July 11th, 2011
04:12 PM ET
Since January, six iReporters have been training in the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. We’re following along as they prepare to compete alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the August 7 Nautica NYC Triathlon.
One year ago on July 4, I could not run for 90 seconds without being exhausted. This year on July 4, I ran my first 10K: the 42nd annual Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. The operative word here is *ran.* I actually ran the entire course without any walking! I was exactly 58 1/2.
It had been my goal to do that, but knowing that the course was hilly (one section is affectionately billed as “Cardiac Hill”), I was not at all sure that it would happen. Not only was it going to be a hilly course; the heat was oppressive. Last year’s starting temp was 66 degrees; this year’s was 73, with sock-soaking humidity.
Last July 4 was quite different, however, and that has everything to do with why I am here today.
I had abandoned league tennis about six months earlier to focus on volunteer work for area rivers, and one day it hit me that I was not getting any exercise whatsoever. My body was showing and feeling it, so I sought an activity that would fit my schedule.
I had been impressed by a friend who completed the Couch to 5K plan. Each time she ran, her progress automatically posted to Facebook, which earned her cheers and encouragement along the way. If Kristie could do it, so could I! So I installed the app on my own phone, made a mix of my favorite tunes, laid out my running shoes and…and… it all just sat there for days. Until the morning of July 4, 2010, when I awoke to an unseasonable chill in the air. It was 62 degrees—the morning fairly begged me to come outside! So off I went: I put on my shoes and headphones, started off with the 5 minute warm-up walk to a nearby park, and I have never looked back.
I’m not gonna lie: I was completely huffing and puffing and staring at the clock on those first 90-second interval runs! The only thing that got me through the whole 90 second run was the knowledge that it would be followed by a walk. That and the very simple self-talk that I developed, which I highly recommend. It goes like this: “I CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 30 MORE SECONDS!!!”
As I stuck with C25K the phrase evolved, and before long I was saying to myself, “I can do anything for just another quarter mile.” That is how I talked myself into completing my first entire mile on the run. The phrase has changed countless times since February, as I ramped up my training for the NYC Tri: “I can do anything …for two more miles… to get to the top of this hill…to get to the end of the pool!” As long as I continue to believe what I’m saying, I CAN do anything!
Was that all I needed to run the entire Peachtree? We will never know, because it was not the sole source of my energy. With more than 55,000 runners, the Peach is such a huge city event that there was entertainment and encouragement along the entire route. I knew to expect spectators, water stations and open fire hydrants, but there was oh so much more! No less than six live bands played along the way, and these alternated with radio stations booming the best rockin’ tunes. Many in the crowd were in patriotic costumes, and there were flags waving everywhere. There were lots of pretty dogs out with their owners for the day, including a beautiful group of greyhounds resting under a tree. Runners would pause to catch airborne T-shirts or to just dance in the street for a few bars. As I ran past Shepherd Center, patients sat outside in their wheelchairs cheering me on– how could I help but do my best?
Had I been hungry, I could have snagged a piece of pizza or watermelon along the way, or tried to catch some flying cheesy-poofs in my mouth. I could have even had a beer! I literally laughed and smiled through the whole course; it was so much fun I wanted to experience and remember every moment. Because our CNN coaches and colleagues have told us that the NYC Tri will be much like this, I simply cannot wait until August 7!
The dash to the finish line was all downhill, and I bolted like a horse headed for the barn. My Garmin recorded a peak of 5.25 min/mile (seriously?) at least for a few steps. I finally forced myself to slow down based on my heart rate, and later (after uploading my stats) learned that I had followed Coach Laura Cozik’s advice without even knowing it: I had run a negative split. Official results: I placed 34,913 out of a field of 55,000+; time: 1:21:17.
The best part of the day came after the finish line, as I met up with the seven co-workers and friends who had introduced me to the race. We compared notes, congratulated one another, took pictures, and had one last grand adventure that involved a taxi and a towing company. (Don't ask). I am so thankful for their mentoring and hospitality. We all had a blast and plans are already under way for next year's trip, including a list of others we plan to harass into joining us. (Friends, and co-workers, you’d better watch out!)
From around the web
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.