***Warning: If you aren’t a runner or remotely interested in running, this may be the most boring thing you’ve read. Ever. Trust me.***
I was never a runner….that’s what I’ve always said.
I would see people out running and think how nice it would be to be able to do something like that but knew I never would because “I’m just not cut out for running”. I would watch with curiosity while Jason got his gear ready for a race the next morning and could never understand why in the world he had to get up so early to be at a race that started at 8 and was 15 minutes away. It was, in fact, the most uninteresting thing to me in the world of exercise, mainly because I thought it was this big unattainable feat.
I had tried it before. I’d speed the treadmill up and go from a fast walk to a trot and I’d glare at the time ticking so slowly as I felt my legs burning and my chest tight because I could barely breathe. I’d press the button as fast as I could to slow it down and go back to my fast walk. I’d try it at the track. I would try to run the straight parts but most of the time I could barely make it from one end to the other before I thought I was going to absolutely collapse. “Who would want to do this and why am I even trying??” were a few of my thoughts. I would leave thinking, “I’ll just stick to walking.” and (again) “I’m just not a runner.”
It all started innocently enough last year, a few months after I had Zoe. I had started trying to ease into some type of exercise. I decided that taking some walks on pretty days would be one way to do it and I could bring the kids and push them in the stroller. My oldest daughter came too and on the days that it was too cold, she was sweet enough to offer to watch them while I went for my walk. My first walk consisted of walking to the first rest stop, which seemed far enough to me, and then walking back. If anyone is familiar with this part of the trace in Sumrall, you’ll know that I wasn’t exactly pushing it to the limit….in fact, my heart rate probably didn’t even change but I was trying. My next big venture was to walk all the way to the first car crossing, as I call it, and then go back. After a few times of doing that, I had the craziest thing come over me. I wanted to see if I could mix in just a few seconds of very slow
running jogging with my walking. I always assured myself that I didn’t have to do it for long and then I could go back to walking as soon as I felt like I needed to. So that’s what I’d do. I would push the stroller for a little bit and then I’d hand it over to Becka and inform her that I was going to run for a min or two. It was more like 30 seconds or a minute but little by little, things were changing. One day, we got to our turnaround spot and I told her that I was just going to keep going for just a little ways more. Instead of walking, I jogged from that point until I was across the first car crossing, which is a pretty good stretch for a non runner! There was another one coming up. I walked until I got to it and then I jogged it too. I can’t really explain the excitement I felt but it’s kind of like when you’re first learning to ride a bike and you actually stay on it long enough to pedal a few times before you wipe out again. You can actually feel it, get a taste of how it could be if you could just keep pedaling. So, I turned around and did it again and then after that, I walked a little and then jogged until I caught up with the kids. I was exhilarated! Suddenly, I began having thoughts that maybe I could try to do this every time and maybe I could actually start trying to run a little more than I walked. Crazy? Yes. Did I try it? Of course.
Fast forward a few weeks to February 8, 2010. I went alone that day. I had my new Nike+ gadget that goes with my Ipod. I’d only used it a couple of times. The last walk/run I had gone on was a few days before and I’d gone 12k (about 7 miles). There was something on this day (Feb.8) that made me decide I was going to just try to start out running….slowly. As always, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to keep it up if I started feeling bad, so I hit play on my Ipod and away I went. Step after step, my smile seemed to get bigger and bigger although in the back of my mind, I still wondered how far was going to be “far enough” and I’d have to walk. I had set my distance for a 5k. Could I do this? As I clip-clopped along, the lady on my Ipod informed me I had completed 1km. All that I could think about was that I was still running and I wasn’t ready to stop yet. Before I knew it, the little voice from my ear buds cheerfully announced “Halfway point”. Halfway point?? Already?? I was really doing this…slowly…but I was doing it. The only reason I wanted it to be over was so I could call Jason and tell him what I’d just done. Then the countdown began. 400 meters, 300 meters, 200….I was nearly there and I hadn’t stopped once. This was huge. My little lady friend on the Ipod congratulated me for completing my run, it was if I’d finished a marathon. I had tears in my eyes but it was from being so very happy. I took the next day off but could only think of when I could go again and when I did (2 days later) I ran 8k. Looking back, I shouldn’t have kept pushing distance so soon but I was in awe of how my body adjusted and how much better I felt. Seven days later, I ran my first 10k distance and made up my mind then that I was going to run in the Crescent City Classic in April. I think Jason
probab thought I’d lost my mind.
