Catholic Exchange Virtual 5K

Long ago, before I had children, my husband and I would run in 5Ks all the time.  Footloose and fancy free, we thought nothing of plunking down $30 each to run three miles, eat a banana at the food tent, and walk away 40 minutes later with a new t-shirt and nice endorphin rush.

Then two things happened that changed our 5K ways.  Firstly, we ran a marathon.  I ran a couple of half marathons.  After training for longer distances like that, getting out to run three miles, let alone pay for it, just didn’t seem worth it anymore.  Secondly, we started having kids.  A lot of kids.  And forking over $60 for racing fees (not to mention finding someone to watch the kids while we ran), seemed a use of time and resources we didn’t want to invest.

5Ks slowly drifted out of my exercise landscape.

When I reached the final, grueling days of this last pregnancy, I told myself that as soon as I had medical clearance, I was going to start training for the Hartford half marathon, which is run in October.  Pregnancy weight does not melt off me, despite producing gluttonous babies who would like nothing more than to nurse all day long.  I’m the sort of person who can only lose weight by that brutal combo of diet and exercise, and training for a half marathon would certainly meet one of those requirements.

But, limping my way through the first postpartum exercise sessions, it became clear that having 6 kids in 10 years does things to a body.  The regenerative abilities I possessed in my mid-20s have not remained constant.  In fact, they have diminished at a shocking rate over this last decade.

Realistically, I would not be ready for 13.1 miles by October.  And, since I’m the sort of person who is very goal-oriented, admitting defeat on the race sent me into a spiral of self-pity.  Poor me, won’t be able to run as far as I want.  I’m not 20 anymore.  This mothering thing is really getting in the way of my professional jogging career.

Whine whine whine.  Blah.

Then I remembered the 5K.  The sweet, managable, healthier than sitting on the couch eating my 4th slice of pizza, 5K.

But I still didn’t want to pay for one.

But I still needed a race day for accountability.

So that’s when I got the Big Idea.  We can run/walk/limp/crawl a 5K together.  We’ll start training now, and on Saturday, September 29th, we’ll have the “virtual 5K”.

  • Mark out a 3.1 mile course.  Design your own run- flat? hilly? on the local high school track?  It’s your 5K, run it where you like.
  • Find a training program and try to stick to it.  There’s lots of good couch-to-5K training plans for you, but don’t feel like you have to run this thing.  The “run/walk/limp/crawl” thing is serious.  Just move your body 3.1 miles at some point on September 29th.
  • Set up a finish line and get a picture of you crossing it.  Send the picture to my email, and I’ll include it in the post-race blog post.
  • Print up this graphic and pin it/tape it to a white t-shirt.  Viola! Free race shirt.

All kidding aside, I think this would be a lot of fun.  A low-key, low-cost 5K that you get to run with people all over the world.

So what do you think?  Are you in?  Grab your jogging strollers, print out your training schedule, and join me on September 29th to run in the Catholic Exchange Virtual 5K.

(restraining myself from ending post with “It’ll be good for your sole.”)


Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Ana Hahn

    I LOVE this idea and would be signing up now if I were not currently housing a baby in a uterus that insists son contracting 10 times every 5 minutes while running…. so sad I can’t do it!! 

  • Oh no!  Yes, you definitely should sit this one out.  Unless you can find a jogging stroller large enough for you to sit in, and then convince your husband to do the run…?

  • This.

    I’m so excited!  I mean, I can barely limp/crawl to my own bed right now, but soon.  Soon, my friend!  

    p.s. I like to use for finding accurate distances on foot

    p.p.s. 2 laugh out loud moments: “professional jogging career” and that graphic.  Oh my gosh…the crawling dude?  Hysterical.

  • Count me in!

  •  A running friend of mine uses for inspiration.  I think it’s Twitter for runners.????

  • I’m in!  Will share with the ladies in our “healthy living” board and see if we can’t con a couple more into joining us!  Great idea!!!

  • I think I might actually have an account with them.  From back when I used to run all the time.  How did I have time for that?  I do not know…

  • This is BRILLIANT — we were just chatting on Twitter the other day about running …. I told my husband that many of my Catholic mom blogger friends run …. I think it’s so we can have some time to ourselves. 

