“All it takes is a spark to ignite a fire.”
I can’t recall the exact date. I don’t remember how long it was the first time. But I do know that since this relationship began, it’s been one of the healthiest of my life. Before I go any further, get your mind on the right track – I’m talking about running.
Those who know me today might assume I’ve been a runner all my life. Not the case. There was a time I hated running. My high school sports team started each practice with a one-mile warm up run. And I complained the whole way. I dreaded it. I petitioned for why we shouldn’t have to run. Yep, all this fuss over one damn mile.
Fast forward to college. I was working at a local gym, occasionally hitting the elliptical to try and shed some of that famous college weight many of you may remember. Jen, my co-worker and friend (also former teammate and fellow running hater) told me she decided she was going to run a 5k. I thought to myself, “Why?” Also, “Damn, 3 miles! No way I could do that.” Yep, I let that negative voice inside my head talk me out of something before I had even given it a try.
A couple months later, Jen ran that 5k. I was so proud of her – and a little jealous. I wanted to cross the finish line too. I wanted to be proud of such an awesome accomplishment. It made me wonder, should I give this running thing a try? I’ve seen the runners at the gym. They look great. They’re hopelessly devoted to the sport. There had to be something more to it than “just running”. Also, the thought of it reignited the competitive athlete inside of me, the one I hadn’t seen in nearly 5 years. She was kind of a badass in her heyday and I wanted her back. But that negative voice was still there, telling me I couldn’t do it.
Then the best thing that could have happened did: Jen asked if I’d ever want to run a race with her, and train together. The thought of having someone there with me made think I maybe could do it. So we made a commitment, one of “Go Big or Go Home” caliber: To run a half marathon in May of 2007. That was the spark.
One thing I didn’t expect was the lifestyle change that came with training. Instead of going out on Friday nights, I stayed in and went to be early so I could be there for Jen Saturday mornings, and be at my best for me. We slowly worked up our mileage each weekend. We hit the treadmill and cross-trained on our own during the week, always knowing we had to report to each other on Saturdays. No way in hell was I going to be “the weak one” so it kept me motivated to stick to the weekly workouts. When May rolled around, Jen and I lined up with all the runners (neither of us felt like a real “runner” yet) and ran the entire half marathon. Crossed the finish line. Holy shit, was that a trip.
After that, I could have easily quit running. I completed my goal, after all. But I didn’t quit. I wanted to keep at it. I wanted to get better, faster. In those months of training, I had formed a relationship with running. I lost several pounds. I got stronger. I was healthier, both mentally and physically. I felt closer to that athlete inside me. Running just made me feel good. It changed my life, it saved my life.
Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs. There have been some love/hate moments. It hasn’t gotten easier over the years; we have to work at it nearly every day. And, I admit, some days I just don’t want to. But running has given me so much, I oddly feel like I owe it the same. Or maybe it’s that I realize running is one of those things where, the more effort you give to it, the more rewards you get back from it.
I’d love to hear about how you found your way into running – or walking, swimming, weight lifting, fitness in general. Tweet me @runlikeagirl311.