Like I've said, there are many reason I have not blogged much this summer, but there is one bigger reason that I haven't mentioned yet. I became a runner. What's funny is that a lot of what I think about when I run is writing, but since running - specifically training myself for a half marathon - takes so much time I really didn't have time to write. But I did write about running.
Here's the story.
The swish, swish, swishing scuff of my feet hitting the pavement is still a foreign sound to me. The strength of mind that it takes to drive my body forward, farther than it wants to go, is something that I have never known before. I am 29 years old and ran the first mile of my life this past year. It seems silly, even to me, but it’s true.
Growing up homeschooled on a hobby farm had its benefits for sure. I learned a lot about responsibility, had a lot of free time to read and explore art, and had a lot of one on one time with my teacher, my mom, as the only person in my grade. One of the downfalls, however, is that I was never in any organized sports. I was never interested and, since there wasn’t anyone to follow into doing the popular things, I never cared. I was never on the dance team, never played basketball, and my extent of volleyball was playing with a co-ed youth group of equally inexperienced peers. The only reason we played volleyball was to have something to do on Wednesday nights in the dead of winter in Minnesota – not because we were any good or actually liked the game. I, for one, have terrible hand-eye coordination and could barely hit the ball. The most competitive I ever got was during the foot races my brothers and I would have down to the end of the driveway.
It never even crossed my mind to go on a run until I was in college and I lived relatively near the best friend of the boy that I had a crush on. I figured that if I went running by the best friend’s road once in awhile that there was a chance that the boy would be at the house someday and I would casually see him while out on my run.
That didn’t last long. My attempts at running were as follows: Run about a quarter mile downhill toward the best friends’ house, start wheezing, be concerned of chest pains and tightness in my throat, and turn around and walk uphill back home. I did have the sense of mind to try and give it some time. I tried for 5 weeks, but running never got easier. I never did see the boy.
After wheezing from walking across campus a couple of times, I went to a doctor who told me I had “Exercised Induced Asthma” and he prescribed me an inhaler. I didn’t even believe it was a real diagnosis; I was convinced the doctor was making something up to make me feel better about myself. Although, it did make sense that I would have something like that. Me, the girl who can’t throw or hit a ball and broke her foot while trying to learn a simple dance with friends, apparently has no athletic bone in her body. Not one. She can’t even run. I started joking around that, “I can’t even run a mile to save my life. In fact, running a mile might end my life!” A joke that I believed was 100% true. I simply could not run.
The problem was, I started to want to run. I have always been a healthy eater, conscious of what I ingested and how it affects my body. However, I always felt that I was missing that physical component of health. Sure, I knew how eating an apple was beneficial to me, but I also knew how physical exercise would benefit me as well and I wanted more.
Then, one summer, after marrying that boy that I hoped to see on my previous exercising escapades and after having two children, that boy turned man started running. I definitely didn’t want to be left behind, so one day I decided to go with him. It was rough, every step was self inflicted physical torture, but I survived. I did more than survive. I ran an entire mile – the first ever in my life.
Since I didn’t die that day, nor did I start wheezing or feel like my throat was going to close in on me, I figured I had somehow outgrown my asthma and so I joined a gym. Learning how to run was one of the hardest things I have ever done for myself. For the first three months I hated every single step, and all I could think about was each terrible step. Getting to the point where I could run for 30 minutes without stopping took months. The biggest motivator that kept me going during that time was that the Winter Olympics were on all the TV’s at the gym every time I went for a run. I would watch those sleek conditioned athletes conquer the world and think, “If they can do that, I can run for another 5 minutes,” and so I would.
Then one day I went for a run with my best friend and she, very enthusiastically, mentioned that we should run a half marathon together in the summer. I outright just laughed at her. Me? Run a half marathon? Absolutely not.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
A couple of weeks later my church started talking about a half marathon in August, a race where the runners would raise money to help provide clean drinking water for people in Africa. I knew that if there ever was a half marathon that I would run, this would be the one. However, deciding to actually do it was a pretty significant risk for me. At that point I could still hardly run for 30 steady minutes, and I was painfully slow. I was worried that if I signed up for this race that all the training could make me hate running for the rest of my life if it didn’t go well. This was also around the time that I had just had my first ever I-don’t-hate-every-second-of-this-and-it-was-almost-fun run. Not only could I end up hating running permanently, I could just downright fail. I could try and train for weeks, get to race day, and not be able to do it. How did I know? I had never taken part in any kind of sports event before.
It took me until the last day of race registration to decide, but I signed myself up. Immediately following I had several terrible runs and I almost gave up before I really started. I started to think that it would be best if I quit right away, that way it would be a little less disappointing, but I hate to fail. So I pushed myself harder than I had ever pushed myself before. I followed the training plan, lost toenails, and put around 200 miles on my first pair of real running shoes.
August 22 was race day, three days after my 29th birthday. I didn’t sleep for the two days leading up to the race. I could think of nothing else. What if I failed? I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter, I had raise over $1,000 to help kids in Africa and I was more in shape than I had ever been in my whole life, but it did matter. This wasn’t about kids in Africa or getting in shape anymore, this was about me. It was about doing something that I never though possible, it was about proving myself to nobody but me. At this point, I was the only one who would lose or benefit anything from my performance during this race.
Except for walking through the water stops, which my training suggested I do, my main goal was to run 13.1 miles without walking. I didn’t think there was any sense in walking a race that I had signed up to run. My other goal was that I would not be the last runner to cross the finish line.
I accomplished both my goals.
Actually, I finished the race 15 minutes faster than I had planned that I would, and was far from being the last person to cross the finish line. I am proud of that. I am proud of myself.
Crossing the finish line was not as euphoric as I had imagined it would be during training. Honestly, when I finally saw the finish line all I could think was, “As soon as I cross that line I can just stop. I can just stop running,” which propelled me to actually sprint as fast as my body could go, which, let’s be honest, wasn’t that fast at that point, across the finish line. But thinking about it now makes me a little emotional. I ran 13.1 miles. Me, the girl who couldn’t run a mile to save my life and might die trying.
The year before, for my 28th birthday, I would have never thought that I would have been running a half marathon just a year later. I would have laughed at myself for even considering such an idea. Right now I think that I will never run a full marathon or be able to really dance like I want to, but who knows what I will be saying a year from now…right now it feels like anything is possible.