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October 2013

Tom Lishman - Beginner's 5K, Half-Marathon Programs

In 2012, I had a conversation with a cardiologist who told me to either start exercising and lose weight or have my medication increased. At that time, I began running and couldn't even complete a quarter-mile because of pain in my calf muscles.

I eventually reached 3 miles running, and someone suggested I find a group instead of running by myself. I searched the internet and happened across your group, which was offering training for a beginner's 5K. I liked the sound of that, because I definitely considered myself a beginner. And truth be told, I didn't think of myself as a runner, but as a guy who needed exercise. I viewed runners in clubs as somewhat obsessive types and I wasn't at all sure I belonged there.

Nonetheless, I joined and that's when I met Robin, Anna, Nancy, and Ginny, all of whom were very nice people and who were consistently helpful and supportive. 

Through Robin and the other coaches I learned the fundamentals of form and other important information only runners know: "Keep your head up! Keep your arms up! Swing your arms back and forth!”  “Don't over do it!”  “You need to buy running shoes one size larger than you normally wear. Go to a running store and have someone measure your feet and try on different shoes.”  “You are going to roast in those cotton shorts!" I didn't know anything about any of this prior to joining your group.

As the weeks progressed, the running length and difficulty gradually increased. I remember running from the gate at Goucher towards the tennis court area, and running both doglegs. It was a real challenge at the time, but I'm sure it would be less so now. And surprisingly, the coaches ran with us!  This is not what I expected at all. I thought I would be told to go do this, and I'd meet the coaches back at the beginning.

And as time progressed, I improved, thanks to the ongoing knowledge and encouragement of the coaching staff. And I want to point out that Robin gave me an emotional push at the time I needed it! Eventally I ran my first 5K in June of 2013 around lake Montebello. That was my first race ever!

One of the things I noticed as a beginner was the amount of drop out in the beginner's group. There were many people who showed up for a week or two and then never came back again. I realized that there is no substitute for me showing up and doing the actual running, and continuing to run when I'm not with the group. At the end of the training, there were three runners who completed the group including myself. Because of the training and my commitment, I was able to run that 5K in a little over 30 minutes. Yea me!

I ran into Robin one day at Goucher after the group ended, and she invited me to come to the track and do speed work on Thursdays. I thought I'd do that and then decide what to do next. Perhaps I'd join a group to run a 10K, although that seemed far at the time.

Somehow, I found myself at a group to run a half-marathon. Insanity! "That is sooo far and so beyond where I am at the moment, but maybe I'll train with them just to keep myself in shape."

Those were my thoughts at the beginning of the half-marathon group. So of course I joined the beginner's group! I asked two of my coaches if I even belonged there, and they both said, "Yes!" without even thinking about it. I thought to myself, "These women are crazy! I know me, and this is way too far." And this time there were going to be runs at Loch Raven. Up hills, I heard. So I went with trepidation, but I tried to keep an open mind. What was most important to me at the time was not letting myself down by quitting. The coaching remained the same consistent, excellent, helpful, supportive coaching it had been in the beginning with some new faces, including Hugh, Jenny, and Tom. And I was happy to see Anna and Ginny from the spring, because they gave me a feeling of continuity.

Sure enough, there were hills at Loch Raven, and the run lengths gradually increased. One of the things that Robin told me in the spring was that you build strength by running hills. There is a park near home in Hampstead (Carroll County) that has some pretty good hills up, so I'd been running them over the summer and during the half-marathon training. I think that running those hills contributed to me feeling confident that I'd be able to run the hills at Loch Raven. I gradually developed the mind-set for myself to keep going, and I gradually improved my distances on those hills. So Loch Raven became doable. And as I progressed at Loch Raven, I gradually began to believe that running a half-marathon was possible for me. At the same time, we also worked on running a consistent pace at Goucher. And I met some really nice people who were training with me, which made the whole experience more enjoyable.

Eventually, race day came for me at the BRRC NCR Half-Marathon. I had two goals: finish the half-marathon, and secondly, run the whole thing. Don't walk!

This was my second race ever, so I had no idea what to expect. I found a comfortable pace that pushed myself a little bit but that didn't wear me out too quickly. I encountered some difficulties during the race. I learned what chafing was, and how much that hurts! Ouch! And I had two toes that had given me trouble in the previous weeks really start to hurt. Fortunately, the pain came and went so I kept going.

“Keep going!” That was my mind-set through out the race. And I did it! I finished! I was never so happy to see a finish line in my life! And yes, I'm really proud of myself. I never thought I'd be running this far, ever!

Thanks BRRC, for showing me what's possible, and for giving me the training and tools to achieve it. I'm floored by how supportive and free with advice and information everyone on the coaching staff has been. You are all awesome coaches and amazing people!! I am so fortunate that I found BRRC; words don't really do it justice. Thanks again, Tom, Hugh, Ginny, Jen, Robin, Anna, and Nancy. Wow! I'm really touched by what you've done for me and my fellow trainees. Amazing.


Tom Lishman