An Evolving Runner
If you had told me a few years ago – or even when I was in high school – that I would become a runner, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed. I would have told you I was a miserably bad runner and there was no hope for me in that department. I was a mess. I couldn’t breath after only a few minutes and my calves would cramp, getting tight and painful. I could hardly push through half a mile before giving up and limping home.
When I was in high school, I was in spring and winter track and participated in 2 field events, long jump and triple jump. I could sprint. Being able to sprint was necessary for my events and, not too toot my own horn, I was good at long and triple jump! I enjoyed sprinting. A burst of energy and exertion and it was over quickly. No time for me to get out of breath or uncomfortable. But anything 400 meters and over was cause for distress.
I was not mentally prepared to run distance. I attempted to become a runner a number of times but inevitably after a few minutes, my breathing would become labored, muscles would start aching or burning and I would give up. I was not mentally prepared to deal with it and push through it when things got hard and uncomfortable. I wasn’t able to find that drive and determination. Also, I didn’t know how to train. I thought I should be able to go out and run a mile, 2 miles. And when I couldn’t run for more than 2 minutes, I felt defeated and depressed. I’d get mad at myself for being so terrible at running and hating my body for not being able to do what I wanted it to do. I didn’t encourage myself. I suppose I didn’t realize that if I had kept at it, running as I was able and walking when I needed to, that I would improve. I was too busy being down on myself.
In the summer of 2008 my husband and I moved 3.5 hours from my hometown. We left behind our family and friends so that my husband could attend law school. We sold our home, bought a new one and felt confident that I would be able to find an even better job than the one I was leaving. (I had been the society editor for the local newspaper. I had a very flexible, comfortable work environment and felt valued by the publisher.) We were moving to a more metropolitan area, so we were certain that even if I couldn’t find a job in my field that I would be able to find a job that would pay more and that I would enjoy.
Fast forward to February of this year. We’d been here for a year and a half. I had gotten used to missing my family and friends from home. I was working at a job scheduling appointments via telephone for bathroom remodels. The job wasn’t in my field and it wasn’t what I had hoped to be doing. Also, the management there was awful and I did not feel valued or appreciated. And to top it all off, I was making less than I had at the newspaper. We were struggling to get by, relying heavily on my husband’s student loans due to my inability to get a better paying job. I had gained weight and often felt unhappy. I decided I needed to do something for myself, something just for me.
I decided, again, that I wanted to become a runner. I had been working out pretty regularly (minus a few hiatuses here and there) for a few years. I was fit, we had recently acquired a treadmill second-hand, there was no reason I couldn’t run. I started the Couch to 5K training program. (For the third time… I had started C25K before but always fizzled out around week 5 when things got hard for me.) I was determined. I had a training program to follow and that helped me to know what to expect from myself. If I had trouble with a workout, I repeated it and moved on when I felt ready. I discovered I was wrong. I could do this thing called running! The first time I ran 3 miles without stopping, I leapt from the treadmill and ran upstairs to my husband’s office and announced (a bit breathlessly) that, “I did it! I ran 3 miles!” He congratulated me and hugged me (despite the fact that I was extremely sweaty). He has always encouraged me to do the things I want to do and believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.
I ran my first 5K on May 22, 2010 to benefit the humane society. I hadn’t competed physically since I was in track in high school and it felt so good to get out there and run this 5K. It just made me feel really good about what I can do when I set out to accomplish something. I finished in 33 min. 53 sec. I was (and am) really proud of my time. The fastest I had finished 3.1 miles prior to the race was in 37 min. 44 sec. So that’s nearly a 4 min. improvement! My goals were to run the entire thing and also come in under 40 min. but secretly I wanted to get 36 min. because that would be a 12 min./mile pace. I ended up running at just under an 11 min./mile. I was so proud of myself. I felt great.
In addition to my running my 5K, I also started a new job in May. And while it’s not ideal, it is better than where I was. I no longer have to commute 25 miles, my office is just over half a mile away. I’m back at a newspaper, though not in the same capacity I was. I am an administrative assistant to the sales department. I love the relaxed atmosphere, being able to walk to work and not spending over an hour a day commuting. I’m not getting a higher paycheck but we are saving money in a couple ways now (commuting costs, insurance costs, etc.). I feel better mentally and it allows me to open up to positivity even more.
The process of training for and completing my first 5K showed me that I am determined and capable. I can do things that I would have never thought possible. My body is strong and powerful and beautiful. My body is amazing. While I was training for that 5K, I was also training myself to let go of the self-hatred and poor body image and to love me. If I hadn’t started running, I would probably still be trapped by those negative thoughts and that negative body image but I set myself free. Free to love myself wholly. And doesn’t it feel good!
I no longer say that I am a bad runner. I may not be the fastest runner or have the best form or be able to go the farthest but that doesn’t matter. I’m still a runner. I’ve worked hard to transform myself into one. I am a runner – a developing runner, a learning runner, an evolving runner.
Have you ever done something that you didn’t think you could do?