My Love Affair with Running

Hey there! I had an amazing Yoga practice this afternoon. Ahhh! It’s the perfect start to the weekend!

I promised you my very first post on running and here it is! Some of you have read this before, as it was these thoughts put down on paper that truly inspired the entire blog. I could write a hundred, “about me” pages, but what you will read below is as much who I am as anything I could possibly write. I hope you enjoy it.

I have been thinking a lot lately, about running. There was a time, the 2004 Athens Olympics specifically, when I thought to myself while watching the women’s marathon, “These women need professional help.” I had never been interested in running, or any track sport for that matter, but for some reason I found myself glued to this event. They were running in 85 degree heat with about 80% humidity, through hills that I would have had trouble walking. It was uncomfortable just watching them, especially the leader of the pack, Paula Radcliffe, who, according to commentators was THE pick to take home gold. She had, after all, set the all-time world record time in women’s marathon running just a year earlier.

Paula Radcliffe. Love her.

Even earlier than that though, I thought running was something for crazy people. I hated it. I would intentionally miss school on “mile run” days in P.E. class, and somehow got out of doing it altogether most of the time. I was in track though, for one day, in 8th grade. It did not go well and since I had no comprehension of delayed gratification, I quit…immediately.

I was never out of shape; I swam and worked-out all through high school to maintain a base-line fitness level for lifeguarding. Running though, never worked. I hated it actually. I simply could not do it.

I moved away from home to finish up college and continued to work-out while in college but still struggled with the baby-weight pregnancy had brought me in 2005. The baby weight did not go away as easily as I thought it should, and only diminished completely because of severe stress about 2 years after my daughter was born. After that, my weight went up and down and I really struggled with body image. Exercise had always been a way to burn calories…and nothing more. I didn’t enjoy it anymore and I wasn’t sure if I really ever had.  My diet didn’t help matters. I was working for next to nothing as a bartender/waitress while going to college, and the late nights, cheap food and exhaustion led to a less-than-perfect lifestyle all around.

Here I am playing bar-tending in 2008. Sometimes I miss my blonde hair!

I moved back home in early 2009, realized things needed to change and began actually searching for a way to make that happen.

I became friends with an amazing woman who seemed to have it all together. Of course, she didn’t, because no one does, but I saw her as this incredible example of where I wanted to be. What I loved about her is that the way she lived her life seemed totally do-able. She chose every day to have a positive attitude and to work hard in every aspect of her life…with herself, her job, her husband and her friends. I told myself, I could do that! Soon after that I found out she was…gulp…a runner.

Here is Care Bear, enjoying a day of climbing! Gorgeous!

Anyway, for whatever reason, I decided that I was really upset that there was something I couldn’t do in this world. After all, I’d pulled my life back together after a divorce, was raising a beautiful daughter, and nearing the end of my college career; I had great friends and a good job. So, out of shear spite, (some might call me a stubborn gal) I decided to become…gulp…a runner.

There is a small pine tree near our home.

The end of the road in the neighborhood to the pine tree is about 1/5 of a mile. The first day I ran toward that pine tree was a cool afternoon…and I got about half way. (Yes, I know…and no, that is not a typo.) I decided that would be my starting point. Everyone has to start somewhere right? So, I did. I’m not exactly sure how the next 6 months happened. There was a lot of walking involved. There were a lot of treadmill runs involved, mostly because hills terrified me. Eventually, I made it to the pine tree. Sometime after that, I made it all the way home.

In the Fall, I found myself at a 5K race…not totally sure how I got there, but in the company of my friend who started it all and a bunch of other people who were having SO much fun.

At the Start of my very first 5K. Turkey Trot 2009. Care Bear is on my left, my friend from Cali is to the right of me, and I’m not sure who the pilgrim is, but she looks like she’s having fun!

At the finish line. Look how tiny the Bean was! Dad CYL walked the 5K. Go Dad!

After that, I was hooked. Over the next year or so I ran another 5K and a 10K, fell for an amazing man, began an awesome new job, sobbed uncontrollably as I completed my first 10 mile training run and miraculously ran a half marathon.

