er – and it’s so close, closer with every workout.

The day it happens, you can expect a pretty jubilant blog post.

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