A running start

I know many runners who started running when they were young, but I also know quite a few who started when they were older. Those who started later usually have a story about how and why they got started.

I was 36 when I started running, almost exactly 5 years ago (May 2010). The story of how I started isn’t particularly interesting, but when I look back and see how my relationship to running has changed things are very different.

At the time I started running I was relatively active, but I wouldn’t have said I was particularly fit – I would cycle most weekends with a small group of people, and I would spend about half an hour at the gym a few days a week. I would have liked to cycle more, but cycling requires quite a bit of time to have any real benefit (and with 2 young kids time was limited), and I wasn’t a fan of the gym at all.

That was when I decided, on a whim, to run the Highland Park 5k – I couldn’t tell you the last time I had done any running of any kind, and I had always thought that running was boring. I’m still not sure what made me sign up other than the fact it was right on my doorstep, but I put on my (incredibly old) gym sneakers and went out and ran it. It should be noted that I didn’t go out and prepare for it, I just did it.

The one race I will always do each year (at least I hope)

The one race I will always do each year (at least I hope)

The race had a good atmosphere – in part because I knew others who were there – it definitely brings out a good contingent of Highland Park residents, as well as people from further afield (the last couple of years there have been around 420 finishers). I can’t say that I was hooked after the run, but it was good enough for me to decide that maybe running wasn’t as bad as I had previously thought it was, so the next month I decided to buy some new running shoes and start running.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to do the Highland Park 5k every year mostly to check on progress, but also because of the people. Now I am lucky enough to be one of the race directors. This was something that happened last year when the previous race director was unable to do it and there was a scramble to find someone to take it on. Not wanting to lose this race, I managed to drag a friend in from the Raritan Valley Road Runners, who had experience organizing races, to help out.

Last year, given the relatively limited time to get it organized, it was a case of just making it happen, and trying to make sure the previous success was continued. This year, we looked at how to make it easier for the runners and for us, and have tried to make changes that we hope people will see as improvements. For example, the start and finish were previously separated by several blocks meaning runners would have to choose where to park and then walk between locations at the start or end, and we also had the added complication of two areas to organize. The previous start location was also on a major through route which made it a more difficult job for the police and less safe for the runners. The course change also takes the runners up a different hill from River Road than previously, which seems to be a little easier too. You can read a bit more about it in this Highland Park Planet article.

I still want to make it a point to race, so I will hopefully be at the start line, although the Newport 10k the day before may impact my time this year.

What’s your running story?


Running the Newport 10k again

The Newport 10k, the first Saturday in May, has been on the USATF Team Championship schedule since 2007 (and started before that), which is before I even started running. It has grown in size quite considerably since then and attracts a wide range of runners.

In a state where you can pick from multiple 5k races every weekend, the 10k distance is a little harder to find, and for those who have already run a few shorter distances and want to push themselves this is the ideal distance. When I started running I chose to run just my local 5ks and I wasn’t really aware of what else was out there until I joined the running club (but by that point I had signed up for a half marathon six months away and it was late in the year so there were very few races in that time period where I could try something in between).

The Newport 10k is a very flat course so it is probably an ideal choice for a first attempt at the distance, and it’s definitely a good choice for a PR if you already have some 10k races under your belt (so far I have managed a PR each of the 3 times I have run it). It also has a good atmosphere, and a picturesque course (on the whole). I wrote a comprehensive post of my experience there two years ago which can be found by clicking here – reading back on it I seem to have had fun despite the rain.

I wasn’t sure it would fit with my plans for this year (mainly because of my involvement in organizing the Highland Park 5k which unfortunately takes place the day after this race this year), but I’ve decided I’m in again for this year – I don’t expect to PR this time, but I’ll definitely give it a try.