This is at the finish line of the Leading Ladies Half Marathon, whew!

I had become something I never thought I could be, a runner. Everything else in my life was coming together too, I was waking up each morning thinking, “I absolutely have it all!” It was at this point that I realized…I was terrified! When you live in constant drama-filled chaos, as I had for years…you have nothing to lose. It is only when I began waking up smiling that I realized how much there was at stake, and I found myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

I was basically a train-wreck, suffering mood swings brought on by this crazy fear of success and an even greater fear of failure. I was at my tipping point. I’m not sure what made me realize it, but I came to understand that it was MY decision to choose MY attitude. I could choose constant fear as a way of life…or joy. I also had a couple of really amazing people in my life, who at that point totally called me out on my nonsense and helped me to realize…I loved my life and it was OK to love my life! I deserved it! We all do.

The fear that I had was something I had created, and something I could CHOOSE to live without. So, much like my fear of running came to an end, so did my fear of LIVING. Both fears only ceased because I choose to DO something about it. I CHOSE to run even though I thought I couldn’t and I CHOSE to really live (and enjoy) life, even though I didn’t think I deserved it. I learned the following: I can do ANYTHING I choose to do and I deserve to live the life that I desire: a full, fun, healthy, content, friend and family-filled life.

All of this brings me to this year, 2011. As soon as the calendar changed over, I signed up for two more road races, the Wellspring Stampede 10K and the Deadwood Mickelson Half Marathon. I trained for both with another amazing friend, Dixie, and completed the Wellspring over 2 minutes faster than in 2010. I was feeling on top of the world!

Then came the fear. Dixie and I had a really terrible training run, a 10 miler that neither of us were emotionally or physically ready for. It was too hot, we were not well-hydrated, and my stomach was doing things that would make most people blush. Needless to say, things went South in a hurry and I started telling myself I couldn’t do it…and that maybe I shouldn’t be running at all.

Then, I remembered the Olympic Games that I’d watched 7 years ago. I remembered the blond woman who was slated to bring home gold, Paula Radcliffe, and I remembered the moment when I was sure all runners were crazy. I decided to Google that woman and watch the clip of the marathon. As soon as the video pulled up, I instantly remembered the scene. Hot, Humid, Hills. Paula was obviously distressed. Her gait looked painful, her head was bobbing and then…she stopped. She was done, with only a few miles left, she could not continue.

I was amazed by this woman, watching her fall apart in front of the entire world was devastating. So, I continued to research. Since the Athens Olympics, she has continued to run, and to place in many of those runs. She has given birth to two children. She is a Nike spokesperson, a motivational speaker and is currently vying for a spot at the 2012 London Olympics.

So, Paula Radcliffe got me thinking once again, about fear and failure. Paula, in her early 30s, when most of us are insecure enough about ourselves that we avoid failure at all costs, failed (in the sense of the race itself) in front of the entire world. She could not complete the distance. She worked hard after that. She took care of herself. She cried. She laughed. She hurt. Whatever she did…she ran. She went on to succeed at a world level time and time again.

So I asked myself, “What is success, without failure?” Had I not known that I absolutely could NOT do something, would it have felt as good when I found out that I could? If these things are true…what was I afraid of?

I had been intentionally trying to live with the following view of life according to another amazing female pioneer, Amelia Earhart, who I paraphrase,

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change your life; and the process, if nothing else, will be its own reward.”

Why was I so scared after one bad run, knowing all these things? What is fear, or failure for that matter? Fear is some feeling that I can choose to NOT feel and failure is the driving force behind success! So, I chose to not be afraid, as I’m sure I will have to decide to choose again and again in my life. I hope that each time, it will become easier to do.

In June, I finished the Deadwood Mickelson Half Marathon. It was not my fastest time, but I was not afraid. There was a point along the way where I knew I would not see the Sweetheart or the little Pumpkin again until the finish line, and I knew my running partner was nowhere in sight.  I’d seen another woman lying on the side of the trail and an ambulance flying up the road to meet her. I was alone and certain that the change in altitude and heat would end my race.

