I grew up hating exercise. When I decided to run a 5K as part of my weight loss journey, it was very much out of character. Having never loved exercise, taking on something like a 5K when you aren’t athletic seems crazy. My journey wasn’t easy, but I did make the change and found that I not only have completed races, I actually enjoy exercise now.How to run a 5K when you are not athletic

How to Run a 5K When You Are Not Athletic

For years, I figured some people were born liking exercise and I was one of the unfortunate ones.

I must have gotten gypped when it came to the Exercise Love gene pool. As I continued on my weight loss journey, I have used the Weight Watchers Online program which rewarded me for exercise.

At that time in the program, Weight Watchers members were rewarded with more points if they exercised, and because I LOVE food, I started to work out.

Oh, I hated exercise with a passion and bitterly complained in my head throughout every workout. The only motivation that kept me going was the extra snacks I could enjoy in the evenings before bed. This was true for at least the first year.

A full year, people – a year of cursing the Weight Watchers corporate people in my head through every sweat session.

The truth is, I hated to sweat, I was terribly self-conscious, my thighs chaffed, and I was generally miserable. Yet I wanted to have at least 2 bedtime snacks (something salty and something sweet) so I kept on. I had always been a late-night snacker, often snacking after dinner and well into the evening until bedtime.

I am such a fan of snacks, that I even created a list of the best Weight Watchers FreeStyle Snacks and the ultimate list of Weight Watchers on the go snacks.

The Couch to 5K program 

I’m goal-oriented and I love a good challenge, and this type-A personality trait worked to my benefit. After I’d been exercising on a regular basis for about 6 months, first walking in my neighborhood and then using fitness equipment at the local gym, I learned about the Couch to 5K program. It promised that people of a normal fitness level could get into shape enough to run a 5K (3.1 miles).

I was skeptical but intrigued.

I’ll never forget the evening when I ran non-stop on the treadmill at the gym for 20 minutes. A breakthrough moment! I emailed my friend Jill, who was also on her personal trek to lose 100 lbs and was training for her first 5K at the time. (Jill is now a Personal Trainer and years later was my first partner in leading my Faithful Finish Lines program.)

Could I really do a 5K?! This was beginning to feel real. A 5K seemed possible.

Preparing to Run a 5K

Me, Sara, the fat kid picked last for the team in gym class — when I even WENT to gym class. Most of the time I tried to get out of it with a doctor’s note or any other excuse I could create.

I signed up for a 5K event in April because it fit my schedule. The race description said the course was challenging. My husband Mike, the kids and I drove out to look at it. “Challenging” in Colorado is an understatement. It was a trail straight up a mountain!

Too late now, I was committed. Thankfully it was out-and-back so the second half would be all downhill. My good friend Marnie, a very experienced runner, agreed to do the event with me, and my family was coming to cheer me on, so I knew I had moral support.

I was so nervous the night before the event, I barely slept. I know the process of going to run a 5k is common for many people to participate in these days, but this wasn’t common for me and I was a ball of nervous energy.

The night before I was about to run a 5K for the first time, my thoughts went to…

  • Would I trip over the starting line?
  • Would I finish?
  • Would I cry if I was last?
  • Would they take down the finish line while I was still out there running?
  • Just how long does a 5K stay open, anyway?

These were the thoughts that went through my mind at 3:00 am.

The First Time I Chose to Run a 5K

A perfect Colorado morning in April dawned. My friend Marnie and her husband were waiting for me. We lined up and Marnie talked me through what the event would entail. It was a small neighborhood gathering with a couple hundred people. A bullhorn sounded and off we went.

The race started with running over grass which proved difficult. Word to the wise – grass is not smooth for running. We began climbing up the mountain along a dirt trail. I kept my pace, which was slow but mine. I had a side stitch almost the whole time. I walked some and ran some.

Marnie chatted about a number of topics which was an excellent distraction. I had no clue what she was talking about but I was so glad she was talking.

I distinctly remember the turn-around seemed as if it would never, ever, ever come. Where is that #$%^& turn-around? What a welcome sight when it did! Downhill on the way back down was better and to the finish line.

Who is that athlete at the finish line? It’s really me! I hardly recognized myself in the pictures. These are some of the first pictures where I saw my weight loss as recognizable.


As you can see, most people can run a 5k with the right training.  Some time spent in the gym, getting up my stamina, and then having a great partner to do the race with was all it took.

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How to Run a 5K When You are Not Athletic

How to Run a 5K When You are Not Athletic

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