Couch to 5K.

So, I now have decided to run, and I have shoes. The next step is to start already.

Since running has become so popular over the last few years, there’s been a lot of time and effort put into developing programs for beginner runners. The most popular program is the so-called Couch to 5K program: it’s eight weeks, three days a week, and it gradually builds you up from being a walker to being someone who can run five entire kilometres in a single go.

Naturally, there’s an app for it. There’s several apps, but the one I got is probably typical. You put on your headphones or earpiece, start the app, and then it tells you when to run and when to take walking breaks between runs. (It also issues random statements of encouragement, such as “Great job deciding to run today!” and “Awesome! You’ve got this.” When it did that, I usually told it to fuck off.) In the first workout, it started me off nice and easy: after a five-minute walking warmup, I had a few bursts of running for one minute and then walking for one minute. One minute isn’t that long, is it? How hard can it be? Of course, that’s how they lure you in.

I stuck with the program diligently, gradually working up from one-minute bursts to 90 second bursts to two, three and five minutes at a time, and then longer. Along the way, I learned one vital truth about running – you don’t need to run fast if you don’t have to. In fact, you shouldn’t – and you can’t. Once I determined a comfortable pace for slogging along at intervals of greater than 5 minutes, I was able to get through it.

The science of this program was obviously carefully designed: after each workout, I felt that I had done exactly the maximum I was capable of doing that day. It was as if evil (or benevolent) geniuses had carefully calculated the most that I could endure each time.

My initial route took me down Soudan Avenue east of Mount Pleasant – I live west of Mount Pleasant, but for some reason always wanted to cross the street to start my run. As my distances got longer, I travelled on more and more streets in the neighbourhood, until I had hit just about all of them: I ran on Soudan, Hillsdale, Manor, Belsize, Millwood, Cleveland, Forman, and Davisville. Eventually, I branched out to west of Mount Pleasant, which was more of a challenge as it is hillier. After a while, I got to know my neighbourhood really well. How many people – he asked rhetorically – get to know their neighbourhood really well?

After the eight weeks was up, I reached my goal: I could run 5K! I was scheduled to enter my first race in late September: the Zoo Run at the Toronto Zoo. Unfortunately, something got in the way – namely, a blunt object. More in my next exciting adventure.

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