My first race ever was on March 19, the Irish-Italian Festival in Hattiesburg. It was more so I could get the feel of how it was to run with other people in a competitive environment because I surely didn’t place. I liked the feeling of a race. I liked the excitement and I really liked being there as a racer, not a spectator.
Crescent City Classic was only a couple of weeks away (April 3) and it would be only my 2nd race ever! When the race weekend finally came, I suddenly realized I had a some quirks too when it came time to get ready for the next morning. (I also thoroughly enjoyed eating the great pasta meal that we’re encouraged to eat the night before a big race!!) There were so many people there! Jason had tried to prepare me on how it would be because he had run in it the year before but I really had no clue. I also quickly found out that not everyone lines up in their correct corral. This meant that as I was running along, I’d suddenly have to come to a squealing halt and then dart right or left to avoid plowing into a cluster of ladies that were walking and visiting and pulling a wagon and even sometimes had their arms linked. I caught on fast and began looking for open spots before I had to slam on brakes. I think it’s all just part of being in a race with 20,000 other people, unless your one of the ones on front wearing a white bib, which means you’ll never even realize how many people are in the race because you’ll finish before half of us make it to the half way point. After the first few miles, I settled in and truly enjoyed myself. People were everywhere cheering us on, bands played, some even had their sprinklers on and pointed in our direction (I would run out of my way to go right through them too!). When I crossed the finish line I felt like I was on top of the world. The only thing missing was Jason to give me a hug or a high five….literally, he was missing. I immediately decided he had broken a leg or had a heart attack during the race. Funny enough, he was thinking the same thing about me. Apparently, just a few minutes before I finished, some poor guy had a seizure after he crossed the finish line and they made Jason and others move away. So, he missed seeing me cross, finally went back to wait for me and started getting pretty worried when I never showed up. I was waiting in what I thought was our designated meeting spot but I kept moving around because I kept thinking maybe that wasn’t it after all. It took about an hour but we finally found each other and low and behold neither of us had broken bones or had been hospitalized. It was a great experience and also one of the longest races I figured I’d ever run. Ever. Who are those crazies that run those half and full marathons??? Not me, thank you very much.
Sometime after Crescent City Classic and before the Okatoma Festival 5k (May 1) I began suffering from what I thought were just shin splints. This was really starting to become a problem with my training and on top of that the weather was warming up. I had never run in pain and I had never run in the heat. Mix those together and things were starting to get ugly. I ran a race in my hometown of Columbia on April 24 with a time of 34:41. By the time I finished the Okatoma race a week later, I thought my leg was literally going to break off. My time was 32:54. I was disappointed, I was hurt (physically) and I was suddenly wondering, again, if I was really cut out for all of this.
We decided that maybe I should take some time off for awhile and let me leg heal. I was devastated but knew I had to. It didn’t get any better. It hurt when I ran, walked, when I stood still, even when I tried to sleep it hurt. It was time to go to the doctor. They examined me and x-rayed my leg. The doctor said he was pretty sure that it was a stress fracture but that it wouldn’t show up on an x-ray until it had healed. He advised no running for 6-8 weeks. Wow. We bought an elliptical machine to help me through that time but it was really hard to deal with. Anyone that runs on a regular basis will understand what I’m talking about.
I slowly and nervously started getting back into the swing of things again around the end of July. As I began to get back my confidence and strength, I also started wondering about pushing my distance a little more. I mentioned to Jason that the thought had crossed my mind about attempting a half marathon one day. I believe he looked at me the same way he did when I mentioned running the Crescent City Classic.
We began to look at training plans. It wasn’t long before we knew that he’d be ready long before I would be. Because he was beginning to peak with his training, he decided to run the Orange Beach Half Marathon Nov.30 and I ran the 5k. I still was determined to run one too.
As I began to bump up my mileage, I started to realize that this might be the kind of running I was meant to do. I could run slower (without feeling the pressure of having to be fast) and because I was running a little slower, I could run and run and run. I loved that I could almost forget that I was even running and could just enjoy myself. I even loved my black toenails!
