So I'll do the same, to the best of my ability. But I am gonna cheat just a smidge, and cut and paste from an email exchange with a friend of mine, E. But of course, I'll add more as I go along...here we go.
I'm going to need the story about the running. How did you start and how did you keep going?
Oh my god. I don't know.
I had just ended a relationship, I was overweight [180 pounds at 5'3"], working a really difficult and mentally taxing job, smoking more often than just socially, and...ugh. Just unhappy. It was the fall of 2005.
I decided to join the gym first, and, then a month later, Weight Watchers. I stuck with both and saw a lot of success. Mostly at the gym I was doing the elliptical or the stair master, but occasionally going on the treadmill for a walk/attempt at running/heaving and walking again. In the late winter/early spring of 2006, I was doing the treadmill more often, mostly because I was getting bored with the elliptical, but also because I had always had a curiosity about running and never thought I could actually do it. At first I would be like "who am I kidding?" and would have to stop after less than 5 minutes. After a little bit of time (maybe a month?) I was able to run for about 10 minutes without stopping. I was flabbergasted because I had NEVER done that before...well, maybe in high school for that fitness test, but even then you could take walking breaks as long as you completed a mile in a certain amount of time.
It became sort of a way to prove to myself that I could do it. My next hurdle was a full mile. Then two. And so on. I think that what a lot of people think is that in order to run you have to run fast the entire time. That kind of thinking is what made me fail at first. When I slowed down to a comfortable pace, it was then I realized I could run longer without hyperventilating or cursing myself for getting too tired. And every day did get easier. And, weirdly enough, you kind of become addicted to it.
I continued this into the summer of 2006, when I discovered I could run 3 or 4 miles - it was a total breakthrough and I was so proud of myself. I was like, "who am I?" A year earlier, I told my roommate, cigarette in hand, that I'd rather jump out the window than go on a run. Now I was running for 40 minutes. Unbelievable.
Fast forward a bit to early 2007. Had started dating Derek [now my husband] and did my first 5k race in March. I decided that sort of made me an actual runner, being that I spent money on the race, put on the outfit, showed up at the start, and finished the whole thing, even though I had to take one walking break. I had no idea what racing meant at that point, but was so proud of myself and felt such a sense of accomplishment. I finished the race in 35:13.
It only made sense to focus on moving forward with this new healthy discovery and to rid myself of lifestyle choices that did not support my best interest health-wise. I had started eating healthily and exercising, but there was one demon left. I quit smoking cold turkey March 22, 2007!
Then, after doing more races in Central Park that spring and early summer, I decided I liked racing because the excitement of the crowds gives you a surge of energy and adrenaline and makes you feel part of something cool. On a whim, I entered the lottery with my friend Heather (lifelong runner) for entry into the NYC Half-Marathon that August. She didn't get in, but I did. I was acually on my way back from the AHA Start Wall Street Run when she called me and told me the news as she read it off the computer. I was like, "Oh crap, well, here we go...!"
Training in the summer was hardcore, but after that race, I knew there was no turning back (damn that sounds cheesy & awful, but it's true). I finished my first half-marathon in 2 hours and 35 minutes. It was brutal and hot, but representing the city like that felt amazing. That fall I joined Team in Training, a health organization associated with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society whose volunteers run distance events while raising money for cancer research. I ran my first marathon on January 13, 2008 in Phoenix, AZ in just under six hours.
Again, who in the world have I become?
Now I'm training for the NYC marathon! I can't wait.
So the moral of the story is...even if you think you can't run...you can. Anyone can. So give it a try!!!!!! And be crazy like me!
Follow-up note: I have always called myself a "slow" runner. Because I am, at least in comparison to so many bloggers out there! It sorta makes me feel bad sometimes, but not when I consider my own progress. This is what I have to remember. Since that first 5k, I have lowered my time to 28:43. My best half is now 2:17:12. And, after training hard for the NYC Marathon and actually trying some strategy in running it, I lowered my marathon time by almost a full hour.
I have a bunch of high hopes and expectations for myself. I would like to get faster at every distance. But right now the most important thing is that I just keep running. It keeps me grounded. It will always be there through the times when I need to think through something, or when I just don't want to think at all. It allows me to experience the seasons in a visceral way, through my lungs, heart, breath, and skin. And--we've all felt this one--sometimes the best runs are ones you didn't really want to take in the first place. You make yourself get out there, time and time again, and you surprise yourself at who you've become in the process. And we find serenity, inner beauty, and mental toughness.
Don't you non-runners want to start now? :)