Not the most auspicious beginning.
What can I say? I was justifiably freaked out. They told us we'd be running a 5K. Day One was a 5K? Clearly, the other people on the team were cheetahs. Or Kenyan. I am so screwed, I kept telling myself. At that time, running two miles consecutively was challenging; 3.1 was an epic feat that deserved to be celebrated with giant brownie. So instead, I listened to the siren song of my warm bed and played hookey. This running stuff is hard.
Eventually, I called the coach, apologized, and told her my concerns. She listened patiently and encouraged me to just try. Showing up is half the battle, she said. Despite my fears and misgivings, I sucked it up and arrived on time for the next run, this time 4 miles. (why did I skip the 5K?!) I remember thinking I was going to die during those agonizing 48+ minutes. But I finished, running the whole time. As I sat slumped in my car, gulping water and trying to catch my breath, the feeling of finishing was downright intoxicating. I did it.
Needless to say, I'm glad I stayed with it.
Notably, I'm not the same person I was three years ago. I don't go out as much. My idea of fun has changed considerably. I go to bed ridiculously early. My wine consumption has decreased dramatically. My stress level fluctuates based on my training program. Toenails - let's not even talk about that. And I learned to shelve my pride because quite frankly, I'm not the fastest kid out there - and will never be. But all of this is okay because running has given me so much more. More than I ever expected.
What have I gotten in return? Let's see...
- a healthy relationship with the scale. Even better, my clothes fit. I've gone down three sizes in three years. I'm certainly not winning any Biggest Loser contests, but I'll take steady and consistent over fast and yo-yo any day. All told, it's about 30 pounds or so. That equates to less than a pound a month over the course of 36 months. Slooooooow. Definitely the tortoise, not the hare (but that's okay). Best of all, I feel good.
- a chance to explore places I would not have otherwise seen. Two of my favorite memories from this past summer happened while on vacation on quiet trails in the woods. That moose and her baby in Utah I stumbled upon? I was three miles out, crashing down a single track trail in the early morning and almost ran smack-dab into a Momma and her little one. Awesome (and terrifying. We all kept our distance). What about the great white owl that literally flew up from my feet while in Wisconsin? I was the only one in the state park that morning, enjoying the soft pine needles and tall trees. Remarkable. That owl and I...we had a moment. It was incredible.
And of course, let us not forget Rachel, Nevada. Oh, Rachel.
- a whole new tribe of people in my life - and a way to connect with people from my past. How fun is the Chicago marathon going to be? It'll be a massive reunion of sorts. I'm hoping to see friends all the way from college, high school AND grade school - simply because we are all crazy enough to line up at the starting line. Running brings people together, regardless of the number of years that have passed.
- a reason to stand up straight. Core strength is a good thing!
- an opportunity to enjoy the sunrise. Nothing is better than watching day break while the Las Vegas strip glitters in the distance.
- an entire library full of real people and true stories of them doing things that blow my mind. You can really run 100 miles at one time? 135 miles? In 125 degree heat? But now I know - it's possible. Anything is possible. It's humbling and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Wasn't it Gandhi who said strength does not come from physical capacity, but an indomitable spirit? Love that quote.
- speaking of spirit...the realization that it's all mental. Really. I mean, yes, you need to do training runs (throw some squats and burpees in there for good measure), but our most important muscle (...even though I know it's an organ...) is the brain. I'm just barely scratching the surface of this whole concept, but the ultra taught me the brain wants to give up well before the body needs to. Control your brain and you'll master your run.
(but do speed work, too).
- freedom from perfection. It's wonderful. Running is anything but perfect; it's a hot mess of bodily functions, screaming muscles, and mental demons. And I'm not even going to win! It's great!
- and finally, the ability to see life through a totally different lens. Maybe it's the endorphins, maybe it's reading quotes from Gandhi, but I feel...fuller. Happy. Content. Strong.
These are all good things.
So, a run-iversary, it is. I think I'll celebrate with a 14-miler tomorrow morning. Three years in, can't wait to see what the future holds.
Do you run? What has running given you? Share your comments below.