How far I’ve come
People start running for a variety of reasons. Most of the time it has something to do with weight…or loving beer…or wanting to eat more without the guilt. And that’s all fine and good. I don’t begrudge these types of runners…not at all. At least they are being active. But, my advice…find a sport or activity you actually love doing. Do you like to bike? You burn a ton of calories biking…give that a shot. Do you like to walk? You burn as many calories walking a mile as you do running a mile. One just gets you there faster. Don’t expect to stick with running if you don’t really love to run.
That being said…for me, running is about passion. There are very few things I can honestly point to in this world and say…”This defines me.” But running…running does. And I think that’s why I get a bit aggravated with the ones who buy into every gimmick…or new running fad that enters the market. Running doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s easy. One foot in front of the other…forward motion. You don’t have to be fast. Running doesn’t come with a rule book. But for anyone out there whose head might be spinning from all this newfangled running stuff…here’s simple advise: Wear proper shoes for your feet, get out and run…and don’t worry about how fast or slow you are, and eat your meals and treats without regrets. Okay? This is how I live…every day. You know why?
I simply love to run.
I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed lacing up my shoes, heading outside, cranking out a couple miles, and returning home, sweaty, spent, and feeling better than when I walked out the door in the first place, until I discovered what running meant to me. The runner’s high is very real…and I love that feeling of complete domination when everything on a run goes right. I don’t have to run fast or steady. I just need to feel that pavement under my Nike’s and take in the sights, sounds, and beauty of whatever road I choose to run.
You see…running runs in my family. Kind of. It’s not a gift. Nor is it a talent that is passed down from generation to generation. If it were, my dad and his sister would be runners…but they aren’t. However…my grandpa was. And he picked it up late in life. I can’t recall a visit with my grandpa that he didn’t head out for hours to run and come back sweaty and ready for a shower. You see…he found joy in his runs. He found himself. He found…solace, space, euphoria, and freedom. I never understood why he ran. I just knew that he started to run in his 50s and he didn’t stop until his late 80s. He’s run marathons in other countries. He’s competed in countless road races. And, when he stopped…it was as if I picked up the torch and found out just what it meant to him to run. Because I can’t imagine a moment without that feeling I get when I run.
One of my favorite races happened in February 2012…in Birmingham, Alabama. It was the Making Tracks for Celiacs 5K race. And my brother-in-law, who had just taken up running, our friend Armand, and myself were running in it. But grandpa was in town and he said he was going to come along to cheer or see if they needed volunteers to help with water stops or whatever. And then, he ended up signing up to walk the course. So, I got to be in a race with my road hero. It meant so much to me. Especially since Celiac is something I live with and why I have to be gluten-free. I’ll never forget that race and how much I smiled when grandpa crossed that finish line. I was there to cheer for him…and it still makes me smile to this day.
Running didn’t come easy. In fact, it hurt. It hurt a lot, at first. Back in 2003, I was in Ireland with one of my best friends and our car was struck head-on by a truck. Both of my knees dislocated and since then had been giving me problems. My first attempts at running were done on the smallest track in the world, the one at my gym, where 18 laps gets you a mile. It took me awhile to work up to 18 laps. I bought knee braces that hindered me, so I went without. And soon, I found my knees no longer bothered me. And 18 laps wasn’t so daunting.
I had heard about an upcoming 5K in Louisville, Kentucky…right in my backyard, at Cherokee Park. I told my roommate that if I could run 3 miles in under 30 minutes at the gym, I was going to sign up and make it my first race. I gave it a go…and at the end, I managed. I was tired. I was out of breath. But I managed.
So, on April 9, 2011, I arrived at Cherokee Park, not realizing how hilly it was, ready to pick up my race number, receive my t-shirt, and go for a run. My roommate and the receptionist at the office I work in came out to cheer me on. I didn’t know where to line up or where I was going. I figured I would just follow everyone else. This, by the way, is still my method when it comes to racing. I’m not speedy enough to lead the race, so I just go where everyone else does. I ran that 5K race in 30:28…and it felt like the hardest thing I had ever done. But…I was ready for more.
Since then, I have run in every sort of weather imaginable. I have been injured badly twice, once in June 2011 after the Activate America 5 Miler in Frankfort, Kentucky, where I spent the rest of the summer out of running with a stress fracture in my right foot and bad runner’s knee in my right knee, and on July 21, 2012, when I tore my plantar fascia at the Grand Slam 4 Miler race in Louisville, Kentucky. I truly missed running when I was down with these injuries. I would cry, and I know I was a terror to live with. My roommate was very supportive and very, very kind to put up with me.
See…passion. If I didn’t love to do it…I wouldn’t have been crying because I couldn’t.
I’ve run countless 5Ks, some 4 milers, some 5 milers, a couple of 10Ks, some quarter marathons, a 15K, half-marathons (in fact, I ran a total of 6 last year!), and am now in training for my first marathon, which I will take on in October. I’ve come a long way from that girl on the track at the gym.
I was spring cleaning the other day and getting some organization done around the apartment. My roommate was helping me get my running gear and goods in order and when I pulled down the medals I had simply been hanging on a Care Bear on the top of my bookshelf. She said to organize them and take some pictures. So…I did. It’s like looking back almost 2 years in time and seeing what all I managed to accomplish…plus more that I have no awards for, but happy memories.
Below are the pictures we took of the various awards I have been lucky enough to receive during my life on the run.
Race Medals (10K-Half Marathon):
And, not pictured are the pint glass I received for taking 1st in my division at the Race for the Berries (2012), the Louisville Slugger Bat I received for winning 1st in my division at the Big Hit Quarter Marathon (2012), and the Hot Chocolate 15K (2012) finisher’s cup I picked up in Columbus, Ohio. It was full of chocolate goodness. What a great reason to run!
You know…the bling is nice and all…but I never run these races trying to walk away with an award. I stay and I cheer for those who do. Sometimes…I get surprised and win one myself. But the fact is…I run these races because somewhere out there on the road, through my own training runs and through races, I found myself. I found my smile. I found something in life I love to do. I don’t have to be good at it. I just have to be good enough for me.
And I am. I’m strong. And I’m getting stronger and better. I know this was something I was meant to do. I wish I had realized that earlier in life. But here I am in my early 30s and I have some of the best conversations with my grandpa about running. We compare race shirts. I listen to his stories about running in Germany and around Minnesota. My inspiration continues to inspire me to this day.
I have my grandpa to thank for giving me the inspiration and the drive. I have that little track at the gym for giving me my initial running challenges. And I have a small, local race on April 9, 2011 to thank for getting me hooked on the sport. When it comes down to it…if you want to do something for life…make sure it’s something you love.
My life has changed for the better since I took up running. I can’t picture my world without my time to run…be it on my own or in a race. It’s soothing. It’s fun. And it’s my passion. These legs have carried me pretty far in two years. I can’t wait to see where else they take me next!