On Becoming a Runner (pt. 1)

I can clearly and completely remember the first time I went running for exercise.  I was in college, in the early 90’s.  I had always been athletic, even pretty fast as a kid, but had, in my gloomy adolescence, shunned all athletic activities.  The famous “freshman fifteen” were threatening my body and I was determined to fight them off.  My then boyfriend was an athlete who introduced me to the weight room and I signed up for aerobics classes.  I watched my diet and not only fought off the fifteen, but went home at semester break almost fifteen pounds lighter than when I started.  I soon tired of the classes and was looking for something new.  This was before fitness centers and open gyms were on small campuses, and I wouldn’t have even known where to find a treadmill.  Just off school grounds, there was a reservoir with a concrete loop around it that was popular for walking and running.  The same boyfriend took me out there, new sneakers and all, and gave me some tips.  I thought I was in pretty good shape after bouncing around the gym but, upon my first lap, I was completely disheartened.  Running hurt, it sucked, my ego was badly bruised and I stopped.  I fought with the boyfriend, who lacked the patience for my meltdown, and vowed to never do it again.  

But I did...by myself.  Slowing it down, learning to breathe.  It wasn’t far, it wasn’t fast, but I could do it.  I started to sneak glances at Runner’s World magazine, while never feeling like I really joined the club.  In my mind, my 3 miles here and there at my 9 minute-mile pace surely did not qualify me as a “runner.”  But, over the next few years, I got a little faster, I ran a few 5Ks (I loved racing), a few 5-milers and a few 10Ks.  I married the college boyfriend, who took up marathons and triathlons and soon my small races really seemed like nothing, and the sideline years began.

I was the supportive wife, driving around, dropping water bottles around town for him to grab on his long runs.  I would cross a few boroughs during the NYC marathon (as support) and I would entertain our kids during the long breaks during his first half-Ironman.  I was always at the starting line, the transition areas and the finish line, usually flanked by the kids, usually cheering and usually wishing I was doing the race.  

Moving forward a few more years, through a divorce and all that comes with it, I became a certified Spinning instructor and love doing it.  I started running again, logging just enough miles to complete 2 Turkey Trot 5-milers, and then I started to feel it.  I was teaching a lot of classes and would have horrible heel pain after even running a mile and just figured it was too much for my body.

Because I was enjoying teaching classes, I really didn’t feel too bad about not running.  I would often tell myself (and others), “I’m just not a natural runner,” or “My body is just not built for distance running,” or  “I’m much more comfortable on the bike.”  But deep down, I really missed the challenge.  Running was a challenge for me.  It didn’t come easy, but that’s what made it so great.  I re-visited some "bucket-list" notes I had made years ago and saw the marathons and triathlons listed there.  Even though I am great at encouraging others to move beyond plateaus and comfort zones, I couldn't imagine how I could add anything else in to my busy life...


Anonymous said…
I completely understand what you are saying about running--I dread it. I haven't run on the treadmill for two years but the other day I decided to go back to it. I thought I would start walking but that competitive spirit did emerge and it felt great. You do get lost in it and I was surprised that I had done 20 minutes. But the next couple of days my body did pay for it. I haven't run since but I will try again. Tomorrow is a new day!!!

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