Most beginning runners don’t get to ask a world-famous elite athlete for tips on running their first 5K. But a few days ago I got to do just that when I met ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek at a meet and greet at Herbivore Clothing.
Jurek was in town to promote his new book, Eat and Run, about his life as a record-setting athlete and a vegan. His events are usually super crowded, but his appearance at our local vegan goods emporium was under the radar. Only a handful of folks were there and we all had the opportunity to ask Jurek lots of questions.
I recently signed up for Northwest VEG’s Race for the Animals. While I regularly attend lots of group fitness classes and walk and even run a little, I haven’t participated in an organized athletic competition since elementary school. So I asked Jurek – who once ran 165.7 miles in one 24-hour period – what advice he had for running a first 5K.
Jurek was exceedingly sweet and enthusiastic when advising on such a tiny goal. “Embrace the experience,” he said. Instead of focusing on the competitive aspect, he recommended feeding off the energy of other people in the crowd. He said he runs races to harness that energy.
Calvin Smith, a personal trainer and my coworker at West Coast Health and Fitness, also gave me some good advice about competition. He warned me that it can lead to injury. The competitive nature really kicks in, he said, when you see someone pass you who you perceive as being less in shape than you are. I’d like to say I’m too enlightened for this behavior, but I can imagine this happening and will try to guard against falling into that ego trap.
I also talked to Ed Bauer, a personal trainer and owner of PlantFit Training Studio here in Portland. He’s a champion vegan bodybuilder, but not as experienced in running. Last year, his first race was the Race for the Animals. Being more athletically ambitious than I am, he started with the 10K. He survived and even seemed to enjoy it, because he’s doing it again this year. His advice for beginning runners is simple enough: Run. He recommended starting with a half mile, then three-quarters of a mile, building up so that you’re regularly running more than three miles by 5K race day.
I’ve been experimenting with running more in the last few weeks since I signed up for the race. The Race for the Animals is at 9:00, which is probably really civilized by race standards. But this hour usually finds me drinking coffee and reading the paper. I prefer my athletic feats a little later in the day. This means I have to kick myself in the rear to go out and practice running in the morning.
Since the 5K is in Forest Park, hills will be involved. So I’ve been practicing running up some hills. I’ve also run on a treadmill and a flat track, just for variety. I carry my stopwatch on runs to do timed intervals, running three minutes, walking one, running five, walking two. I’m pretty slow, but I think I’ll get there.