The RUNdamentals – Training for My First 5km Run

The RUNdamentals – One “Noob’s” Running Saga

Training for my First 5km Run

Becel Ride/Stride for Heart


Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the rundown leading towards my first 5km run, I thought I’d briefly explain how much of a “noob” I am to distance running.


I’ve always HATED running for long distances. I’ve avoided them like the plague. I would jog for 20 – 30 minutes on a treadmill or the occasional outdoor run for cross training/fitness, but that’s about it. I ran with no intent or intensity, merely to maintain what little cardio/endurance levels I possessed. I had played volleyball for 25+ years, indoor and beach, loved playing basketball when I could, and shot a round a golf when I had the money… even squeezed in some curling when the opportunity arose. Short ballistic, quick movements, resting inbetween… these are things I know, and know well. My inexperience at running any distance longer than 100m, compounded with my loathing for endurance runs, seemed to already put me behind the black ball before even getting started. Sustaining movement for 30-minutes with no rest or break was extremely foreign to me. So, to say I’m new to distance running could arguably be an understatement.


So, Then Why Run?


Since I started working at The Runner’s Academy (, over 2 years ago as a Registered Massage Therapist, I’ve treated a ton of runners. From a THEORETICAL point-of-view, I’ve always understood what they were experiencing based on their symptom picture. They come in with their injury or pain, I assess and palpate the areas or “chains” I think are affected, and I treat them to help them return to function and/or decrease their pain. But I never really understood what their pain was about. I originally had an attitude of, “I don’t need to have Cancer to understand how to treat it.” Similarly, I thought I didn’t need to run to treat runners. While a part of that holds true, it’s also clearly short sighted. There clearly lies an opportunity in my practice to understand from a PRACTICAL point-of-view to understand, first hand, EXACTLY what my patients/athletes are going through. As I had mentioned before in my intro blog, (quick link here:, I’d be a fool to not take advantage of the knowledge and resources available to me at The Runner’s Academy in learning how to run. I just needed to find the right motivation (read: I was scared to even start), to begin long distance running.


My colleague, Dr. Brittany Moran, DC (, put together a charity run team to raise money for the Becel Ride/Stride for Heart event. She asked the staff members at The Runner’s Academy to join. I initially had no intention of joining. But seeing everyone sign up, and considering it was for a good cause, I decided to join in on the “fun”. There’s actually a history of heart disease in my family, so I figured if I was going to start to run, why not it be for a cause near and dear to my heart (no pun intended). My Grandmother suffered a stroke when I was 16, and my Grandfather passed away from a heart attack when my Mother was only a young teenager, so I never had the honour or privilege of meeting him. Both my parents also struggle with high blood pressure, so piecing together motivation to run for a “hearty” cause (yeah… that one I meant), began to steam roll for me and I started training at the end of April.


The Training


So, where to start? I wanted to keep things relatively simple in approach.


Goals for Training:

  1. Get the body accustomed to running for 30-minutes without stopping – treadmill or on the road.
  2. Run 5km as close to 30 minutes as possible – Meaning running 6 minutes per km.
  3. Run inbetween 15 – 20 km per week.
  4. Don’t throw up at the end of runs (seriously… this was a thing for me).


So, to start off, I wanted to just get my body used to moving constantly for 30 minutes. No consistent run/walk methods (i.e. Run 5mins/Walk 1min, repeat), I just simply jogged/ran as far as I could, and when I felt my lungs blow up and could no longer run, I walked… and tried to keep that duration short, likely somewhere between 1 – 2 minutes. I didn’t use a watch, app, or anything on my person at that moment so was merely estimating at this point. My first run out was a total of 2.5 kms. Not much, but definitely a humble start. You have to start somewhere, and that’s where I started. It didn’t seem like much even though my body hated me every second of the way. It was painful, my lungs were burning, and I felt a bit nauseous, but I survived… and, no, I didn’t paint the pavement with my insides. After about an hour, I actually felt good. Yeah… that surprised me, too.


I was on my way with training. I kept a fairly consistent schedule in the first 2 weeks. I was running every other day. Some days were outside; some days were inside on the treadmill. Eventually, running for 30 minutes became “easier” (and, man, do I ever use that term loosely), and I was surprisingly up to running 5km just after that first week – Goal #1 reached. By the third week, I focused on my 2nd goal to consistently run 5 km in and around 30 minutes, averaging 6 minutes per kilometer. I had downloaded the Strava app to my iPhone in order to keep track of my distances, routes, splits and overall time. I like the app a lot, but I find using my iPhone very inconvenient. Eventually, I’ll invest into a Garmin or some sort of GPS tracker (read – future blog post ;). Regardless of the inconvenience, I had to make due, so with ear buds in, I “ran with Strava.Strava was very useful because it would announce when I reached the ½ kilometer and 1 kilometer points in my run. At the ½ km point Strava would indicate my projected 1km split, and at the 1km it verified what time I achieved. I found this helped me enormously to help me keep on pace, especially for a “noob” like me who was still getting accustomed to what 6-mins/km felt like on the body. It was always a seesaw battle with time vs. distance. If I felt my body started to fatigue, I’d slow down for a bit, listen to the time, and if I started falling behind, I’d try and pick up the pace once I felt my body bounce back a little (i.e. second, third, and sometimes fourth “winds”). Without that digital voice in my head, I don’t think I’d be as efficient as I was. The trick is to remember how to remember to do the same thing without Strava chirping in my ear. I knew I didn’t want to run with anything on my person on the day, so developing “muscle memory” would be important.


