On fighting fights and running races….

Over the last year, I’ve had some pretty emotional days. Big highs, bigger lows. It’s been a pretty intense 12+ months. Sometime in early -2012, I decided to put some of the angst to good use and start running. Like, really running. I’ve tried my hand (or foot, as it were) at this a couple of time and every time, I just give up. It starts to feel like too much or my knees/shins start to feel like they’re just going to fall off or a million other excuses. I don’t know what triggered me to start running again this time, but I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I was just going to power through. So I downloaded some apps and started very VERY slowly. We’re talking 20mins at a time, with intervals of 60sec of running and 90sec of walking. I felt like a tool doing it every single time. I have tons of friends that are distance runners (some even ultra distance), but I think what my goal really was this time was to NOT compare myself to anyone and to not have a goal other than to finish the training. I wasn’t going to sign up for anything or put some kind of time frame on my training. I was just going to go until I was done.

Then I remember going to the gym at work one day and both the treadmills were taken. And I was pissed. I was annoyed that other people were doing was I wanted to do. I was irritated that I wasn’t going to get to run that day…and I was shocked that I actually *wanted* to run, I didn’t just *need* to run.

There was one day back in April that I came home from church and the weather was gorgeous. So I laced up and headed out and 3.5miles later (at dastardly pace of about 9:45) I felt like a freaking champ. By that time, I’d found the running pants, shirt, bra, socks, and shoes that I loved so running got that much more fun every single time.

By July, I was fully in love and broke my first promise. I signed up for a race. A half marathon trail run. I don’t know what possessed me to do it. Maybe it was the promise of a rad tech shirt. Maybe it was the measly $60 entrance fee. I don’t know. But I signed up and talked my Colorado BFF into doing it with me. The training kicked into high gear at that point. I was running every day at lunch and every Saturday, I’d map out a distance run and, well, do it. I never realized how many horrible hills my city had until I had to run up them. Holy crap.

I learned a lot about myself on those weekend runs. I learned that I had more in me than I ever thought I would. I learned that heavy beats are almost the worst thing to run to and that I love actually paying attention to lyrics when I run. I learned that slower is sometimes better and that I can push myself to run further and harder than I usually think I can, but that stopping to walk or stretch doesn’t make me any less of a runner. I learned that I hate running through neighborhoods. Concrete is what trails in hell will be made of, followed by pavement. I learned really fast that cotton is about the worst thing ever to run in and that even if my run starts out cold and I wish I’d have worn long sleeves or a jacket, it only takes about half a mile to heat up and know that my clothing choices were correct to begin with. Sunscreen is a necessity, but man does it hurt when it sweats into my eyes! And yes, running with my glasses on is far easier for me than running with my crappy contacts (which I should replace soon anyway). I learned that I love the feeling of my lungs burning for several hours after a run and that a good calf stretch is nothing short of amazing. I love feeling like I just conquered the world and that eating a pizza (a personal favorite) is both warranted and not worth it. I learned to celebrate the small things: my first 6 mile run, my first trail run, my first hydration belt. But probably the best thing I learned was that I am, in fact, a runner.

So I ran 13.1 miles yesterday. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. I ran 8 miles until my knee gave out on me and I had to move between limp-running and walking for the last 5 miles. It was disappointing, at best. I was told not to have a goal time, but I secretly did…and I didn’t even come close to making it, despite my best efforts. But you know what? My best friend was with me and she made sure to slow me down, stretch me out, and keep me going. She taught me how to focus away from my pain and run through it as much as I could. The last quarter mile was excruciating, but damn it, we ran. And we got our medal, some pancakes, and a well-deserved beer.

I cried the entire drive home…partly from the pain in my knee and partly from sheer exhaustion and partly because I honestly still can’t believe I did a half marathon. Laura reminded me, as we crossed the finish line: “You are now part of only 5% of people IN THE WORLD that will ever do this!” If that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is. I may have had a dismal pace, but it was an elite dismal pace….and it can only get better from here!

So here I am. A reformed cold-weather-hating-run-avoiding indoors girl. I’m ready to take on the next challenge…just as soon as my knee lets me.

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