Life & Culture

Running my first 5k for Maccabi GB

Running rookie Alexia had never run for fun until she signed up for the Macabbi GB Community Fun Run. But first she needed some tips...


Until a couple of months ago, I had never attempted to run. Ever.

Sure, I cheated my way through runs in PE class and chased an occasional bus or two, but unless I had to run to save my life, running was just not an option.

Then, this spring, when our office began discussing the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run, a colleague suggested I give it a go. How hard could it be, right?

Very hard, I thought. I can’t do this. The one time I had tried, since my schooldays, my chest and throat were soon on fire and I didn’t make it past my street.

But, I told myself – new year, new me. And all for an amazing reason – the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run.

Enter Lauren Aizen, a fierce and brilliant personal trainer. After a brief talk, she’s ready to take on the challenge of teaching someone with a genuine fear of running.

“It won’t be easy,” she says. “You will have to do your homework.” My training will consist of one session a week with Lauren and two to three runs on my own each week.

I agree and the Running Rookie was born.

Two weeks later, I’m walking into Lauren’s personal training studio for my first running training session. In fact, my first exercise session of any kind since having my son. I’m nervous, but Lauren makes me feel comfortable and gets me on the treadmill right away.

Because I’m new to running, I will need to run for short periods of time and walk for short periods, she says – and repeat this until I can run more than I walk. Breaking each session into smaller chunks will make it easier and more fun to achieve my goals.

Between each running and walking interval, I will switch to flexibility and leg-strength training (anything is better than being on the treadmill). And here’s a great tip I learned from Lauren, running is about more than just running. To be able to properly run, you need to strengthen your legs and core.

First session down, I’m sweating and breathing harder than ever before, but I’ve done it. In total, I’ve run for eight minutes. Very impressed, if I do say so myself.

Next comes the homework, but now I’m confident. Look at me, I can run for eight minutes; I can totally do this. But I was forgetting a few things. One, I’ve been running on a treadmill, which I must admit does help with pushing you forward and two, I’ve been taking breaks to do leg and core strengthening in between each running/walking interval.

So when it comes to my first two-minute walk and one-minute run (to be repeated six times outside, on pavement, without stopping)… it’s truly a rude awakening. Finding myself taking short and choppy breaths, I try to remember Lauren’s second running tip, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. And make sure the breaths come from deep down. And as silly as it sounds, don’t forget to breathe.

As hard as the training sessions with Lauren are, it is encouraging having a voice in your ear telling you: “go on, you can do it, don’t stop”. A major push for me on my journey to running has been knowing someone is there and will not allow me to stop. Yes, this has caused a few stomach stitches and shin splints (the pain you feel in the front of your legs when running), but worry not! I have received wonderful tips for those as well.

To avoid shin splints, try picking up your heels more as you run. I didn’t believe it at first – but it makes a huge difference. And to deal with that horrible cramp in your stomach, gently push your fingers into the area where you feel pain that should help to relieve the discomfort to some degree. Next, try altering your breathing pattern: Take a deep breath in as quickly as you can, to force to diaphragm down. Hold your breath for a couple of seconds and then forcibly exhale through pursed lips. And there you have it, Lauren’s running tips three and four.

It’s now about a month until the big day – and still no blisters… yet. But also, I am proud to say I have been running for a bit longer each week. As we have seen, my training consists of one session a week with Lauren and two to three runs on my own each week as part of my homework. I have started to notice improvement in my running with each week that goes by. I can now run 1.5km, without stopping, in 13 minutes during my sessions with Lauren. OK, so I won’t be winning any gold medals any time soon, but it’s definitely worth a pat on the shoulder. And, I have now advanced to three-minute runs during my running/walking intervals. But as the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run gets closer, I can’t help but feel nervous about whether I will make it to my 5K goal.

With only three weeks to go, my running is progressing each week and, while I can now run for 16 minutes, it wouldn’t be a runner’s journey piece without my first injury. After experiencing pain in my left knee, I turn to Lauren for some advice on how to deal with my first injury as a runner. Her tip number five is: R.I.C.E. This stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate. And so I do, and put a hold on running for a few extra days, and voila, I am happy to say that, after some much-needed TLC, my knee is back to normal.

It’s nearly time. With the run just at the end of this week, I can’t believe how far I have come. To go from being out of breath after running 90 seconds to running my first 5K, I couldn’t be more surprised at myself. Every year I have attended the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run as a staff member of the Jewish Chronicle (media partner to Maccabi GB), but this year it’s my turn to run. Now don’t get me wrong, I will probably have to stop a few times to walk. But that’s OK; it’s only my first run and, if I have come this far in just a few weeks, I can’t wait to see how I conquer this run and the next. Here’s a tip of my own: be proud of yourself. You’ve done so well.

See you all at the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run finish line!



Lauren Aizen, Personal Trainer

21 Watford Way London NW4 3JH


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