I’m running my first proper 5k Pretty Muddy ‘Race for Life’ race in October, to raise cash for breast cancer research, and have come up against a few snide comments about the fact that it’s ‘just’ a 5k, and therefore not really worth any money.
Fair enough, it’s not far (although it does have obstacles and lots of mud, ha). But here’s why I think it’s still worth it.
- You have to start somewhere
For some, running 5k is super-easy – it’s their warm up, their ‘rest day’, their cheeky jog on a nice afternoon. For those who run properly, 5k is almost literally a walk in the park (especially at the speed I do it).
But if you’re not used to running, and you never have been, 5k is a difficult slog to get used to.
If we all told ourselves there was no point doing anything unless we started at intermediate level, then most of us would never start anything.
When I first started running on the Couch to 5k app a few months’ ago, I could barely do three minutes.
So for me so far – with my limited running experience ‒ a solid 5k is a proper run, a good effort, a nice challenge. And I’m OK with that. I’d love to build up my distance, but I’m not interested in becoming a pro runner or even particularly a marathoner, so for now I’ll stick to 5k, no matter what the girl running ahead of me is doing.
As the popular saying goes – even if I’m the slowest runner ever, I’m still lapping everyone on the couch.
- Regular discipline and making habits
Whether you run 2k, 5k, or 100k, running at least three times’ a week takes discipline, like any habit. Making any new habits is tough – it’s been proven that the brain prefers to be on autopilot as much as possible, so the body resists doing anything out of that norm.
The bit where you put your trainers on and get out the door is the same no matter how much you run in one go. 5k or 50k, that level of regular commitment is part of healthy habit-building, and should be appreciated as such.
In a world of ‘only the best, front-page-grabbing thing will do’, I reckon it’s worth remembering that the ordinary can also do good, too.
- A different kind of exercise
Even if, like me, you’re used to doing regular exercise, running is a whole other discipline. I’ve gone from years of dancing, Zumba, mat-based, intense HIIT and occasional weight-lifting to running.
Running, in case you needed me to remind you, is literally the Same. Movement. Over. And. Over. Again. And. Again.
Quite beyond the initial boredom of getting used to the repetition, it’s also a struggle to get your joints and muscles used to the grind, and when you’re not normally a runner, that can hurt in really weird places (shoulder? Lower back? Top of one foot?) – even for a 5k.
- Every little helps
I’m raising money for charity.
It won’t be a lot from me personally, of course, but it’s still for a good cause.
The run isn’t even the point; it’s just an excuse.
Even if I was scaling Everest twice on a three-legged donkey with my eyes closed, with no oxygen tanks, carrying up some fallen soldier’s honourable ashes as his mother’s last dying wish, that would still not be about the charity, that would be my own personal endurance quest.
It would take a phenomenal amount of effort and planning and training and mental heroics, and would be an incredible achievement in anyone’s book.
But from the point of view of the charity, it couldn’t really give a shit if I do 5k or 50k or zero k.
They just want the money. The cash is not really about putting a value on an activity, and it’s not about comparing my tiny run to other people’s tougher experiences or longer races.
It’s about the cause I’m giving to, and that’s always worth it, no matter how little.
- Culture of generosity
In a world where people are always raising money for charity, a little bit goes a long way. No, you can’t afford to give to everyone but asks, but if you can, just chip in what you can afford.
It’s about a culture of generosity towards charities, where you’re not congratulating the strongest, biggest, sexiest, most-followed fundraiser going – you’re giving cash to charities who need it.
You want me to give to you for your charitable cause? Then give a teeny, tiny bit to mine. I might get less than the person next to me, but every little helps. And we’re all helping each other.
You may have a limited amount of cash, and I totally get that. But compassion shouldn’t be in as short supply.
If, after all that, you feel able to sponsor my teeny tiny Sunday-afternoon stroll (Read: 5k run in knee-high mud), even if you can only spare a couple of quid, then please do. You’ll make my day and help fund research against breast cancer. : ) . Win.