I am not a runner.
At least, not one of those gazelle-like natural runners.
I am more of a lumbering, wounded elephant, slow runner.
Despite this, I still completed my first half marathon in March. For the past five years I have been talking about picking up running. I would speak really casually about it. The same way someone would talk about picking up some take out. I would start Couch to 5K. Then stop. Sometimes my reasons for stopping were legit, there was the time I had a kidney stone attack and missed the race I had registered for because it was too close to my lithotripsy treatment, or the time I skipped out in a mud run because I was pregnant. Most of the time, though it was just because I am at the very core of my being, a bit of a flake.
The birth of my daughter was a huge turning point for me. It instigated a major change in my career, it forced me to take better care of myself (physically and mentally) than I ever had to before. And it forced me to look at how casually talk about doing things without following through. Its a lousy habit and not one I wanted to pass on.
In the year after my daughter was born, my husband and I entered a handful of 5ks and mostly walked. I was happy we were an active family, but I still had this nagging voice in my head that said “you need to run.” In the fall one of my neighbors told me about a running club for women, she also told me that one of the coordinators was hosting a running clinic for newbies. I emailed the coordinator immediately and before I knew it I was up at 0-dark-thirty on a Saturday for my weekly running clinic.
To be honest, the clinic was a blur. I remember it being cold. I remember that I felt so embarrassed when we ran our initial mile–even though it was solely to find out what our initial pace was, I felt humiliated because I couldn’t run even half of it. Probably not even a quarter of it. Although I considered myself a reasonably in-shape person, I had no running skills. The coordinator gave me a running plan and I stuck to it religiously. On the first week I ran for three minute intervals. By the third interval I thought I was going to die. Over the course of the weeks I was able to run for longer and longer intervals. I got cocky and when a new half marathon (the Livermore Half Marathon), was announced I registered my husband and I immediately. I thought “hey, Im kinda nailing this 3 mile thing, and March is FOREVER away, surely I can knock out 13 miles” Two weeks before the 5K that was slated to be our “graduation” run, I slipped on a seed pod and sprained my foot. Mortified, I thought I had done it again. I had somehow, subconsciously sabotaged myself. For a week I walked instead of running and when I was a week out to the race I tentatively went out for a run and low and behold I had my best run yet. I ran a painfully slow 5K the following week with my husband and my daughter. I cried crossing the finish line.
To celebrate my 5K victory I took a couple weeks off from running. This was a mistake because when I finally got around to identifying an training plan for a half marathon, I had already started backsliding. While I did not have to start at square one, I did have to return to interval running. I ran five days a week. On the weekends I ran with my husband, who is a much for experienced runner and was very patient and supportive running buddy.
Although I was making great progress, I worried it was not enough. When I saw on the race website that the time required to finish was a full hour less than what I originally thought, the self doubt was overwhelming. “What if get hurt?” “What if I am too slow?” “If I was good at this, it would be easier”. I started to panic. I would lie awake at night convinced I could not do it. Certain I would fail and that everyone I told about the event would think “yep, she did it again, something *always* comes up”. Then, on of those nights I had an epiphany–“so what”. So what if I run slow. So what if I finish last. So what if I walk some, most or even all of it. There will be hundreds and hundred of other people there and unless I manage to injure myself in some spectacular fashion, chances are everyone will be so busy focusing on themselves that they probably won’t even notice me. I resumed my training with a renewed sense of optimism. My intervals became longer and as the weeks wore on I accepted and even embraced that this was how I was going to tackle those 13 miles.
Fast forward to the day of. I arrived early, jogged a warm up mile and when the race kicked off I waited towards the back of the corral in hopes of not feeling too crowded. The first mile was rough, but the warm up helped. I loved to see all the people holding signs along the route. AND I loved seeing that just about everyone in my little section of the race was doing some combination of walking and running. I had found my people! I did great up until mile 10. All the usual aches and pains that plagued me during my training runs started to kick in. By mile 12 the seam in my sock was rubbing me wrong and it was all I could think about, until I turned the corner and saw the finish line. I ran across the finish line holding my husband’s hand. My only goal that day was to finish in the time allowed and we beat that with ten minutes to spare.
I was so proud. And sore. Later I lost a toenail.
So does this mean I am a reformed flake? Judging by how often I update this blog (and the fact that the race was a month ago and I am only now getting around to writing about it), probably not. But I learned that this old dog can learn new tricks. And even though I am not a natural, graceful, gazelle-like runner, I can still own 13 miles.