So I signed up to do a 10K with my friend in my hometown in May. I was getting nervous that I had never actually run a 10K distance, and I felt OK upon finishing my usual 45-minute run yesterday (I go about 4.2 miles in the 45 minutes–yes, I am slow) so I just kept going, and I did it! My legs were tired, but it was doable. I just had to share. šŸ™‚

It took me a little under 1:06. I think I have some hope of breaking 1:00 in the actual race, so I think I will set that as a goal. I badly want to say something here like “but it really doesn’t matter.” But Gina Kolata informs me (via Fat Girl on a Bike) that although the bad news is, younger women runners may tend not to take their running seriously or to feel like they are “allowed” to be competitive unless they are elite athletes, the good news is that women in the higher age groups (like 50-54) are kicking younger butt in races. The experts she interviewed believe that this may be because women tend to be less inhibited about being or “appearing” competitive (or IMO on the flipside, risking looking foolish e.g. “Who does she think she is?” if we don’t meet a goal) as we get older.

Let it be said that I think the Reebok “Run Easy” ad campaign (which Mo Pie at Big Fat Deal wrote about a while back) is an easy target, and criticism of it like that in the article–mostly out of people like the self-righteous wing of the Runner’s World crowd, which, like that bunch really needed any more opportunities to feel like they’re better than everyone else–is not unlike the sneers that come out of the “anti-obesity” mob whenever someone proposes that fat people can improve their health through HAES or even anything less punishing than the most spartan diet and exercise regimen. (It’s funny how trolls love to tell fat people that all they need to do is, like, “take a walk once in a while” and stop mainlining donuts, but along comes something like “Run Easy” and the same folks start bloviating about how Reebok is just encouraging obesity. Wait a minute, I thought the problem was that fat people were glued to the couch and stuffing their pieholes 24/7–now it’s just that we’re not running hard enough? Gee, these naturally thin people sure know a lot about the details of my diet and exercise habits, and exactly what I need to change in order to be just as thin as they are! One RW commenter, I shit you not, made a slippery slope argument that somehow this ad campaign would let fat lazy resource-squandering Americans off the hook to believe that driving in your Hummer was the same as running. Again, I swear I am not making this up.) I personally think the message of the “Run Easy” campaign (as described on the web site) is a really great one–exercise in a way that makes you feel good and that you love, and avoid injuring yourself.

Apart from all the moralistic ridiculousness described above, not everyone sees a need to race in the first place. To me one of the advantages of running is I can pick out a nice area that I enjoy walking around in, and then I can see even more of it in a shorter time because I’m going faster. For most people, I think staying in shape; getting some alone time, Vitamin D, and fresh air; enjoying the scenery if you live in an area where that’s possible; and the stress reduction benefits of running (or walking, or cycling) are probably plenty.

And it’s not like your health improves the faster you run; I tend to think that as long as your heart rate is elevated to an appropriate degree, you’re getting the benefit of whatever cardiovascular exercise you choose, and at some point running faster probably increases wear and tear on your joints and your risk of injury, all other things being equal. So I see getting faster as a goal you pursue for its own sake (which is not to say that it is not a worthwhile goal–certainly I am the last person to believe that every goal in life should be connected with “health” per se), which is why I think the reasoning of most of the “Run Easy” detractors is a load of crap.

But since I am signed up for a race anyway, and I do see that the article might have a valid point about women suppressing their competitiveness and that this is probably not a great thing for women in general (or for me in particular since I am so loathe to “look stupid” or “put myself out there,” which I need to get over), I might as well start putting Kolata’s findings to the test, my minor quibble about the “Run Easy” thing notwithstanding. I think the Cool Runnings 10K training program is probably a good choice, except I don’t have 12 weeks so I’d have to compress it, or find an “emergency” training program, and just do what I can to get a little faster before the race.

There are two things about this idea that scare me:

1) I am not fast. When we did the 50-yard dash in school, I was always the kid crossing the finish line like 5 seconds behind everyone else. I was churning my short fat legs as fast as they would go, but that was the best I could do. If you haven’t experienced this, let me tell you: It’s discouraging and once you do it several times for various Field Days and Presidential Fitness Challenges and such, it’s enough to convince a kid for… oh, let’s say, about 20 years afterward… that she’s just not athletic, so there’s no point in trying. So anyway, even if I completed all their recommended fartlek (hee) and hill training and such with the goal of getting faster, it’s likely that I would still not be objectively “fast.”

You might say that I should be competing against myself and the focus should be on getting as fast as I can be, not as fast as someone else can be, but I can already anticipate the disappointment of knocking myself out and then not really getting that fast. And then the self-doubt would creep in: “You didn’t train as hard as you could have… this is because you’re lazy and didn’t really go flat-out in that one hill-training session…” I’m not sure I’m really up for feeling that way.

I also think that physically, I enjoy the runs I do now (although they are hard, don’t get me wrong–if anything I tend to push my heart rate too high) whereas I doubt I would enjoy the interval training. What if I put myself off running altogether? Worry, worry, worry.

2) Ironically (or perhaps “totally expectedly, duh”) I find that the “Activity Points” focus of Weight Watchers actually makes it a little more difficult for me to get over the mental hurdle of starting to “train” versus just logging x minutes or miles y times per week. The thing is, I need those Activity Points–my appetite is much larger than the number of points WW allows me, but when you add in the 8 or 9 APs I can get in a typical run, that’s closer to the ballpark. 10K training programs typically include shorter runs, intervals, and crosstraining days that would reduce the number of APs.

So I guess the question is, do I care? WW people reading this would probably go “Just eat less on those days” whereas sane people reading this would probably go “Scrap WW and the APs and save yourself some money and stress.” I guess I am somewhere in between those two ideas, probably (I flatter myself) closer to the “sane people” side. My rational brain is going “Why the fuck do you put any stock in this stupid Activity Point concept in the first place?” But again, and you’re going to get sick of reading this if you haven’t already, I am not sure the Evil Diet Brain is ready to make that leap.

OK, so I think what I’m going to do is figure out today the best training schedule for the 4 1/2 weeks I have remaining before the race, and just start it tomorrow. If I hate it I can always either quit signing up for races, or just return to my usual schedule and accept that I’m in future races for fun, not speed. But who knows–maybe I’ll actually enjoy it.