Let’s get something straight: until twelve years ago, I only ran when chased.
While in high school, I participated in sports and I use that term loosely because by “sports,” I mean Color Guard and spring musicals. In college, exercise came in the form of brisk walks around my campus to work off beer calories and late night trips to the dining hall. And save for the few week stretches of yelling at Billy Blanks and his Tae Bo workouts while working night shift as an RN, suffice it to say the concept of enjoyably running outside for fitness held as much merit for me as getting a root canal while having a simultaneous PAP smear.
But two things happened twelve years ago to make me change my tune: baby weight and a good friend’s big mouth.
In 2006, I was a newly minted mother of two and had the derriere to prove it. While I did what I could to get outside to walk with the stroller, my fitness routine was limited to trips up and down the stairs and doing arm curls with my spoonful of ice cream. I was sluggish, tired and actually kind of fascinated with the proportions my body had taken on since children. I knew I needed to take care of me so that I could take care of them. But, how?
Enter my big mouthed friend, who had the bright, brilliant idea that we were going to run a 5K in the early summer. What’s funny about this is that my friend was an actual runner. Like with a pace and everything. She could run more than a block without wanting to keel over and lay in an unknown neighbor’s yard. Me? Unless a spider wearing a clown suit was chasing me with a knife, I wasn’t moving. But she pestered and pestered and cajoled and pestered and convinced me to meet her at a stop sign between our houses for my first official run.
That run? Two words: HOT. MESS.
For the next few weeks, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, I met my friend at “our stop sign.” I bitched. I complained. I begged to walk every chance I got. I walked funny the day after runs because my legs were sore in places I didn’t know existed. But I kept showing up. And it got easier. Things that used to “jiggle” jiggled less and I didn’t hate how I looked in jeans. Running started to suck a little less. All the while, my friend would smile… smirk, really… and say, “You will learn to love this, I know it…”
After eight weeks of “training” (which really translated to eight weeks of me running a mailbox length behind my friend and her big mouth all over our neighborhood, usually uttering expletives, twice a week), it was time for that 5K. I showed up that day still not believing that I would actually run three miles. In a row. But, the gun went off and I ran, well, like I was being chased. I finished that race in 29:30 and can proudly say that I was not dead and I wasn’t last. In fact, I was so desperate to not see 30:00 on the clock, I sprinted… yes, SPRINTED… to that finish line. I started that race a mere mortal and had finished it as a runner. A bona fide runner.
And, the weirdest part? My first thought, my VERY FIRST thought when I crossed that finish line was, “When can I do this again?” Whaaaaa? When did THAT happen?
Since that summer day in 2006, I have built on that tiny success, one local race at a time. Along the way, I met four more amazing gals and together, we’ve conquered 5Ks, five milers and half marathons. In March 2010, I surprised no one more than myself when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon at the SunTrust National Marathon in Washington, D.C. I completed my SEVENTH marathon last October in Chicago.
A runner, indeed.
But, for all the success I’ve had, I owe it mostly to a friend who saw in me a need for something more. She cared enough to demand that I step away from the ice cream and tolerated my often foul mouthed huffing and puffing. Every time I look down at my race bib and see my name on it, I am reminded that I am doing something for me so that I can do for my family. Selfish? Maybe. Indulgent? A little. But, every time I lace up my shoes and take that first step, running away is what brings me home.