Monday, March 19, 2012
Why I Run
Continuing on with the hodgepodge of topics this blog has come to be centered around....
When I was in the sixth grade, I was chosen to participate in the 50 yard dash in an elementary school-wide track meet. This was sort of a big deal to me as my fellow students elected all the participants. Come the actual race, I failed miserably and didn't even make it to the next round.
Prior to entering high school, an older girl told my friend Jill that in order to play soccer, we'd have to finish a mile in under 12 minutes. Determined to not let some measly running rule stop us from getting on the team, we ran loop after loop around the track the summer before ninth grade.
Upon entering high school, the extent of my runs occurred either up and down a hill as part of soccer hell week, in short spurts on the soccer field, or on the tennis court. I knew I had some speed in me, but never once did I have a desire to run more than a mile.
In college I went for short runs around campus, primarily in an effort to halt the freshman / sophomore / junior / senior 15. (It didn't work.) I also began running on the gym treadmill, and worked my way up to about two or three miles. How I hated that treadmill.
The first year out of college, my friend L convinced me to train for a 5k with her. She was trying to impress her boyfriend whose last girlfriend was a superstar runner, and I just wanted a new and cheap way to stay in shape. And we both wanted cool race tee shirts (preferably a long-sleeved tee) to show off the fact that we could conceivably run 3.1 miles.
The goal for our first race (a run that benefitted some fundraiser for prostate cancer, interestingly enough) was to not come in dead last. We were super nervous, but at some point in the race, realized that there was a bunch of people behind us and we might not do too bad. I can't remember our final times, but we weren't last. AND, we had gotten a super cool long-sleeved tee to show off our accomplishment. (I finally tossed the shirt, but it was always a favorite as "prostate" was misspelled and instead read "prostrate.")
And from that point on, we were hooked.
Soon L and I were signing up for races every single weekend, taking into account first, whether we'd get a cool shirt, and second, whether it was in a geographically desirable location. We challenged ourselves to run a 10k not long after the 5k race, and eventually worked our way up to a half marathon, and the next year, a full marathon.
We joined Team in Training when prepping for our first marathon - a group that had us raise $2,300 for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, and in return, they would hold weekly group runs and get us ready for the marathon. L and I were about 23 years old at the time, still on starter career salaries, and our lives centered around going to the bar every weekend. We held fundraiser happy hours in order to raise the money, with the goal of getting our also poor 20-something friends drunk enough to throw a few dollars at us. (In retrospect, this was perhaps not the best tactic.) But we dutifully attended our weekly training runs, and eventually completed the marathon (very slowly).
Since then, L and I have both completed a couple more marathons (she one or two more than me), training both on our own and together. I, however, hung up my marathon goals after my last one in 2006, satisfied with my time and pretty convinced that I'd never run that fast again. I never stopped running though, and became satisfied with doing short distances a few times a week, primarily so I could continue to indulge my cravings for carbohydrates and adult beverages.
I found out I was pregnant with Sammy right after my last outdoor soccer game of the season, which also coincided with the time I usually put away my running shoes for the year. Though I stayed in shape by walking a ton and doing some pregnancy exercise DVDs throughout my pregnancy, I chose to not run during that time - not for any specific reason other than just not wanting to. That Spring though, when I was about six months into the pregnancy, I took a Wednesday night Pregnancy Yoga class (aka Stretching for Pregnant People), and always drove home past a running group. As the weather got warmer, you practically had to wipe the drool off the car window as I was just seething with jealousy. I couldn't wait to have this baby and start running again!
Not even six weeks after having Sammy, I laced up my running sneakers and attempted to do a very short run around our block - about a mile or so total, though it was a hilly route. Annnnd, about one minute into my comeback, I was pretty certain that I had just lost control of my bladder and wet my pants. This was going to be fun. (It turned out that I didn't though - for the record. Eh hem.)
I didn't let that stop me though, and continued to attempt a couple runs a week, with the goal of being able to complete my old three-mile loop around the neighborhood. I also rejoined my old soccer team and joined a "mommy" fitness group, where I met one of my new running partners, J.
J is what I would call an actual "runner." While I was busy exhibiting typical college behavior during my college years (whatever that may be), she completed marathons in college! She continues to amaze me with how fast she's run in previous races, and even runs on days that I am not able to run with her. A few weeks ago, we also picked up another running partner who has introduced us to the idea of doing actual speed work. Never, in any of the years that I've run, have I done anything other than go out for a leisurely run. Though I wanted to be faster, I didn't have the discipline to do any sort of track workout.
This past weekend I competed in the first race I've run in years. It was yet another one of those fun St. Patrick's Day runs where most everyone dressed up in festive garb, and the completion time was probably the last thing on about 99 percent of the runners' minds. Whether it was because it was a gorgeous day out, whether it was because I had my two biggest fans waiting for me at the finish line, whether it was because of my two measly speed workouts I completed in the past two weeks, or whether it was because I needed to prove something to myself, I was inspired to run my fastest, and ended up with a brand new 5k PR (personal record). To say I felt proud is an understatement.
So that's why I run. I run to feel good about myself; I run to stay in shape; I run so I can eat multiple slices of pizza without feeling guilty; I run because it helps me avoid the gym; I run because I enjoy having a good partner (or two) to talk to; I run as an excuse to enjoy nice weather; I run so that I may be a role model to my son; and I run to get cool tee-shirts. What other reasons are there?!