This Runner's Journey...
I never "wanted" to run. Rather, I was encouraged to run by my very persuasive sister.
After a meningioma (benign brain tumor) diagnosis, I knew I needed to lose weight and get healthy. So, I joined a gym and followed through with a regular cross training routine. Not long after my gym membership began my sister, a seasoned runner, encouraged me to start running. I remember my initial response to her enthusiastic suggestion, "Me? Run? You must be joking!" Something to that effect, anyway. I could barely climb a flight of stares, much less pick my feet off the ground and make them move in some form of a jog. Heck, I had not run since I played softball in middle school. My lovely sister said, "just run for a minute or two, then walk for a minute or two. Well, I reluctantly followed her advise; however, her minute or two suggestion would have put me in the hospital across from where I took my first baby runner steps.
Ten Seconds to 45 minutes
My first attempt at running was less than fun. I went with a friend who, though not a regular runner, was a former cross country runner. She gave me a few pointers and I was off to the races (pun intended). One second...two seconds...three seconds...four seconds. Oh my god - I'm dying. Five seconds...six seconds...seven seconds...eight seconds...nine seconds...ten seconds. I'm done. Those were by far the longest ten seconds of my entire life. I was so out of breath and panting like a dog. "What have I gotten myself into," I said to myself. Even continuing to walk was difficult. But, eventually I caught my breath and when I did I took off running for another very long ten seconds. If memory serves me correctly, I managed to get in about 5 minutes of running from a distance of about a half mile. I walked the rest. I thought I was a complete failure. How could I have let myself get so out of shape? I was embarrassed and terribly disappointed.
The next day I was so sore. Every part of my body ached. But, I was back out on the track. I just had to run for longer than ten seconds. Through the aches and pains I gradually increased my running time. Running a quarter of mile without a walk break was a huge accomplishment for me, then came a half mile, three quarters of a mile, and finally one mile! I ran a mile without a walk break. Oh my goodness...I had to call my sister. I was so totally pumped that I did something I never thought I could do. By the way, this was accomplished while significantly overweight. After about six months of regular training, I was able to run a 5K or 3.1 miles in about 45 minutes without a walk break. I ran my first 5K race in December of 2009. I came in last place at this small race that consisted of mostly fit, well-trained runners. But, I finished. And, my boss met me at the finish line with a rose. After only one race, I was hooked. I immediately began registering for more races.
Half-Marathon Training Begins
After running several 5Ks, my sister begins to nudge me toward training for my first half-marathon. I was very reluctant - after all, I was still quite overweight. Could my body handle running 13.1 miles? Would my knees last that long? What if I couldn't finish? I was very much afraid of failing. Something deep inside me, however, really wanted to give this my best shot. So, the training began. I followed a pretty strict training schedule until I reached my longest run of 10 miles just one week before the big race.
My first half-marathon was the Outback Distance Classic located in Jacksonville, Florida. Race day temperature was right about 27 degrees. By the time I finished it was a whopping 34 degrees. Fortunately, running helps keep the body warm, but the body also uses more energy to keep warm making it more difficult to run. Despite the frigid temperatures, I finished the race in 3 hours and 39 minutes. Not bad for an overweight novice. By the way, the end of race soup was the best soup I have ever eaten. Maybe it was because I was so cold or so hungry - nonetheless, it was incredible. I had the time of my life at this race; however, the one mile trek to my car was no fun at all.
My second half-marathon was the 26.2 with Donna in Jacksonville, FL (February 2012). The race supports breast cancer research and awareness. Once again, the race time temperature was in the upper 20s and finished in the mid 30s. This race was particularly difficult for me. Two miles of this race were on the beach. I had never trained on the beach before, and as a result experienced great fatigue and some pretty rough pain in my knee. By mile 10 my knee was killing me, and my run became a run/walk. By mile 12 I was walking. Several times I thought about quitting. There's something to be said for drive. It's that little voice inside that will not allow me to quit. If I say I am going out to run three miles, I run three miles no matter what. Quitting is not an option. So, I finished this race in a little over four hours.
Is it worth the pain?
My running journey has not been easy. I've had several setbacks - from knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, and most recently tendinitis in my ankle and foot. I have hypothyroidism, which is basically an under active thyroid. This condition makes losing weight very difficult. For the past two years my doctor has been adjusting my meds in order to get my thyroid levels in the normal range. Levels were normal at the end of last year, then three months later they spiked again. The weight loss struggle is probably the one thing that hinders my running the most. Being overweight and running is not easy. It hurts. Think about it - a runner carrying only 120 pounds runs light and relatively easy. Someone like me who is carrying twice her normal weight has much greater difficulty getting her feet off the ground. Therefore, I am slow. That's okay...as long as I finish I am happy.
Yes, it is worth all the pain! Because, in the end I know that my heart and lungs are healthy, and I am burning calories. Running gives me a sense of freedom, like no other exercise - especially those dreadfully boring machines found in the gym. I only use them when absolutely necessary.
Running may not be for everyone, but it is for me! Thanks to my very persuasive sister and a lot of hard work, I am a runner!