    Will there be a link up somewhere, so we can support each other??

  • Oh, a linkup is a great idea.  Where should we have it?  I can do it here on the Exchange, or on my personal site.

  • You could do, like, a weekly check-in or something and we could share our posts about our progress.  Or lack of.  Or whatever.  Then you’d have Thursdays and some other day already taken care of every week!

  • Amy Ginski

    I’m with you, Cari! Anyone in the Memphis area want to join me? Shelby Farms. 7am.

  • Heck yeah, Amy!  I bet Jen would run it with you.  When is Sarah due?  I bet she’d be game if she were healed up enough by then.  Lisa and Janice may be convinced to walk it…
    …now here’s hoping that it’s not 7 million degrees that morning.

  • Melanie Donaldson

    well, I’m not Catholic, I’m not a young mom, but I am a former sort-of runner.  I can do this :>)   I know I can walk it, maybe even a fast walk.

  • You can do it!  Have Dad set up a finish line and some drink stations!

  • John

    My hat is off to you.  Sounds like fun.

  • Amanda Martin

    I love this idea.  And i think  my fam (hubs and kids) and I can get on board with this…even if we do end up crawling it 😛  We needed a goal…and a public commitment to kick us in the tookus 😛

  • Micaela

    Cari, I love this idea. (I would love it even more if I didn’t feel like somehow you are creepily inside my brain, thinking my thoughts. How did you know I had been thinking about the Couch to 5 K and wondering what race I could sign up for whilst living in Korea? How did you KNOW it would have to be virtual?I love you and all, but sometimes this is just too much.)

    Creepy factor aside, I am in. I just spent a week at the beach (bliss) and most of the mornings I jogged/walked/crawled on the beach just for an excuse to gaze at the glory of God’s Pacific Ocean. Now I am a little further inland and my jogging landscape isn’t so visually pleasing, but I’ll stick with it. For you. And for my post-pregnancy body that desperately needs it.

  • judy cartwright

    I’m in, but definitely will not be running it …

  • Yay Mom!  You should head over to the high school track for yours.  The spongy/bouncy track will be gentler on your knees.

  • Kevin

    Make it a real run. Like picking your course pick the organization that is “hosting” your portion of the race and make a donation to them! Your local food bank, St. Vincent DePaul, Church, Religious Group, Retired Religious, the list is endless.

    Then you get the true full effect of this Virtual Run.

    Oh yeah then find an image of the organization and print or cut it out and pin it to another part of your T-Shirt and wear it with pride!!

  • Kevin, this is genius, and I’m shamelessly ripping it off for all followup posts about the race.  

  • Elena akahappyhomemaker

    Fun! I was planning on running my first 5K in October so this will be a good practice. Thanks!

  • Sarah Nicholas

    Cari, thanks for volunteering me! I think! I will be almost 6 weeks post baby so maybe I could be the team spirit coordinator don’t think I will be up to running- walking yet. I will be there to cheer for others though. This is a great idea!

  • On my blog I started doing a Wednesday Weigh-in to coincide with my walking #100milesin100days and losing a 1/2 marathon (13.1 lbs). I have a link up and anyone is welcome to post their progress.

    My walking program ends Sept 18th and it would be great to top off my training with your virtual 5k. Great idea, Cari! I’ll make sure to give it a plug!

  • Colleen Martin

    How did I miss this post? I am so in!!!! this may just be the first race I will ever win 😉

  • Mary Kate Dempsey

    OK, OK… you’ve brought me to my knees. I. Am. IN. You have no idea how big this is for me. I’ll do it. I just don’t know if we can be virtual friends after it’s all over. I tend to despise any form of exercise. Hence my need for exercise.

    P.S. It was the limping guy on the walker from the logo that convinced me I could participate.

  • I can run/walk/limp/crawl too!  Oh yes I can!

  • Oh, Cari, awesome idea! So excited about this. I’m all about free 5Ks.

    And if anyone wants to join the West LA contingent, we should get in touch!

  • Steph

    Thanks for this! You are great- what a good idea. Making small goals is so important for progress AND having the peer support is too!!