We were looking at either the Rock and Roll Half in New Orleans or the half in Long Beach as possible dates to aim for and finally settled on Long Beach. Ironically, it was their Carnival Association’s first time to have a half marathon so I think it was a good fit for me. I didn’t go to bed the night before until nearly midnight, which wasn’t my plan but Zoe wasn’t ready to go to sleep. So after riding all around the Biloxi Regional Airport a few times, we actually drove down to Long Beach to where the race would be held. That’s when I realized I was nervous. I had never been nervous for a race (I’d only be in a few). I’d always been a little excited, a little amped up but not really nervous. The next morning, I had settled down some and was ready for the race to begin. We were able to take some great pictures with the beautiful sunrise as our backdrop. The race began and people shot by me as if we were in a 5k race. It was the hardest thing in the world to make myself stay on pace. I didn’t want everyone, including one very fast speed walking grandmother, to pass me! Lots did though and I just kept going at the pace I knew would see me through until the end. There were NO mile markers and my trusty Nike+ wasn’t exactly giving me an accurate reading but the one thing I did know was that, at some point, we had to turn around and at least I’d loosely know where I was. I really needed to know when I was starting to get close to the end because I wanted to bump my speed up. Something I learned that day was this: When you’re running by the beach on a flat, straight course, you can see where the finish line is for a really long, long time. Finally, I had an idea. There had also been a 5k race that morning and I remembered passing their turnaround point when our race started. I knew that when I finally got there, the finish line was close! Another thing I discovered is that when you aren’t exactly sure where you are, it feels like it goes on forever. Imagine my dismay when my Ipod congratulated me for completing my half marathon and I hadn’t reached the 5k turnaround point I’d been searching so feverishly for! The thrill of the countdown of those last 400 meters kind of lost their appeal when it was obvious I was no where near finishing. Kind of a spirit breaker, to say the least but I decided to just laugh about it. When the little lady came on and said I had gone 1 mile over my goal, I just laughed and said out loud, “Yeah right!” I’m sure the people around me thought I was crazy but hey, aren’t we all just a little, especially when we’re getting ourselves through a long run. Finally, the elusive turnaround appeared and I felt rejuvenated. As I approached the end and could see people waiting, it didn’t matter that my Ipod wasn’t feverishly counting down every step I made. I could see my family! My husband was there. My sister and her family were there and I couldn’t resist swinging close and giving them a high five as I passed by and then smiling big for the camera because I WAS CROSSING THE FINISH LINE! I’ve never gotten any medals in my first year of running so when they gave me my medal, I could have been receiving Olympic gold! It ended almost how I had imagined many times when I had been training and visualizing the finish line, except I had kind of imagined a better time too, but you do those things when your dreaming big. The best thing was that I had set a goal that I would have never imagined even wanting to do a year before and I did it.
So, here I am now nearly full circle. It’s been a year and I’m preparing for the Crescent City Classic once again with probably a 5k race a few weeks before. I truly can’t believe how far I’ve come in a year and how many possibilities lie ahead of me. I’ll do another half marathon again and my husband and I have even been throwing around the idea of a marathon at some point…but probably not anytime soon. My vocabulary has evolved and now includes words like speed work, pace, PR, long runs, tempo runs, hill training, etc. I’m now making sure I am always properly hydrated and that I eat plenty of protein. I’ve also learned that all carbs aren’t bad. I’ve learned that with the proper clothes and shoes, a run can be a lot more enjoyable and that while my Ipod/Nike+ is a good guide, it may not be entirely correct. I’ve realized that our bodies will adapt. They love to move and even if they haven’t moved in a long time (I don’t mean just to get up to turn the tv on either), they can if you just give yourself a little time to adjust.
We were designed to be active. If we’d been created to sit on our rear ends constantly, we wouldn’t have leg muscles that have the potential to be so strong! I’ve always known this but now I believe it because after 5 5k races, 1 10k race, 1 half marathon, 50+lbs lost, 1 year and 386 miles later, I’m living it.
My only advice I have is this:
- If you are thinking about trying out running for the first time – Take a chance and just try. Don’t give up after the first time or two. Give it a chance, give your body a chance. You can do it!
- If you’ve just started running in the last month or so – keep going! Don’t decide you hate it if you have a few bad runs because bad runs happen sometimes. Find out what went wrong and correct it for the next time. You’re at the beginning of a whole new world opening up for you.
- If you’re an old pro at this – Thanks for being an example and giving us new folks someone to aspire to be like. Keep on lacing up and putting in those miles. You don’t know who you might be inspiring.
1 Corinthians 9:24