How Did I Get Here?

Anybody else unable to utter that phrase without hearing this song on repeat in their head? Just me? Okay.

Seriously, though, this is a question that has been on my mind a lot lately. My history with running is really not that long, but at the same time, I don't know what I did before I started running!

Growing up, I was never a runner. I was involved in basketball and softball and was decently athletic, but I definitely could have skipped the running drills during practice. In the 6th grade I had an asthma attack for the first time while running the mile in gym class. I knew before that that I wasn't a runner, but at that point I definitely knew. I had to use an inhaler before any strenuous activities and had more than a few exercise-induced asthma attacks. Add to that the fact that running just for the sake of running looked insanely boring to me, I resigned myself to a life of being a non-runner.

After high school I stopped playing sports and, since that had really been my only source of exercise, I became a certifiable couch potato. I tried going to the gym a little bit during my freshman year of college, but since I had never stepped foot in one and didn't really know what I was doing, the habit didn't stick. I gained 15+ pounds over my 4 years in college. 

While I was in college, my dad started going to the gym and took up running. The first race he ran was an 8k and by the next year, he was running half marathons. He would tell me briefly about his running, but truthfully, I couldn't have even told you at that point how long a half marathon even was. I was living out of state at the time, and I remember him posting this picture on Facebook:

with the caption, "First time under 2 hours!" My honest-to-goodness response was, "You are happy you just RAN for TWO HOURS...?!" So naive.

For whatever reason, that photo sparked something inside me. Shortly after that, I moved back home, to a new area with a really nice waterfront boardwalk. I was constantly seeing people out jogging, but instead of being confused by why they were torturing themselves in such a way, a little voice in the back of my head kept getting louder and louder, saying, "They are out there doing it...why can't you?"

This went on for two months before I found the Couch to 5k program and convinced my (now) husband to try it with me. We went to a running store and got fitted for shoes, and were on our way. For about a week. We got busy (we had less than a month before our wedding, and not a lot of spare time), and just didn't make it a priority. 

Nine months went by without a thought of trying again. To this day I have no idea what made me decide to lace up and try again, but on April 23, 2011, I decided this was the day. I was going to commit and stick with the program. And I did! For the first time in my life, running made me feel accomplished instead of like I was being punished. It was hard - I struggled to make it through 2-minute runs - but the feeling of pushing through was like nothing I had ever experienced. I remember the first time I almost ran a full mile - something I had never done before, not even in school when we had to. I always walked at least some of it. I was doing C25k and during one of the 7 or 8 minute runs, I decided I wasn't ready to stop and I made it to 10 whole minutes! I called my dad right after. I was beaming, I was so proud of myself. A few weeks later I ran two whole miles. TWO! Without stopping! I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be able to do that. I had looked at the C25k plan earlier in the week and when I saw that run - 22 minutes, no walk breaks - I was so skeptical and afraid. But somehow, I put one foot in front of the other, and I did it.

My first race was on May 22, 2011. I was only a month into C25k and nowhere near ready to really run the full distance, but it was a charity run for a depression and suicide awareness, a cause that is close to my heart. I ran the first two miles and ran/walked the last mile. That last mile was TOUGH. It was hot, my iPod died with like 3/4 of a mile left. Bad times. I ended up finishing in almost 37 minutes.

For Father's Day that year, I signed my dad, my husband, and myself up for a Halloween 10k. Sure, I had never run a full 5k, but surely I could run a 10k right? Life got busy that summer, and I fell off the wagon a few times, but I eventually completed the Couch to 5k program on August 18, 2011. The last run was a 30-minute run, and since I was running about 12 minute miles, I hadn't even worked up to a full 5k yet!

I ran my first, no-stopping 5k on October 8, 2011. It was actually about a minute slower than my first run/walk 5k! But, in starting Couch to 5k, my goal was to run 3 miles without stopping, and that's exactly what I did in that race. (A year later I ran the same race and took just shy of 10 minutes off my time!)

My first 10k was 3 weeks later, and I didn't train for it like I should have. I got up to 3.9 miles as my farthest training distance. The morning of the 10k, my husband and I decided we would run the first 4 miles, since we knew we were capable of that, and then evaluate. When we started the race, I ran the first mile so slowly that my husband was having trouble slowing down enough for me. His 6' 2" frame could not physically run as slow as I needed to. After that first mile and a half or so, I got some confidence that I could really do this, and I picked it up a little bit. We made it to mile 4 and gave each other a "What the hell? Let's do it!" look and kept on running. And we ran and ran and ran to the finish! Our final time was 1:18. (The next year my time was 1:01:01, and the following year I brought it down to 57 minutes on the dot - more than 21 minutes off my time the first year).

After that 10k I wasn't training for anything specific. One Sunday afternoon in December I managed to run 7 miles, and I started to think about running a half marathon. A half had always been in the back of my mind as my ultimate goal, but I wasn't confident I could get there. I had my eye on one in March that was close to selling out, and one night after my run I pulled the trigger and registered (it sold out the next morning!). I started training at the end of December. I wish I could say I followed the training plan to a T, but I didn't exactly. I did most of the long runs, though, and got such a high reaching a new distance PR every weekend. I even ran 13.1 all by myself on a cold, rainy day 2 weeks before the half.

The day of the half came, and I was nervous. My dad ran the whole way with me, even though I was ridiculously slower than he was. I ran the first half faster than I had really planned to, and had a freak asthma attack midway and ended up having to walk about a mile. I tried to keep running but I was really having trouble breathing and had to stop to catch my breath. I was crushed. I felt defeated, like I had let myself down. I picked up running again around mile 8 and tried to make it the rest of the way. I gave up on myself during that race, and ended up walking for another few minutes here and there. Eventually I made it to the finish line, with my dad at my side. Despite not doing my best, I was so proud and both my dad and I cried happy tears at the end! I was a half-marathoner! I'd have that for the rest of my life. No one could ever take that away from me. 

After the half I took some time off to deal with some shin injuries I sustained during training. I started up again in the summer of 2012 and haven't looked back since! In the fall of 2012 I set new 5k and 10k PR's and ran my first 10-mile race. I started training for my 2nd half marathon at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

Things really took off in 2013! I beat and set new PR's left and right. My second half marathon led to my 3rd...and ultimately my 6th. I fell in love with triathlon, which was totally unexpected but now I don't know what I did without it! I crossed 18 finish lines, making 29 total. And, perhaps my biggest accomplishment yet, I completed 15 out of 18 weeks of training for my first marathon, including a distance PR of 22 miles right before the New Year! Did I tell you guys I'm running a marathon this weekend?!

Running has without a doubt changed my life, and it's amazing to me every time I run and see the payoff of the work I've put in over the past (almost) 3 years. Even now, 6 days away, I think about the marathon and wonder, "How will I get there? How will I get through 26.2 miles?" But I know, deep down in my heart, it's exactly the same as when I wondered how I would get through 5-minute jogs. It seems silly now, but at the time it was a hurdle I had never jumped, and it was scary. I hope that one day I will be looking back and laughing at myself for wondering how I'd ever get through a marathon!

1 comment

  1. I loved reading this! I was just thinking this morning about how I did a 5k (I do the Galloway run/walk method) last night after work like it was no big deal, and it wasn't even 6 months ago when the first day of C25K killed me! It's amazing!!