My Running Journey

I’ve never been a runner.

I could always sprint short distances relatively well, and even enjoyed the rush I got from running as fast as my legs could carry me. Some of my earliest memories involve regular visits to my Uncle Chet’s house so he could time me as I raced along his front sidewalk. Sprinting was fun. I could handle sprinting. It was the only part of the President’s Fitness Test that I liked and could actually do well in.

Running any kind of distance, on the other hand… let’s just say distance running has never been my thing. Let me share with you these four emotionally scarring experiences from my youth:

1) Middle school, possibly 7th grade. To celebrate the nice weather one day, our gym teacher said we could spend the class outside, either walking, jogging, or sprinting around the school a certain number of times. We had to tell her which form of traveling we planned to do, and she timed us. All my friends chose the walking option, but feeling a bit cocky at my ability to sprint – and not taking into account how long the distance around the school actually was – I chose sprinting. I made it about halfway around the school before I broke down in tears, suffering from side stitches and shin splints and a bruised ego as the walkers began to lap me. I tearfully told the gym teacher that I couldn’t do anymore, and limped off to the bathroom to cry.

2) Tryouts for the high school tennis team, sophomore year. I nailed all the sprinting drills. I did decently in the tennis drills. Then the coach made us run a “complex” (one lap around the outer boundaries of the high school’s grounds) and I got left in the dust by everyone else on the team. I had to walk a good chunk of it, and when I finished last – well after everyone else had already finished – the look of disappointment and disgust on the coach’s face gave me enough shame to last several years. (I didn’t make the team.)

3) President’s Fitness Test, junior year. I finished in the top 10 in my class for the 100m sprint. Then came the 600m… just one and a half laps around the track. After practically dragging myself across the finish line by my lips, being watched by my entire class, my gym teacher handed me his nasty, sweaty baseball cap to breathe into because he was scared I was about to hyperventilate.

4) Tryouts for the track team, senior year. Disillusioned by my tennis tryouts two years earlier, I decided to go out for the track team, where I’d be able to showcase my sprinting talents without being forced to run complexes. Then one day the coach decided we should all run the cross country course, which was like 3 miles long. It was a hot day. I could barely run one lap of the track at that point. The coaches kept driving past to make sure everyone was okay, so I’d walk until I’d hear a car then I’d try to run. I finished dead last, again, well after everyone else had finished and gone home. The parking lot was empty when I finally finished, except for my car and the coach’s, and the coach didn’t seem very happy that he’d had to wait so long for me. (I made the team, only because everyone made the team, but I had to quit before I ever got to compete because I threw my back out trying to throw a javelin. That’s a story for another day.)

—–

So then, why am I running? Why put myself through torture after I’ve been embarrassed for years by my lack of running ability? I don’t really know. Maybe it was all my failure during my teen years that has spurred me on to be a better runner. Maybe I was getting sick of being winded all the time during rec-league soccer games, and thought distance running would boost my endurance a bit. Maybe I was jealous of all the medals my friends were winning at 5Ks, and of the runner’s high they boasted about on facebook. Maybe it was a combination of all sorts of things.

Regardless, I started trying to be a runner in the fall of 2011. My friend Colin and I started the Couch to 5K program and went running a few times at our local track. Then I went away for Thanksgiving, and was sick, and holidays made it tough, excuses, excuses, and we fell off the training wagon. Then Colin and Gina started the program up again a few months later, and after a while Drew and I joined in. We’d run at the track, or around the baseball field in the dark if the track was in use. Then it got too cold, it was too hard to find places to run, excuses, excuses. Colin and Gina ran their first 5K race in December. I felt like running had beaten me again.

Then, in January 2013, my work’s annual GetFit program announced a 5K for Beginners class. Having started and dropped out from the Couch to 5K program 3 times, I thought it might be time for a different approach… and one that I had to pay for, and which included weekly in-person classes, seemed like a good way to motivate myself to actually go ahead with it. Plus, the class was going to end with a race. It seemed like a good way to ease myself into the world of racing.

My debut into the racing world came a little sooner than expected, when Colin and Gina’s friend had to drop out of a 5K in March. C & G convinced me to run with them, even though I didn’t feel ready, and I’m so glad they did! Having never run more than 1 mile at a time, I managed to run the entire 3.1 miles of the Ras na hEireann, and experienced the exhilaration of my first runner’s high. I could run a 5K! I was a runner! From then on I was constantly checking for new races online and for new tips to make me a better runner.

Running took on even more importance for me after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Watching the marathon with my mom (from the comfort of our couch) had been a tradition when I was growing up, and Boston is my city. It felt like the bombers had attacked something that belonged to me. I loved how people all over the country, and the world, came together in support of Boston, and I wanted to run to show my support. I decided that someday I would run the Boston Marathon, something that had always seemed impossible. It may take years, but I’ll run it someday.

This blog will chronicle my training, my races, and the slow build-up to the day when I finally cross that finish line on Boylston St. Won’t you join me on my journey?

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