YOU GUYS. I DID A 5K. Even a few days afterward, it's still fun to say -- and it's so exciting to tell people.
When I initially found out I'd be participating in the DuPage Human Race with the Fittest Loser contestants, I had only three goals in mind: 1) To finish; 2) To finish in less than an hour; and 3) Not fall.
Melynda Findlay, 49, Arlington HeightsStarting weight: 226
Current weight: 197
Weight lost this week: 0 pounds
Total weight lost: 29 pounds
Total percentage lost: 12.8 percent
Logically, I knew I'd finish. I regularly do three miles on the treadmill, and even more than that on walks in my neighborhood. The real issues were how long it would take and the not-falling thing (my clumsiness is legendary).
Early on, those things worried me enough that I tried to think of excuses not to do the race. For example: The event was on a Saturday. On Friday, I had big plans that included an all-day conference for work in Chicago and a band I wanted to see later that night. Getting up early to run would be a struggle! Plus, let's be real for a second. I'm almost 50 and overweight with bad knees and a sometimes-sore hip. I probably shouldn't do this, right?
But my trainer, Push Fitness owner Joshua Steckler, told me not only could I do it, it would be a valuable experience. "I want you to see what it's like to be part of a fitness-minded community," he said.
OK. He made an excellent point. Plus, the run -- hosted by Giving DuPage -- benefits several local charities.
"But it'll take at least an hour, maybe longer," I told him. He just laughed, shook his head and said "No. It won't. And you'll feel such a sense of accomplishment when you're done."
Apparently Josh had a lot more confidence in me than I had in myself, but he's the expert. I was in.
I practiced outside as much as our weird, delayed spring weather permitted. I got tips from friends who are serious runners. I spent approximately a jillion dollars on several pairs of special anti-blister running socks and what I assumed would be a lifetime supply of fabric Band-Aids (the box lasted three weeks). My boyfriend, Brian, signed up to run, too. I was so ready!
EXCEPT THAT I WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT READY.
I woke up late. I was pretty anxious. It was cold outside, and I wasn't sure how much to layer up for it. I somehow managed to leave without my iPod, which meant no music. I stood at the starting line with Josh, who was running with me, absolutely positive I couldn't do this.
But I did do it!
I ran a few short intervals but walked a lot of it. Josh kept me going at a good pace while also reminding me that this was "just a Saturday morning walk, so don't worry." There was a lot of uphill on the course (Both ways! And possibly also bears; who is to say?)
About halfway through, I really wanted to stop. My hip hurt from the inclines. My knees hurt. The cold I'd felt coming on for the past 24 hours made my head feel a little swimmy.
But then I remembered an excellent piece of advice from my friend Brandi, who runs marathons and Ironman triathlons. Among other things, she said having a mantra would help -- a positive phrase I could repeat in my head to keep myself going.
So over and over again, I said to myself "I can do this. I'm strong. Just keep going." And before I knew it, Josh, Brian and I were closing in on the end, where Brian's parents were cheering me on with a big sign.
"Are you ready to run across that finish line?" Josh asked me.
And I did.
I finished in 52:57, which was a much better time than I'd expected. I didn't trip over anything. And Josh was absolutely right: The sense of accomplishment was immediate and immeasurable.
And you know what else? After all my hand-wringing and worrying, I ended up having a lot of fun, too.
So much so that, even before we'd left the parking lot, I was already thinking about trying another.
• Melynda Findlay is a multiplatform copy editor at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 19 years. She just completed her first 5K!