Intertwined with my “long runs”, I chose to do my speed-interval work indoors on a treadmill. It was efficient and suited my schedule since I have a gym inside my condo. That’s about as “advanced” with my speed-intervals as I got. With the summer upon us, I’ll move things outdoors. The thing I liked about using the treadmill was I could easily control how fast and how long I could jog and run, and keep track of my progress. During this cycle, I did 4 days total of speed-interval treadmill work and was able to increase my speed each time. The values I used were:


1st Day – Jog speed set to 4.0 / Run speed set to 4.8 (this was entirely too slow for me, but I felt I had to begin quite modestly. I did a run the day before, and my legs hadn’t quite recovered. Unbeknownst to me, I had more juice than expected).

2nd Day – Jog speed 4.5 / Run 5.0

3rd Day – Jog speed 4.8 / Run 5.5

4th Day – Jog speed 4.8 / Run 6.0


With my combined runs outdoors and on the treadmill, I was statistically reaching 20km week, and was consistently able to run 6-mins/km on average. And I’m very happy to note, not since that first outing I never felt nauseous or “chucked” at the end of any runs.

It had looked like my short-term goals were achieved, and I was sustaining my mileage and speed. I was quite happy considering the short time I had been training (3 weeks approximately). I found my training was going very well until…


The Injuries 

I always joked that I wasn’t built for endurance/distance running… and when my feet and ankles flared up, getting plantar fasciitis and 3 types of tendinitis, I jokingly confirmed with my colleagues and patients that I definitely AM NOT built for it. I was only running 20km per week. Surely, I should be clocking in more mileage before getting tibialis posterior, peroneal, and calcaneal/Achilles tendonitis (that’s right, 3 types of tendonitis), compounded with plantar fasciitis?!?! Seriously, WTF? It really did seem like the running gods did not want me part of their clique. My heels hurt, both my ankles were inflamed and slightly swollen, with my right being much worse than my left. My Achilles looked fatter than normal, and it felt hot on both the posterior aspect of my calcaneal bone (back of the heel), as well as hot on the medial and lateral aspects of the calcaneus (inside & outside of the heel bone respectively). Lying in bed, my heels felt like lead. I could feel the pressure in my heels as they felt like they were sinking deeply into my mattress while I tried to sleep. Below are links to some general definitions and pictures to explain what I was going through, in case you’re not familiar.


Plantar Fasciitis:


Muscles of the ankle:


But even before all that happened, I had “turf toe” in my big, left toe ( The feeling I had was as if my big toe knuckle (or MTP/Metatarsal phalangeal Joint), had to “crack” but wouldn’t, so I had Dr. Moran take a look at it. She took a look at my shoes and asked me, “Do your feet have enough room in those shoes to move?” I thought I did… but my symptoms clearly were telling her they didn’t. The turf toe hadn’t been preventing me from running, but it definitely wouldn’t go away if I stayed in the same shoes (I was running in the Adidas Adizero Feather 4 Runners).

So, luckily Adidas was having a sale, and I heard mixed reviews about their “Boost” line but thought I would give them a shot. I knew I should be properly fitted, but I felt pressed for time, and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on new shoes, so I settled for the Adidas Adizero Boston Boost 5’s, (they were on sale for $105 from $150). FYI, the Adidas store I bought the Boost’s from (the Adidas store @ 10 Dundas East, Yonge & Dundas downtown Toronto), mentioned that they have a hassle free return policy on their shoes, which made the investment and switch a “What have I got to lose” scenario…


So, I started running in them… immediately… and, no… I clearly didn’t give enough time to break them in properly. Bringing me back to my plantar fasciitis.


Over the Victoria Day long weekend, after my Sunday run, I was walking to my car to go for brunch when I felt prickly thorns in my sock, poking at my heel. It was as if the thorns of a burr had fallen into it. I kept sweeping my index finger in through my sock and shoe and even took my shoe off to try and shake out whatever it was poking at my foot. I thought it strange nothing was there, but didn’t think much about it until it really started to bother me while I was sitting down eating. So, mid-meal, it dawned on me that it might be plantar fasciitis. Once I got home, I whipped off my shoe and sock, thumb stripped through my heel (a Massage technique), and felt all the adhesions all around my heel and the bottom of my foot. It feels like going through tiny bubble wrap stuck in your foot. Some Massage Therapists call them “crunchies”. And when I looked at my feet and ankles further, my right ankle was quite puffy… not sprained puffy, but enough that you could tell something was wrong. My left one had the same look, just less so.


