For many years, I reserved the ‘runner’ title for those who ran often, usually fast, and/or trained for marathons. Many years later, I realized I was always a runner. From those first strides as an adolescent, with intentions to keep moving, step after step. From my first 5k to last year’s Quad Dipsea (a 28.4 ultra-marathon in Marin County) and everything in between. Here is a peek into my journey to becoming a runner.
The Beginning of My Journey to Becoming a Runner
My history of running traces back to the 6th grade where I joined the cross country running team, mostly to hang out with my best friend, Molly, who was a few inches taller than me, lean and ran like a gazelle. I attended track meets and ran with heart, but I strongly disliked being out of breath and I craved the finish line as soon as the gun went off.
Over the next 7 years, I only ran if it meant catching a bus or I was late for class. I chose martial arts for my sport. It wasn’t until my Freshman year in college, when I was upset about an unfair grade given to me by a stubborn professor, that I began to run. I ran out of frustration, but did not “love it.” I ran hard for 2 miles and quit. After a few hard runs, I switched to running treadmills for 30 minutes indoors at my college gym.
After my undergraduate degree was complete, I moved to Boston. And there I began running again. The Charles River closeby, I ran in the humid summer heat and brisk cold winter to escape the stressors of working long hours at my accounting firm. Still, I considered myself a ‘casual jogger’. A partner at my firm suggested a 5k, then a 10k, so I ran. I did my best to keep up, running 10 min – 11 min miles, which took everything I had. To this day, when I a run sub-8-minute mile pace on a long run or sub-6-minute mile pace on the track, I quite often think about my ‘slower’ days and am floored. Now I can run for miles, hold a conversation for hours and simply ENJOY running. It’s a humbling memory.
From Jogger to Runner
When I moved from Boston to San Francisco in 2007, I began to truly appreciate the beauty of running. My first SF-based apartment was in the Marina district, just a few blocks from Crissy Field, a popular Bay Area running spot. Again, with long hours of working in the accounting-financial world (upwards of 80 hours per week), I sought stress relief, waking up early to bolt down to the Golden Gate Bridge and back home. The beauty of the landscape, the surfers under the bridge, Alcatraz and the city lit up in the background. I thought: “YES, I get it, running outside is pretty great.”
Dealing with health issues in 2009, I stepped away from running and took a break. When I recovered, I started exercising on an elliptical machine. With a new sense of strength and direction, I began to run intervals on the treadmill, inventing my workouts as I went. A few months later, I signed up for a local 5k and I ran hard, capturing a 4/29 AG place, averaging an 8: 34-mile pace. Yet, I still thought of myself as a “jogger,” not yet earning ‘runner’ status.
After this 5k, I was hooked on improving. Three months later, I was winning my age group, getting faster and faster. My husband joked that we had a 5k every weekend that year. But he was happy to see me so fulfilled by these events, so he accompanied me to every race.
That fall, I joined a local triathlon team and was in complete AWE of my teammates. They were running longer than a 5k distance (some waaaay longer) and looked so content, relaxed and driven mile after mile. To me, that kind of running seemed impossible… until I started to believe I, too, could fly with speed.
Speedbumps Along the Way
Typical of many beginner triathletes I overtrained, because of the excitement of the sport and the desire to test my strength. Case in point: 6 weeks before toeing the start line of my first Ironman, I could not run 6 miles without a pain in my shin. A few experienced teammates told me “It’s better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained.” Guess what? They were right! When I hopped off my bike at Ironman Couer d’Alene, I easily transitioned into a solid run, averaging a 10:30 pace for 26.2 miles. To this day, I think about that sound advice and I treasure it.
Two years later, due to the low positioning of my expected baby boy, I could not run past 20 weeks. This caused me disappointment, but I knew it was time to put the running shoes aside and instead I swam and practiced prenatal yoga. Waiting the 4 weeks after my baby boy was born per doctor’s orders, I consulted with a pro-triathlete friend who delivered a beautiful baby girl 6 months before my son was born. She suggested a walk-run interval. I could barely run 1/10th mile, but eventually, I increased my distance, incorporating weekly Pilates and yoga into my routine.
Since then, focusing on strength and flexibility has been the key to getting back to strong running.
Of course, actually ‘running’ is key to success for your journey to becoming a runner. These training aspects plus training once again with my inspiring teammates brought me to discover my next goal: Running the Grand Canyon – Rim to Rim to Rim. One day of absolute trail joy, challenge and of course: running 43 miles, 10,500 feet of exquisite adventure.
Originally posted 2018-07-05 12:20:15.