Carpe Run

Seizing the day (and the run) one day and mile at a time!

My Story and I’m Sticking to It…How I Became a Runner

on November 20, 2012

**This post is LONG…sorry for that!  Also my dinner from last night isn’t even worth posting.  I noshed on everything in sight including deli sliced chicken, a protein bar, clementines, natural peanut butter, and TOO many mini pumpkin muffins.  I did not do well last night but moving on this morning!  Without further ado…

For starters, saying the words “I’m a runner” is still weird for me.  It’s hard to determine at what point anyone is called a runner, those mystical creatures that come to mind..tiny body, skinny toned legs, wearing tiny short split shorts, hydration belts, gels, flying down the road 24/7….yeah that’s not me.  I think there are many different definitions of what a runner is, but at the end of the day it is all mindset.  I’d like to share my personal story and explain how my mindset changed, and why I now consider myself a runner.

To really get to the beginning, we have to go WAY back.  I was a super active kid, always outside, riding bikes, running around, playing sports, etc.  My sister was always the fast one with the long skinny legs and I was always a little bit chubby and a lot bit slower.  When I played softball growing up I was called “brick feet” on more than one occasion, lovingly of course 🙂  I could hit the ball hard, but I was never fast enough to get many bases.  Fast forward to my first true experience with actual running of any kind, junior year of high school.  I decided to start playing field hockey and tried out for the team.  I had NO idea what I was in for.  I remember being required to do a lot of running, and specifically that I had to finish a mile in 10 minutes.  It was one of the hardest physical things I had done up to that point.  I couldn’t finish that mile in under 10, even with almost the entire team cheering me on and running beside me.  I think I missed by 10 seconds or something like that.  My reward?  I still made the team, but I had to run another mile with bleachers this time for not making the cut off.  At the time, I HATED running and had some serious doubts that this sport was for me, but I stuck it out, always last, always blistered and beat up, but getting better day by day.  That first summer of conditioning I came home and literally had to soak in a hot bath with sports salts every day, but once I got past the hardest part, I got super fit, and my body (I wasn’t overweight at the time) became super toned and I liked it!  Longer 30 minute jogs became my favorite part of practice but I still maintained that I was NOT a runner and I hated that part of field hockey.  I think this was purely a mental stance and I was sticking by it.

Moving on to the end of field hockey season senior year, which was fall of 2005.  After finishing the season I still played Tennis in the fall, but it wasn’t enough to keep the pounds off.  I got sluggish and lazy and definitely didn’t keep running since that was my least favorite part of field hockey anyway.  I went to college fall of 2006 with no plan to stay in shape but continued playing tennis by joining a club and getting out there.  I knew no one at school so I became a bit of a loner and actually dropped a lot of weight that first semester, but it was coming back with a vengeance.  My roommate (who was chosen at random) and I got along fabulously and I still love her to this day.  I met Ben that year as well, and my social life picked back up.  There were lots of late nights, pizza, extra meals, and alcohol of course.  I think the pounds definitely went on slowly over those 4 years but they came and stayed, and I struggled to be happy with my body and find a way to get back to healthy habits.  This is embarrassing for me, but I remember crying sometimes and being so upset about how I’d let myself go and why people all around me seemed to be able to enjoy life and eat whatever they wanted and that it was just too hard to diet.  When I look back on that now, I know I just wasn’t ready to make changes and it wasn’t going to happen for me then.
Near the end of college I started working out semi-regularly with one of my other roommates, who may not know it but served as a big inspiration to me at the time.  The trouble is, I would go to the gym and do the same old things each time, not to mention my diet didn’t change at all.  I would get on the treadmill and at the time, 3.0 was my “walk” and 6.0 was what I considered an all out sprint.  HA!  It’s not funny because everyone has to start somewhere, but the point I want to make is that I never pushed past this.  I would only run at 5.5 or 6.0 for maybe a minute at a time and I’d be too tired and have to walk again.  I’d do this for maybe 20 minutes and then think I was done and head out.  Obviously this was not going to cut it, especially with no dietary changes.  I also realized now that I was still being lazy and never tried to push beyond what I considered to be “hard”.  I still HATED the treadmill and running in general and saw it only as a means to an end.

