Before I get back to the shin splint story, I want to back up a bit and talk about why I care… I’ve never been a runner. Walking has always been my exercise of choice and when I have had walking partners who were well-matched in pace & temperament, it has done well by me. I walk pretty fast (14 min. mile or a bit less – not race walking, but not bad) and would try to get in 45 minutes to an hour, so it seemed to work for cardio. I had a hard time keeping up a regular schedule when I didn’t have someone to walk with though.
In 2014, when buying new sneakers at my local (awesome!) running store, I noticed an ad for one of their spring running groups. It caught my eye but I didn’t do anything about it, not being a runner :) Then in July I got an e-mail from the store & it included a list of the upcoming groups & training programs. I had had success with weight loss but still hadn’t improved my fitness level (my other goal) so I actually stopped and thought about it. Asked the BHE what he thought (he said, “go for it!”), and the next time we were downtown we stopped into the store & I registered for the Beginner 5K training group.
It started on Aug. 18 (my mom’s birthday) and I started letting go of my “not a runner” status. To my surprise, I loved the group exercise, liked stretching before we started when everyone chatted while following along with our coaches, liked running/walking with different people each time as our paces waxed & waned. The training was a modified C25K (couch to 5K) led by 3 coaches – 2 store staff & the owner – all of whom are runners. We started off the program mostly walking with a few 30 second runs thrown in and ended up running 3.1 miles – a 5K. The people in the group (more than 40 of us to start!) ranged from those who ran in college but not since, those who ran but had never done a 5K, those who had never run (me!), and I’m sure many more scenarios. We met twice/week as the group and then had “homework” assignments like doing other types of exercise, core-strengthening exercises, and some intervals (walking/running) like we were doing with the group.
At the beginning, I really couldn’t imagine running 3 miles straight. It seemed impossible! Along the way, different milestones seemed so far away but then were accomplished — run for 5 minutes? no way. Run for 15 minutes? no way. Yet, there I was, accomplishing that and more. I also wasn’t sure how different managing my diabetes would be with running than with walking. The intervals meant that the intensity of the workout was changing during the workout as well as between workouts. Thank goodness for the pump & CGM – not to mention peanut butter and bananas! I got pretty good at eating a proper sized snack ahead of time, changing basal rates a few hours ahead and during and after the sessions, and keeping a close eye on bgs after 24 hours or so. It never did get what I would call “predictable” but it seems like diabetes never does. I did gain confidence that I could handle it though – whatever diabetes decided to do for that run, I could adjust and get through it without having to stop the workout. Sometimes I was low and sometimes I was high, but I didn’t have to miss a session because of my diabetes.
Doing the 5K in October, running the whole thing, finishing, and finishing in way less time than I hoped (though I did set a silly goal of 50 minutes!) was such a good, proud feeling. And being there after the race, celebrating with the 25 or so others from our group who had also run the race, made it so much better. We all felt like we could never have achieved that goal of running over 3 miles without the support and motivation from the group.
About a dozen people from the group said that we wanted to keep running regularly after the training was over. Out of those, 8 of us have actually continued to meet and run all the way through the winter. We have run a few races together and supported each other through some injuries. My shin splints, someone’s knee surgery, plantar fascitis, hip pain, etc. I never would have stuck with running without this group of amazing women. Several of them are younger than I am, some older, and others right around my age. We do/did different things for work, come from different parts of the country, have different backgrounds and lifestyles, but we all have this sense of accomplishment and the joys we have found in running in common. These are 7 women I probably would never have met w/o the 5K group but now I can’t imagine my life without them. They are truly friends.
What a long post to convey a simple truth: I can’t let shin splints (or any other injury) make me stop running. Without running, I won’t see these friends once or twice a week, I won’t have their support and understanding, I won’t laugh with them, or walk with someone when we both are struggling, or feel motivated to get my body moving. We celebrate our times during races — if someone improves their time we get excited, if someone doesn’t, we get excited that we all finished. I’m sure many people have this kind of experience during their school years when they play on a team… I never had that as a kid so I’m learning it rather late. In this case it is definitely better late than never.