Off and running

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I never thought I would be signed up to run a half marathon. Ever. If you would have told me this a year ago, I would have laughed in your face and then eaten baked goods in front of you to show you how much I was NOT running a half marathon. Let me tell you about me as an athlete. 

I'm not one. 

As a kid, I was active, but not athletic. I had no interest in running around chasing a single ball that a dozen other kids were clamoring for. I did gymnastics and dance for a few years as a tot, but I'm rather inflexible and lost interest quickly. My hand-eye coordination is non-existent. I once got a black eye at a t-ball game. Oh, but, I wasn't on the team. I was watching my brother, and a neighbor threw his hat my direction, trying to get it to land on my head. Instead, the rim hit me right under the eye. That's right... my hand-eye coordination is SO bad, I can't even stop flying objects from hitting my face. 

In later elementary school, we had to do the President's Fitness Challenge. This was a series of events to test our athleticism and health. I was not a rockstar at it. I couldn't do a pull-up and could barely reach my toes in the sit-and-reach (actual name, I checked). When it came time to run the mile, I mostly jogged and walked. One year, one glorious year, I finished it in 11 minutes. I felt pretty proud. 

In seventh grade, my best friend Allison convinced me to go out for the track team with her. Why I thought this was a good idea, I will never know, but I was young and impressionable. At first I thought, "I'm a sprinter! Running distances is awful!" But it took me 19 seconds to run the 100 yard dash. I was not a sprinter. We already knew my track record with distance (pun intended) so I attempted the high jump. After an entire practice of flinging myself INTO and not OVER the bar, I realized track wasn't for me. So, I did what any 13-year-old girl would do. I became the team manager. Sue me, I wanted the cool sweatshirt. 

After my obligatory high school freshman year gym class, and a chosen dance class my sophomore year, any athleticism I gained took a nose dive. Coincidentally, it was my junior year that I was diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had never been a runner or an athlete, but now I wasn't even a walker. I was a layer-on-the-coucher for three or so months. Brutal, I tell you. 

Once I got my JRA under control, I still didn't do much in the working out department. Saint Mary's had a gym -- a nice gym, actually -- that I probably used about two dozen times in my four years there. Working out? Not for me. 

After college, I started going to Jazzercise classes with my mom (I had gained the Senior Fifteen) and became an instructor a year later. I was working out five days a week and loving the energy it gave me and the feeling of accomplishment I had after each class. I've still never worked out and afterward felt worse or thought I shouldn't have spent my time there that day. 

So, how, praytell, did I become a runner? 

I became a runner accidentally, out of necessity. 

In the summer of 2009, I went on an educator's workshop in San Diego. Barring illness, this was the longest stretch of time I'd taken off from working out since I'd began. I was worried about going so many days without a work out, but felt silly Jazzercising by myself in my hotel room with my roommate just five feet away taking a nap. I tried the gym at the hotel, but no dice. There was one broken treadmill and a giant set of mismatched dumb bells. So, considering I was directly on the coast, and there was a beautiful jogging path, I thought, why not? I decided to just jog for 20 minutes. And a remarkable thing happened. 

I jogged for twenty minutes and I didn't die. 

I figured out later that I'd jogged about two miles... one mile more than I'd ever jogged in one try. 

When I got back from San Diego, I went to DSW to buy my first pair of running shoes. They cost me $35 on sale. I ran my first ever 5K with my friend Janet. I finished it in 28:36. 

I was hooked. For the next two years, I ran. I ran slowly, but I ran. I took the winters off (because I'm not crazy enough to run outside in the lake effect snow band that is northern Indiana) but when springs rolled around, I was off and running again. 

In April of 2010, I invested in my first really great pair of runners. They were Mizunos... aqua, silver, and black. They were gorgeous. And they made my legs feel less like they wanted to fall off. A win-win. 

So, I ran. I ran in bad times, like, when I was healing from break ups or wanting to lose emotional eating weight. I ran when life was good, professionally and personally. I ran in sun and heat and I ran in clouds and sprinkles. I've run races with friends and alone. I've run around lakes, up hills that felt like they would never end, and down by the river. I've run through mud and gunk and over obstacles. I've climbed walls, despite my intense fear of being off the ground, because of running. I've run with students and coworkers and strangers and friends. I've come in third in my age group, and dead last, I'm sure. 

About six months ago, I started to feel really wonderful. I was happy with my weight and my body. I felt happy with my professional life and my personal life. So, I started running more. 

To kick off the running season, I went to Washington D.C. for a reunion weekend with my two college roommates. Both were training for half marathons at that point, and both needed to run 7 miles on Saturday. Like an idiot, I decided to join them, knowing that I'd only run five miles one time (and I felt miserable doing it). Still, I told Teresa I would run with her, and would just stop when it got to be too much. 

The path we were running was beautiful. It took us from Meredith's apartment in Georgetown to the Lincoln Memorial, past the Washington Monument, around the World War II Memorial, and down to the Capitol building. I was enjoying the scenery so much that I made it all the way to the Capitol building with Teresa... 3.5 miles away from Meredith's apartment. What option did I have but to run back? Also around this time, scary clouds started to roll in. And by scary clouds, I mean the dark gray filled with rain and lightning kind of clouds. If I ever needed motivation to run faster, that did it. I made it to mile six with T, but at that point, it didn't matter if the sky opened up, my hip was having no more of this running thing. I walked back to mile seven to meet T and go back to Mere's apartment. 

So, thus began my running season of 2011. Shortly afterward, I ran the Susan G. Komen breast cancer run with a group of my coworkers, the 2BigHearts 5K with the scariest hill climb of all time, the Sunburst 5K ending in Notre Dame Stadium, the Mudathlon 5K with over 40 obstacles, the Tour de La Porte 5K for the LP hospital foundation (where I came in third in my age group and got my first ever medal!), and the Marine Mud Run to raise funds for Toys for Tots. 

In October, I didn't run a race, and boy, did I start jonesing for one. I found a few I could have done, but none of them had that much appeal. That's when I landed on a book I'd purchased last year, "The Non-Runners Marathon Guide for Women: Get Off Your Butt and on with Your Training." Yep. That's me, alright. 

I'd been debating running the Disney Princess Half Marathon for months. I mean, what could be better than starting and finishing a race in the happiest place on earth? Maybe it would even force little cynical old me to perk up for the run. I mean, 13.1 miles won't be all that bad, right? Right. 

So, here I am, starting week three of training. I'm running three days a week instead of four because that's all I can afford with a full time job, three regularly scheduled Jazzercise classes a week, and family, friends, and a boyfriend I still want to spend time with. I realize this might hold me back, but, really, if I can't run it my way, I shouldn't run it anyway, right? Right. 

I'm feeling optimistic! But, I also recognize that I haven't had to push out of my comfort zone yet, so we shall see. 


  1. So proud of you.....you go girl!!

  2. Yay! So proud of you too. And bonus that you get to write :)

  3. Keep the inspiring words coming! I need to keep up some sort of exercise, because it's so easy to slide out of it. Thanks for creating your


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