My Journey to 10K

I have always been active and in pretty good shape, doing such things as kick boxing, step aerobics and boot camp training classes, but I have never considered myself a “runner”. Until May 2011, that is, when we were herded down to Grant Park in Chicago for the Chase Corporate Challenge. We all work for Gatorade, so it was difficult to tell my coworkers, “No, 5K (3.1 mi) is too much for me, I will take a pass”.

When the experienced runners wanted to “warm-up” by running from our office to the starting line, I was leery and lagged behind with a few others.  Seriously, were they crazy?  Not only was it 40 degrees outside, it was at least 3 miles to the start of the 5K race.  We took a cab to Starbucks, which was fairly close to the starting line.  Warm-up complete!

So there I am, freezing and waiting to run, hoping I will complete the distance without killing myself.  Most of my coworkers run marathons and compete in triathlon races so I would be lying to say that peer pressure did not have a hand in getting me outside to run.  Did I mention that until now I had only jogged on a treadmill?  Running in a race with thousands of people in downtown Chicago is entirely another story.  My approach was to run at a pace that made me comfortable since I didn’t train at all for this, therefore I didn’t have a gauge on how long of a run I was doing. It worked and I survived; time was 27:41, not bad.   I felt pretty good about it, actually  So I decided to keep running.  Next up – a 10K.

We have a lot of trainers and scientists that work for our brand and I was determined to utilize the information at my disposal.  To be honest, before I started working here, I didn’t realize the scientific benefits of Gatorade or electrolytes or even carbohydrates.  I knew carbs gave you energy but my knowledge stopped there.  At this point in time, I was working on a project to launch a new beverage to drink before you workout, G Prime (4oz pre-game beverage). I learned that before your race or workout, you need something that will give you energy (calories, carbs) but not leave you jittery (caffeine).  This particular product has 30g carbohydrates and 110mg of sodium.  The specifics of why I needed these things did not resonate at the time but I started drinking it before I ran and I really noticed a difference.

I never ran in the past because I did not enjoy it, plain and simple.  I never reached that “runner’s high” or state of relaxation I hear people touting.  I got stomach cramps and muscle cramps and that was enough for me to not push forward with this activity.  After I started drinking G Prime before and Gatorade during my workouts, I realized that these things that prevented me from running in the past weren’t happening anymore.  I have a degree in Industrial Engineering so I am a problem solver by nature.  I knew I introduced a new variable to my workouts but I wanted to understand this better.  After talking to my peers and other subject matter experts, I started to understand a little about the science behind the great-tasting red (or blue or purple) drink.

By adding Gatorade to my workout, I was easily able to start running faster and farther.  I had the energy to keep going and wasn’t stopped by stomach or muscle cramps.   This is mainly due to being hydrated (Gatorade is 94% water), and by adding sodium and potassium (the other 6%) which helps with the cramping.  I learned that you had to drink enough fluid to prevent dehydration without over-drinking.  When I drank just water, I felt too full and had that “sloshy” feeling in my stomach (note that is not a term that the Gatorade scientists used).

So I trained for about 3 months, running 1-2x per week, for my 10K.  I continued the other portions of my workout (kick-boxing primarily) since I wanted to cross-train.  I tried to run at a comfortable pace, increasing distance without compromising how I felt.  I was not as regimented as most runners with my training schedule but I did what worked for me.  By the time I got to the weekend of the 10K, however, I was getting cold feet.  I realized I had never run that far in my life (6.2 miles).  But yet again, I had peer pressure to contend with, as this was a charity race for Susan G. Komen and I was leading the team to organize our company’s participation.  So again I had to do it!

The unfortunate part of running races is the early morning start time as well as the cold and rain in this particular instance (i.e., not fun), so I was a little concerned about the outcome. But I ran the race in about 54 mins and the seed was planted.  I was determined to keep this going and improve my time and distance.

After all of this, I still had a lot to learn.  This was a work in progress. I knew I needed to continue doing what worked for me but not much more than that.  At this point, I started thinking about my next race and goal.  There was a 15K coming up in 2 months so I signed up for that.  Training for that was a little more serious (9.3 miles – that was scary to think about) so I knew I needed to learn more about how to ramp up to that distance.

Next up….a 15K!