Why did I start running?

Have you ever been on a run and wondered to yourself why did I think this was such a good idea? The thought has crossed my mind several times whether on a training run or during an event. The good news is, I have finished all races I’ve ever entered and I keep going.

Growing up, I was always involved in sports. The list included softball, basketball, volleyball, broomball and field events. During high school I threw shot and discus and took pride in having leg press contests with the boys on my team. I was a tom boy and considered myself quite a brute. The thing about any of the sports I played was that we ran for conditioning and for punishment. I was never really fond of running. I wasn’t as fast as my team mates, my thighs slapped together and it never felt good to me.

During college I had a doctor’s appointment in which I was told that I should lose weight as I was creeping up to 300 lbs and it was only a matter of time before I surpassed that. I was on a diet about every other week and tried to make good choices while balancing 3 jobs, a social life, and dorm food. I indulged in food and drink more than I should have and couldn’t seem to get it together. The doctor suggested I take a weight loss drug in order to suppress my appetite and help me to lose weight more quickly. I did research and found that the side effects far outweighed anything positive this drug could offer me. I’m a sensitive person; I didn’t need to have added mood swings or more intense feelings. I did not fill the prescription and decided to take things into my own hands. Now fast forward through a few energetic pushes to work out and develop more healthy habits through college to being a college graduate, working in the real world and living like a grown up.

I lived in a beautiful home and had a room mate who was my best friend. We were inseparable until we weren’t. When things started getting rocky between us, I began running around our subdivision. We had been going to the gym together but now that we were avoiding each other, I sought a way to get my workout that didn’t include her. (Looking back at the 25 year old me, I see that we could have handled things much differently, and I wish her all the best). I clocked out the loop around the entire neighborhood. If I trudged up the hill to the pool and back down the entire lap was .97 miles. I started by walking, then added jogging and was thrilled the day I ran the entire lap for the first time. My version of running is not particularly fast or graceful (My middle name should be Grace, ask my mom about that or I can fill you in on the irony of that later). I was dating someone who had run a marathon, and this fact just blew my mind. I’d known runners in the past and always thought they were crazy. With him, it was different. I was impressed by his accomplishment and inspired as well. I believe the thinking was something like “if that butterball can train for and run a marathon, then I can probably get some enjoyment or accomplishment from running too.” If he could do it, there was hope for me. I’m not saying that I was particularly kind or nice at age 25, and hope that my line of thinking would be less harsh these days.

I spent the winter months of 2007 running loops around that neighborhood and trained for my first 5k ever. I wasn’t wearing running shoes. I wore soccer or basketball shorts and a cotton t-shirt. It didn’t matter that I weighed 250 lbs, I was out there, I was moving, and I was igniting a spark within myself. With increased exercise and decreased pants sizes, I was feeling stronger and healthier and took more pride in my appearance and gave more thought to my food and drink choices.

When you decide to run your first 5k, you might want to scope out the course, or at least read reviews before committing your entry fee. I signed up for my sorority’s philanthropy run called Run for The Roses at the campus of University of Georgia. I missed my sisters from my chapter and I felt like supporting the UGA chapter was a good way to stay connected and help the philanthropy. I was also excited to have a chance to see Athens, as I hadn’t yet explored my new home state much since moving there several months before. April 15, 2007 was going to be THE Day. I committed and I was going to run my first 5k. I haven’t been to Athens much, but fun fact it is hilly. I have not verified this with a map or any real data. But, I know during that 5k I plodded along, walked a little and thought repeatedly “what did I get myself into and why did I think this was a good idea.” I huffed and puffed and think I fought back tears once or twice. Somehow I made it 3 miles and when the finish line came in site, something magic happened. I was able to kick and do what I felt like was a sprint to the finish. I proved to myself that even though I never thought I was a runner, I could run. I was given all kinds of freebies at the finisher area including a great t-shirt. And so my obsession with freebie race shirts began. I signed up to do the run again in 2008, and much to my surprise the run no longer had a hilly course through town but was completed entirely on a nearby high school track.

I made it my goal in 2007 to complete 10 events between April and December. I am happy to report that I ran 12 events and even worked up to my first 10k ever in November 2007. I was facing free shirts, accomplishments and new challenges and couldn’t stop. I was bitten by the running bug and was on to the next goal. If I can run a 5k, I can run a 10k. Surely, with some work I can run a half marathon and so on and so forth. The possibilities are endless. There are plenty more stories for another day.

What are you working toward now? What is your proudest athletic achievement to date? What are some questions or concerns you have about running? What is some running advice you would offer a new runner?