Three Years

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my first marathon and I'm feeling really emotional about it, which is surprising because last year on this day I couldn't have forced myself to care about it if I wanted to. I'm not sure what changed or if somehow 3 years is a bigger deal than 2, but man, I'm having a hard time processing this one! That January day feels simultaneously like yesterday and a lifetime ago. I feel like I was JUST sitting at my grandma's kitchen table in Charleston, filling up my 33oz water bottle for what felt like the hundredth time that day, anticipating my early morning alarm.

And then I think of all the things that have happened since then, all of the life changes, and how life today looks absolutely nothing like life back then, and I feel like it's been an eternity. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at these last 3 years, and at the 3 years before that. See, I'm having the hardest time wrapping my mind around the fact that more time has passed since I first ran a marathon and now than had passed between my running for the first time EVER in my life and becoming a marathoner. How is that even possible?!

In the beginning... I've told this story a million times, but not recently, so here's the short version: I started running in April 2011 using the Couch 2 5k app, having never previously run, ever. I tried out for track in the 6th grade because my friends were doing it and found out on the first day of try-outs that I had inherited my dad's asthma, yay! So I didn't run at all between 1999 to 2011, at which point my dad had started running and had worked up to a few half marathons. I was 23 and my idea of exercise was walking to the kitchen for chips during Rela Housewives commercials, but I had just moved to anneihbborhood with a beautiful waterfront path and I thought, "...if my dad can do it, maybe I can too?" I roped my tall, lean husband, who unfairly has the quintessential runners body despite having no interest in the sport, into trying the C25k program with me. Six months later we ran our first 5k together and, as they say, the rest is history.

But actually, the rest goes like this:

When I first started running, a 5k was my ultimate goal. The idea of running THREE MILES was enough of a challenge that it intrigued me, but hard enough that I was sure that it would be a miracle if I made it that far. But once I started running, albeit very, very slowly, I discovered the great secret behind it: there is really nothing to it but to put one foot in front of the other. So that's what I did. Although I was unprepared for it, a few weeks after my first 5k, I (very, very slowly) ran my first 10k. I ran it so slowly that my 6'2" husband almost left me because he physically could not run at my pace, but I ran all 6.2 miles.

After that I started to set my sights on a half marathon, but even as I trained for my first one, I was sure that would be my ceiling. No freaking way I would ever run farther than 13.1 miles. Getting to that finish line is was one of my life's greatest struggles, and to this day I don't think I've earned a medal more than I earned that one. My first half marathon was such an endeavor that it took me a full year to run another one. But then I ran another one, and it was crossing that finished line that I wondered, for the first time, if I had it in me to do that twice.

Two months later, I had chosen and begun training for my first marathon: the Charleston Marathon in January 2014. Twenty six point two miles through the city where I was born, at age 26.2 (if you round down - close enough). Those four hours, forty eight minutes, and fifty four seconds changed my life in ways I never imagined. But what's most surprising to me now is how things have changed since then, in ways I could have never imagined.

I ran my first marathon at an 11:02 pace, and although that was a bit slower than I had hoped for, I was over the moon with that. I had completed my first Olympic distance tri during training and, while I dreamed of one day doing a half Ironman, I was over the moon with that accomplishment as well. It was, and still is, surreal to have gone from a girl who walked the mile in gym class to a marathoner and a triathlete. I'd never worked so hard at anything in my life, and it was such a sweet reward after pouring myself into something that seemed so impossible when I started. There were two years and 9 months in between my trying out C25k and becoming a marathoner. There have now been three full years since I became a marathoner.

Since I ran my first marathon, I've trained for 4.5 more and have completed 2 of those (two were DNS and one is pending). I thought I had gone the distance with a marathon, and I guess with running I had, but I was just scratching the surface of the miles I could get through on my body's power. I've finished two 70.3 races, trained for an Ironman (with a max one-day mileage of 114 miles - 110 on the bike and 4 on the run - since the race itself was shortened to 84.6 miles). I've logged thousands of miles in training - in fact, next month I'm on target to hit 5,000 lifetime running miles!

Since I ran my first marathon, I've learned to take chances. Before that race I had never really pushed out of my comfort zone in a race, but post-marathon, that started to change. The same year I ran my first marathon, I ran a sub-2 half marathon for the first time. And the second time. And the third time. I ran a sub-9 pace for the first time in a race, a 10k, a few months after my first marathon. I ran a sub-8 pace for the first time in a race, also a 10k, just a few months after that. I haven't run any farther than I did during my first marathon, but I have run faster, and it's because that race taught me to get out of my comfort zone and see what happened.

Since I ran my first marathon, I've lived in three different homes (and am about to move to a 4th). I've learned to apply the lessons I learn from running about chasing my dreams to other areas of my life, and I've seen those dreams come true. I ran one of my first marathon training runs in New York and dreamed of one day living in a city; today I live in the heart of Washington DC. I trained for my first marathon during my first semester back in school, taking general science and math classes in preparation for years worth of engineering classes before completing my degree. Today I'm a transportation engineer.

Three years. THREE years. I thought I had done a lot in my pre-marathon days. Turns out I was just getting started.


  1. You've come a loooong way in three years! Running anniversaries are always fun to celebrate because I find it so interesting to see the journey that you've taken from race #1 to where you are now. Everyone's journey is so different!

  2. Congratulations!! This was a great post. It really is amazing how far we can come in such a shot time and what our bodies are capable of when we work hard. Here's to three more excellent years for you!

  3. I don't think you realize how much I needed to read this today. Last year, I was all set for another half marathon and then sprained my ankle during the first week of training. This school year has been the absolute worst of my career, (I love my job! It's just been a trying year.) and my running has definitely suffered too. I finally decided that just maybe I'd try again for another half marathon this year, but if work got the best of me, I wouldn't beat myself up. Well, I finally started looking at training schedules and calendars and all that, only to realize that I'm already a week behind and no where near the level I should be right now. I was pretty much ready to already give up, but I think I'm going to give it a shot anyway. And if I don't end up running the race? So be it. But why not try?

  4. I so love this post. It encourages me so much... I can remember thinking I'd NEVERRRRR run at all. Much less 3.1 or 6.2 or 13.1 .. & yet, I did it. & the idea that there are still goals ahead? So inspiring. Especially to see someone like you nail the most amazing goals!!!
    Everyone needs a Day 1 - right? :) Keep going girl!

  5. Congrats! My running timeline was pretty similar to yours - I did C25K starting in June 2011, and then ran my first marathon in October 2013. I can definitely relate to those feelings of each new distance being your "upper limit." When I did my first 5K, I never dreamed I'd be able to run more than 3.1 miles in one shot. Now if I run less than three miles, it feels like I didn't even go out for a run at all. It's crazy how much our perspective can change if we allow it!

  6. I've said it a million times but I'll say it again. You are a ROCKSTAR and always inspire me. I loved re-reading your running story.

  7. It gives me hope when really accomplished runners show that they didn't grow up doing their sport. I want to like running (or any form of exercise, really) but I just don't. But maybe wanting to will be enough to really get me started one day. I'm glad you shared!

  8. awww i'm late to reading this but i just love it. you've come so far and it's been such a joy following along. can't wait to see what else you accomplish! and of course, being there at the finish line for your Ironman! very exciting!