I’ve been holding back. Hiding information from you. Not talking about something big that’s been going on in my world for the last 9 weeks.

Remember the “couch-to-5K” running program I joined in the spring? Well, after it was done, the head coach approached me and asked if I’d like to be a volunteer coach for the next group that they were planning. This one would begin in August and culminate in the Spinx Runfest 5K on October 25th.

Good lord! I was quite flattered, but suspected that he’d been smoking some sort of hippie-grown, hallucinatory substance which made gasping, aching, out-of-shape old women appear athletic.

“Ummmmmm…..” I didn’t know what to say. Geesh, how do you tell someone you don’t know very well that he’s delusional?

“You remember me from the group, right?” I began tentatively. “I’m the one who sounds like she has emphysema when she runs. I missed a chunk of the training runs because my lower body tried to quit on me. I am just trying to figure this running thing out myself…I’m still learning. I’m not qualified to be a coach, for heaven’s sake.”

He was adamant that he was talking to the right person. “You stuck with it,” he said. “And your story will motivate others. You’ve come such a long way. Having gone through the program yourself, you can help others know what to expect. You’ll set a great example.”

I hesitated, hedged, questioned, and argued, but in the end I said yes. The biggest benefit I saw at the time was that it would keep me running….and accountable to my own workouts. I’d be one of three volunteers from the previous group to serve in a coaching role. (I’m gritting my teeth right now from the effort it’s taking to NOT put quotes around the word “coaching.”)

So — just like that, I was committed yet again to leave the house at the crack of freakin’ 7:30 every Saturday morning. I told myself I could be lazy on Sundays. There were also group runs Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and I was there for most of the Tuesday ones. I couldn’t bring myself to skip my core-strengthening Thursday evening pilates classes.

Running as a coach was different from running as a participant. I wanted each person in the group to feel special, so during the runs I’d go back and forth among the different participants to touch base and “whooo-hoo!” them. It was great! In the process, I built up my own endurance and speed since I would run back to check on the slower-paced members, then run forward to catch up with the others again. On those days that I didn’t feel like I got a good workout myself, I’d do an extra loop of intervals around the park after everyone else left.

As the weeks advanced, though, it became less about my own goals and more about the individuals in the group. It was SO cool to see their levels of fitness increase and the pride in themselves begin to soar. I remembered my own sense of empowerment when I first started to run and notice improvements, and it was heartening to see it happen in others — and to be a real part of their motivation.

This was an awesome group! About 50 people showed up for the very first run, and half of them were with us on this Thursday’s last training run (which is a great retention for this sort of thing, by the way). Their energy and enthusiasm has been contagious throughout the whole 9 weeks!

And how ELATED everyone was when they crossed the finish line this morning!!!! The fastest person in our group finished in just under 29 minutes, I think. She rocked! Most of us hung out at the finish line until everyone in our group completed the run…..and THEN we waited to cheer for our head coach as he finished the half-marathon. That’s over 13 miles! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to run that far. His race had started at 8am (our 5K started at 9am) and he finished sometime between 10:15 and 10:30, I think. Whew!

Me? The clock said 32 minutes and a few seconds or so when I crossed the finish line, which means my official chip time might be under 32. We’ll see when the results are posted online.

During the run, I kept it at a comfortable pace the entire time. I didn’t wear my iPod Shuffle — I’d heard that they would not be allowing music devices in this race. That bit of intel turned out to be false, but it was interesting to experiment with a no-music run. I got into a breathing/stride rhythm that propelled me quite nicely. I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery, but I have a vague impression that parts of it were pretty. I remember passing the Linky Stone children’s park with its fun statues and happy, kid-enticing climb-on-me things…. I remember newly paved trails painted with Swamp Rabbit Trail logos beneath my feet…. I remember looping around Mayberry Park and coming within 40 feet or so of a geocache for which I’d been FTF (first to find) a few years back.

For the most part, I didn’t pay much attention to my fellow runners, but I did watch for members of our group, being sure to emit an obnoxiously encouraging whoop when I saw someone.

There was one runner (a stranger — not one of “us”) who sounded like he was jamming on some bongos as he came up behind me. I glanced to my left as he ran beside me a few seconds, and he wasn’t playing the drums or carrying any noisemakers, but he was dressed a little strangely. Was he wearing a tie? I laughed out loud — as did several others around me — when he moved a little ahead so I could see better. He was wearing one of those long-sleeved tuxedo t-shirts and had five or six empty water bottles tied to his waist, which were noisily bumping the ground behind him. On the back of his shirt was pinned a handmade sign which read, “I’m getting married today.”

Haha!

It had been my intention to push harder at some point, but I lost track of where I was on the course, and I neared the finishing point long before I thought I should have. I did speed up a bit when I saw the clock in the distance, disappointed that it read 31 something. I’d wanted to get closer to 30.

What now? More races, baby! I’m going to do one in under 30 if it damn kills me. Many people in the group — myself included — are planning to continue meeting for the weekday and weekend runs, at least for awhile. Two weeks from today, there’s another 5K which we may run together.

In January, another running program will begin, and many in the group are excited about joining it. There is a rumor that this group will train for a 10K. Yike-a-zoids! That’ll put me back in the trenches with the non-coach gang, for sure. I think I’ll do it, maybe not to run a 10K (I don’t know if my lower body will be able to withstand the abuse) but to improve my 5K time.

As I write, it’s about 5 hours since I finished the race, and I’m NOT all “tore up” like I was after the Candlelight run. Maybe that’s a good sign.

I’m going to say it is, anyway.

(Wondering what a ‘neverdone’ is? Scroll down to check out the last post, or click here.)

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