The likely cause? Transitioning to a new shoe without breaking them in first. A “noob” mistake, but lesson learned, and I’m sure it’s one of many I’m going to make and learn from.


The Good: This gives me a better understanding of what my patients/athletes are experiencing from a symptomology point-of-view. That’s not to say I know exactly what they’re going through, since many of them clock an enormous amount of miles and train much more intensely than I do. Rather, if someone comes to me and says, “My feet feel hot and prickly after I run.” I now have a better understanding of what they mean, and I can further wrap my head around it and be able to treat them more effectively.


The Bad: I had to be off my feet for a few days until the inflammation calmed down. This led me to…


The Therapy

I sought out a rigorous blend of Massage Therapy, Chiropractic, Contemporary Medical Acupuncture (aka electro-acupuncture), rolling and contrast hydrotherapy to expedite my recovery. I took the rest of that week off from running to give my feet a rest. I really didn’t want to aggravate things further than I already had.


Massage Therapy – to assist in breaking down adhesions and calming down inflammation in my heels, plantar surface (or soles) of my feet, and around my Tibialis Posterior/Peroneal/Achilles tendons. I also needed a ton of work done on my calves to further reduce the tightness that had built up in them. Tightness in calves can easily contribute to the symptoms I had been experiencing, so I definitely had my gastrocnemius and soleus muscles addressed. My fellow RMT colleague who I usually do Massage Therapy exchanges with was gallivanting around Europe, so I turned to my students at the Student Clinic at CCMH (, where I teach to help me out. It’s a nice scenario where the students get to work on someone (i.e. me), with conditions they’ve been learning, and me… well, I get the therapy I so sorely needed.


Chiropractic/Contemporary Medical Acupuncture – I had both Dr. Moran, and Dr. Kris Sheppard, DC (co-owner of The Runner’s Academy), adjust my subtalar and ankle joints. Dr. Moran diagnosed my right Tibialis Posterior muscle was weak and wasn’t “firing”. She needled and stimulated bilaterally (both) my Tib Post muscles since I was experiencing discomfort in both anyway. She also adjusted through my ankle, metatarsals (or MTPs for short)sacroiliac joints (or SI Joints for short), and through my thoracic spine (T-spine for short), in order to help with hip functionality and thoracic rotation respectively. Dr. Sheppard, after looking at my right ankle, diagnosed that my right subtalar joint lacked movement because there also wasn’t any movement through my fibula. This lack of movement likely loaded up impact and force through my ankle, hence my major flare up on the right side. Some A.R.T. (active release technique), through the tissues around the calcaneus, peroneus longus/head of fibula, and adjustments through subtalar and ankle joints got my right ankle moving again, and further reduced some of the inflammation and pain I had been experiencing.


Rolling – Pretty simple. I interchanged a lacrosse ball and frozen golf balls on my foot. I also used the HyperIce Vyper on my calves and hamstrings, while I used the HyperIce Hypersphere on my glutes (supplied to The Runner’s Academy from our friends @ 360˚ athletics A lot of debate on weather rolling works or not right now in the science world, but I can’t deny how much better I feel after rolling… especially after the vibrating rollers I mentioned above, so I do it.


Contrast Hydrotherapy – Back in Massage Therapy school, Hydrotherapy was one of my favourite courses. I prescribe a lot of contrast hydrotherapy for my patients because it’s easy to do, and very non-invasive. To do this, I simply soaked in a hot bath with Epsom salts until I got my sweat on. Afterwards, I timed myself 3 minutes hot water (I was soaking ¾ of my body), and then I’d step out into a bucket of cold water for 1 minute. I repeated this cycle 4 times and then got out. I devoted about 26 – 30 minutes to do this. It usually took about 10 minutes to feel a sweat, and then another 16 – 20 to perform the contrast hydro.


The result? I was back to running that Sunday of the week. Only 6 days after I had initially experienced my ankle and foot pain.


Training resumed, and I was back on track. Shoes were broken in, and my symptoms had calmed down. After this rigorous week, I sought out Massage Therapy and Chiro treatments once a week each until the event. I rolled my feet and did contrast hydrotherapy every day. This helped keep me pieced together and quell my symptoms in preparation for…


Part 2 – Race Day… To Be Continued…

One thought on “The RUNdamentals – Training for My First 5km Run

  1. Mark, what a wreck you were, I had no idea. But good on you for giving a whole new sport a try. You’re pretty brave.

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