Sometime in there I discovered what I still believe was a place that got me stuck, a place that planted the seed in my head that running was not evil and could definitely be an enjoyable experience.  I started going to Noland Trail, a beautiful 5 mile trail less than a mile from campus.  I started going here to think, to decompress from papers and assignments, and it clicked that running (or walk/running I was doing at the time) could be an outlet for something more.  It wasn’t just about burning calories anymore, it was about having me time and letting go of the stress.  I still drive over to the trail, which is now about 30 minutes from home, a few times a month.  I was there about 2 months ago when I had a moment.  Again, embarrassing but I passed the .5 mile marker and suddenly started to cry.  I remembered all the times when making it to that marker without walking was so hard, and how I’d stop when I got there and catch my breath.  That day I passed it bounding along, and ran the entire trail and then doubled back to get my mileage for the day.  It was an eye opener of how much work I’ve put in, and how much my body has been able to do when I just pushed and worked hard to get there.

I began working full time 2 weeks after graduation and was also in the midst of planning my wedding!  It was a busy summer and I never lost all the weight I wanted to for the big day.  I still think I looked great and it was a perfect day, but I knew that after the honeymoon I’d need to make some changes.  I jumped right in to grad school never looking back and I continued to work full time.  Living in one place in our home with Ben made routine easier and I decided it was time to get into a regular exercise routine and try to get back in shape.  My sweet friend Nicole has been into running for a while, and she had me intrigued.  I saw how pumped up she was about running races and I was curious about that feeling.  That October, I signed up for my first 5k without training, and without knowing if I could even run 2 miles straight let alone 3.

I started the race with no expectations.  I found the camaraderie of running with so many others wonderful, and the cause we were running and walking for was inspiring as well.  Before I knew it 3 miles came and went, and I was able to complete the whole race without walking.  Granted I was definitely slow, my official time was 35:32.  What I got out of this experience more than anything was the realization that I was capable of doing more than I ever thought with a little bit of work and determination.  I was officially hooked on racing and signed up for the Wicked 10k for the end of that month.  That fall and winter was full of triumphs from there on out.  Through running these races, I discovered I COULD run 3 miles, 6 miles, 9 miles, and even 13.1 miles without stopping.  I ran my first half marathon, Shamrock, March of 2011 and finished in 2:33:07.

Ben and I After Shamrock 2011


I was super proud of my accomplishment and immediately wanted more.  I signed up for virtually every race I could from that point on, and kept improving.  The trouble for me is that I wasn’t dedicating time and effort to training, so I wasn’t progressing very much.  I went on to run the full marathon one year later, this past spring, and loved every second of it.  Even though I had a great time and I’m so proud to be able to say that I finished a full marathon, I walked a lot more than I’d intended to in the second half, and I blame that on lack of true training.  I crossed the finish line in 5:47:43 and although I was proud, I KNOW I can do better if I really put in the work.

What I know now is I’m ready to call myself a runner.  I’m training, I’m loving my runs, I’m putting in the time and effort to be a better runner.  For me, being a runner is being dedicated to your hobby.  That’s what it is to me now.  Sure it burns calories and since taking control of my diet, it helps me lose and maintain my weight and fitness level, but at the end of the day I feel my legs twitching to get out there.  I want the quiet, the calm, the fun, and the burn that a run gives me.  I want the feeling of accomplishment when I run a faster mile or notice a faster pace is becoming easier.  I run because it makes me happy.

I’d like to stress to anyone out there who thinks they’d like to try running, or those who have never considered it because they don’t think they have the right body type or they weigh too much….YOU CAN DO IT!  I definitely don’t have the typical body of  a runner, but then what does that body look like, and who decides that?  This post comes from a girl who couldn’t run half a mile without walking.  Last spring I ran 19.5 before stopping to rest for the first time and could have done more if my training had prepared me for it.  Pushing past what you think is impossible is an amazing feeling, and the bar just keeps getting higher and higher.

Workout: Body Pump (AM), 4 miles (road)


3 responses to “My Story and I’m Sticking to It…How I Became a Runner

  1. […] my phone to document my life is so much easier.  I’ve already mentioned the Noland Trail in this post but I wanted to share a bit more about my favorite trail run.  I know where to go when I need some […]

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