I’m a runner.
Not by nature; it took me 25 years to morph myself into one. But I am a runner.
Truthfully, I spent most of my childhood dreading runs – especially the warm-up runs my coaches would put us through. My tennis coach keeping our runs as short as across the parking lot to the baseball fields and back was enough to make me love him. We were required to run as our field hockey off-season training. I interpreted that as subscribing myself to two-mile runs once every other week. If there wasn’t an object to go after, I was not interested. So I totally get it when people look at me, bewildered, and ask what makes me want to run.
It took living at home in Connecticut, commuting two hours in and out of NYC and no longer having a gym membership for me to fall into the arms of running. It was a slow love that started with forcing my feet into my sneakers every Saturday morning – the only time of the week I truly had to myself. Then I would talk myself into driving down to my favorite part of town, a quiet harbor and beach road in Southport. Once there it was the road, me and a week’s worth of pent-up stress. Two-mile walk-runs gradually pushed themselves to five-mile runs. One week at a time. I would come home glowing and reenergized. Like something had been reignited in me. It’s true – those runner’s highs are addicting.
With a little push (and financial help) from my parents, I finally took my advertising-assistant salary and moved into the city. Dropping four hours a day of commuting can have a religious effect on someone. It was as if I had the time to do anything I wanted. I went from running once a week to four times a week, particularly loving my pre-work runs that left me glowing and feeling vibrant all the way to the office. I am ever grateful to still have those morning miles to myself.
A little encouragement and peer pressure from fellow runners led to challenges of signing up for races and, eventually, being talked into a half marathon. I will say the process of getting to that start line is the hardest part. It takes dedication to weekly training runs (Lesson learned, I can’t skimp on dinner, sleep 5 hours, slug down a few beers and expect to run 10 miles in the morning. Never going to happen.) and mental preparation to get through the pain and self-doubt (Lots of looking in the mirror and saying “yes, you can run 13 miles today.”).
My completing a half-marathon was immediately answered with expectations to run a marathon. It took six half-marathons and a friend agreeing to sign up with me, but I finally took the plunge to commit to a full marathon and then took on a second one. Did I break any records? Ha. No. But I crossed the finish line each time and had the time of my life.
Truthfully, anyone can run. Like tennis, it’s 90% mental and all in how much you can take. My mind is what kept me going. I had friends in the crowd with me who I knew were sticking with it, friends and a boyfriend who ran alongside me and a fan club waiting to see me.
There’s something about the culture of the race that keeps you moving forward. We’re all working through the distance with individual goals in mind, but really we’re all tackling the sucker together – motivating each other with every step. You may not know the person starting next to you, but you sure as heck get excited when you see them emerge through the crowd after losing them for 3 miles.
Or perhaps, it’s just that it’s hard not to feel like a rock star when thousands of people you don’t know are cheering you on and screaming the name written on your shirt.
“On long runs I can’t help but think about how I’m going to recover after it’s all over. First I’ll start with a good stretch while lying on the floor, then I’ll drink a bottle of chocolate milk and, finally, I love to cover my body with St. Ives Energizing Citrus & Vitamin C Fresh Hydration Lotion. It makes me feel like I could do it all over again.”