Suddenly…I heard the faint sound of victory coming from behind me, “Leonard!” whispered Dixie. I smiled and realized that even if I passed out, (or eek, had another training run stomach “incident”) someone would be there. Really…what’s the worst that could happen?!

We sprinted through the finish line, together.

And then enjoyed a drink.

…and a sweet treat. Yumm! It doesn’t get better than Chubby Chipmunk!

In the days since, I’ve realized why I love to run and the reasons for my love affair with running, and from what I understand, the reasons why so many others (who I once thought truly needed professional help) love to run. These are the reasons I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  • I run because there was a time when I could not, and knew I would never be able to.
  • I run because I know there will be a time when I cannot.
  • I run because the road is always happy to see me…ready for more time with me, no matter the weather, my schedule or how ridiculous I’ve acted in the past.
  • I run because the road really doesn’t mind when I cry right there, in the middle of the run, cars passing me wondering if I’m the one who needs help. If you’ve never cried on a run…keep running. It’s a beautiful thing.
  • I run because my daughter will learn just as much from it as I have, even if she never decides to become a runner.
  • I run because my body is a beautiful instrument, capable of strength and distance all on its own. That is something I hope to teach my daughter, my friends, my family and my community.
  • I run because I can’t afford full-time therapy.
  • I run because it teaches me that there is a difference between pain and injury, both physically and emotionally.
  • I run because it is both empowering and humbling, two things every girl needs.
  • I run because it feels good to pass the men in front of me. (Well, it does!)
  • I run because it is something that no one is perfect at…but my stride, my pace, is perfect for me.
  • I run because it is the perfect metaphor for life, it gives to you what you give to it…but sometimes there are unforeseen hills that you just aren’t ready for. They make you stronger.
  • I run because while there may be a physical finish line at a race…there is no finish line in running, or in life. Every run, every day…is a new beginning for each of us.

I love to run and I will continue to run. Each time I pass that pine tree…I reach out and brush my hand against it, as if giving my starting point a big high-five, remembering where I first began.

To the women who have changed my personal and running life, Care Bear, Dixie, Felony and so many others, thank you. To my Bean and the little Pumpkin who both give me a reason to keep running, laughing and living, thank you. To the Sweetheart, who challenges me every day to live the fullest life possible and supports me in every goal I set, thank you.

Une Belle Vie.

…and have an amazing weekend!

8 Comments to “My Love Affair with Running”

  1. You are an amazing woman and motivater!!!! You have grown and changed so much! I am so proud to call you my friend.

  2. What an awesome post. I used to run every day but did not treat my body with enough to respect to continue doing so. For the past year I have had injuries, not been allowed to run, and do the thing I find so calming and enjoyable. Now I cant wait to get back to it, but worry I will be frustrated if im not fast, cant go as far, etc. But then I think, thats not what its about and your post hit that exactly on the nose. Thanks for commenting on my blog so I could find yours!!! You are an amazing woman!

  3. Love this post!! You rock lady! I’m so glad you found my running story and linked me to your blog, I love it. I look forward to reading more 🙂

    PS I love that we both avoided the mile in school so skillfully. It takes skills! Haha.

  4. I don’t know you, but you echo my thoughts about all this! You are a great writer, and I’m sure a great…gulp…runner! You just reminded me that even though my last run sucked, I must continue, because I love it also. (Did I just say that?)

  5. This IS a great post. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. You capture much about the allure of running. By the way, yoga is great for runners. I went to the chiropractor this morning and was reminded of this when we discussed my extraordinarily tight hamstrings. Here’s to running until we can’t!

  6. Great post!!!! Those are excellent reasons to run. I simply can’t get enough of hearing about other people’s love of running. It is such a wonderful sport, activity, stress-reliever, confidence-builder, mind-clearer, guts-prover… the list goes on and on! Thanks for these inspiring words!!! And keep on running, pretty lady!!

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