Health: On the Run

I have lived in Iowa City for three years now. Each end of April brings the River Run 5K. This is the third year that I have sworn that I would do it. But unlike those other two years, this year I’m actually doing it. I have goals, a plan, and this is the year that I will run (and finish!) my first 5K.

Running is definitely not my favorite way to get in shape, but it’s cheap, requires minimal equipment and gets a good workout in fast. Since I’m such a novice runner, I asked someone who’s got a few miles under her belt (a few marathons, even) to help me out.

Becky Busanich, a doctoral student who runs in her free time, has helped me form a training program to get me going from start to finish line. She stresses three basic principles for training for a race, but these tools could be used to train for any mode of fitness.


Goal-setting can be difficult for some people, including me. But it can help make starting a running program–and keeping it up–much easier. Set short-term goals and long-term goals when making your training program.

My long-term goal is to complete the River Run 5K at the end of April. I’m not looking to run the race in a certain time or at a specific pace, but simply to finish. I gave myself enough time, six weeks, to train so that I can reach this goal. Each week leading up to it, I’m setting a smaller goal: go on three runs per week.

The key to goal-setting is being realistic. Creating goals that are too hard to achieve will discourage you from sticking to your program and reaching your final, long-term goal. My three runs a week goal allows me to put my runs on the days that work best with my schedule. Short-term goals are ways of evaluating how you are doing as you go. If you are having trouble, you can re-evaluate your long-term goal or change up your short-term goals.


If I could go out and run a 5K today, training would kind of lose its purpose and meaning. However, I cannot just bang out my goal right now, but instead, I’m working toward it slowly. Progression is important in a training program. It’s the idea of slowly building up to your goals.

I recently ran a mile-long race, so I started my training program with what I can do now. During the first week I ran a mile on each of the three training days. The second week I increased my mileage and ran a mile-and-a-half on each training day. The next increase will have me running two miles at each run. A 5K is 3.1 miles, so I will continue this progression until I can comfortably run three miles.

The most important part of this element of a training program is listening to your body. If increasing miles is too hard, stay at the current level until you are comfortable moving on. For non-runners like myself, working up to the goal distance bit by bit will help make the goal attainable. Also, if the body is tired, give it rest! Overworking and overtraining the body will hurt your training.


It’s easier to reach your goals and complete your race if you make training more enjoyable. If a treadmill drives you out of your mind, hit the asphalt and trails of Iowa City. If you don’t want weather or outside forces disturbing your focus, stay on that treadmill. Just keep it interesting and mix it up: change routes, alternate between treadmill and trails. A training program should fit into your schedule and easily become part of your life. If it’s too hard to fit in, you won’t stick with it.

Find something that keeps you going. Motivation is the essential ingredient that gets you from Day 1 of training to race day. One way to keep up with your pavement pounding program is to partner up. A friend can help keep you coming back to the workouts. If flying solo is your thing, get a good playlist on your iPod. Hitting that power song can help you push though that final mile.

Busanich also has a few other tips to help training. To monitor my progress toward the 5k finish line, I’m going to be keeping a running journal. Busanich recommends writing in it after each run and noting specific details like how far you went and how you feel afterwards. It’s a good place to write down and stay accountable to those short-term goals. Reviewing the journal can help motivate you more by seeing what you’ve accomplished so far.

Another tip she has to share is to cross-train. If you’re training to run, don’t feel like you have to run every day. My program has me running three days a week. That gives me extra days to walk, go for a bike ride, or try Pilates. I even have a whole day of rest built into my schedule, with room for more if my body needs it.

So this year, instead of wishing I had tried a 5K, I’m going to do it. Maybe this running thing will really take off for me. After all, Busanich said, “Get a good pair of running shoes and you can go anywhere.”

Kelly Ostrem is going to chase the dream in her blue Little Village t-shirt at River Run on April 26.  Come join her or cheer her on!

April Races near Iowa City

Date City Event
April 4 Williamsburg L.I.S. Panther Pride 5K/1 Mile Fun Run
April 11 Mt. Pleasant Mt. Pleasant Fun Run 3.4 Mile Walk/Run Prediction race
April 18 Marion Go the Distance for Crime Victims 5K
April 18 Muscatine Hayes Hustle Run/Walk/Relay
April 18 Washington Demon Dash for Cash 5K/1 Mile Run/Walk
April 19 Bettendorf Gilda’s Run for Laughs 5K
April 19 Iowa City Rehab Run 5K/Run/Walk/Wheelchair
April 26 Iowa City 30th Annual River Run 10K/5K

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