Reluctant Runner: Rediscovering my Pace with CT5K

Finding “balance” in grad school often means that something gets cut—sleep, exercise, a social life. And at Friedman, it can feel like you are surrounded by the highest of achievers with the best of habits — How do they do it all?! In her final semester at Friedman, second-and-a-half year NICBC student Erin Child rediscovers her inner runner and finally makes time for exercise.

In the eighth-grade, my cross-country team qualified for states. On the day of the race, we drove up with proud parents, coaches, and friends to cheer us on. It was a beautiful and clear late October day in Maine.

I came in last. DEAD LAST.

So dead last, in fact, that the race officials had turned off the clocks, unaware that there was still a kid on the course. Red-faced and mortified to my core, I finished the race, and then promptly quit the team. However, this proved to be a hollow gesture, as it was the end of the season.

At the end of that school year, we all received our obligatory trophies. My cross-country plaque read:

Erin Child

We hope you had fun

I am not kidding.

After a brief flirtation with Track & Field that spring, I never ran competitively again. Up until that point, I had been a relatively athletic kid, playing softball in the spring and basketball every winter. Running was something I had started in junior high. Though I was not particularly fast (I never got below a 10-minute mile), I did find it satisfying. But between the tragicomedy of cross-country states and the transition into high school—where if you did not play a varsity sport your athletic life was over—I stopped exercising and inadvertently became a statistic. Did you know that at age 14, girls are twice as likely to stop playing sports as boys?

In college, I rediscovered exercise as a constructive way of managing stress and anxiety. Finding my “balance” then meant sacrificing sleep. A choice I can no longer make a decade later. Throughout my 20s, I continued to maintain some semblance of an exercise routine, albeit with some underutilized gym memberships. When I went back to grad school at 29, something shifted in me and I simply stopped. I quit my gym before going back to school (as the school gym was “free”), but then never bothered to find or use the gyms on either campus. Finding a school-life “balance” meant that exercising dropped off the map. And after the first year of Friedman, I felt like a slug.

That summer, I decided I was going to get my groove back. Interning in San Francisco would give me ample opportunity to hike the hills, and you can’t turn a corner without hitting a yoga studio. But irony of ironies, I broke my foot four days before I left and spent my summer in a boot. And another year quickly swept by. Nothing.

This past summer I turned 31, and decided it was well beyond time to get up and get going. Not sure where to begin, I downloaded the CT5K (Couch-to-5K) app and quite literally got off the couch. The first time out felt amazing. I felt taller and stronger. But as the weeks went by, and the summer humidity kicked in, I struggled. I took weeks off. But I kept going. Slowly. Really slowly.

As I write this, I am one day away from completing the training sequence. I have moved from what could have only been a 13-minute hobble to a 11.5-minute mile. On Thanksgiving morning, I plan on running the 4-mile Turkey Trot with my very athletic extended family. I am one-hundred percent sure I will be bringing up the rear, but this time I am prepared and okay with it. (Editor’s Note: Erin reports coming in 65th of 70 runners, completing the 4 miles in 48 minutes. She would also like to note that it was 19 degrees and windy.)

Completing the CT5K sequence flipped a switch in me. My interest in exercise, and getting stronger and faster, is back. I signed up for one of the mini-courses over at the Medford gym (hello, 7am Friday Spin class with Professor Sara Folta!), as well their free group training sessions. If these options are news to you (like they were to me) I suggest checking them out before you graduate.

To all of you out there trying to find a balance between grad school-sleep-exercise-relationships, I see you. “Doing it all” is impossible. Do your best and you will find your way back to whatever was missing.

Erin Child is a second-and-a-half year NICBC student in the dual MS-DPD program. She is graduating from Friedman in December and will be finishing up at Simmons in May. Erin is quite excited for the change of pace (pun intended) the next semester will bring and plans to keep running through the winter. She intends to run a 5K (or two) in the spring—making it across the finish line before the clock stops.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

1 comment on “Reluctant Runner: Rediscovering my Pace with CT5K

  1. Sara Scinto-Madonich

    You Go Erin! I’m cheering you on!

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