For me, “New Year” starts on my birthday – this past Friday – and I always start thinking about my past year. February is also my “Runnaversary” month, so I tend to get a little nostalgic about my running.
I think about accomplishments – not just as it relates to running – and I think about setbacks. I decide what I want to do this year, and I set up my goals.
‘Cause I’m a nerd that way.
This year, the birthday was… Well… It was a little more poignant for many reasons, not the least of which was that I moved up to the masters this year. It sounded worse than it is so far, but ask me again in a couple of weeks when I finish my half marathon in Birmingham, AL.
Nostalgia time: Officially, this month marks 4 years since I started running again. I ran in college just for fun. I had a PE class that was required called PE 100 that we all affectionately referred to as Run 100 because the end of semester final included running 3 miles in 30 minutes. I dreaded it, but I practiced between classes because I didn’t want to fail… Or gain the freshman 15.
At the final, I made the requirement: 3 miles in 29:43.
I was happy and proud. My teacher pulled me aside and told me that I seemed to like it (I agreed) and that I was good at it (wasn’t as quick to agree to that one) and recommended I buy some “real running shoes”.
Something he said must have resonated with me because I went out and bought shoes that day. A pair of clearance New Balances (because I was a broke college kid) that were probably not the right fit, but they were more comfortable than Keds.
Thus, started Devil’s Chasin’ Me 1.0
I ran for fun for the next seven years, never competing and never going farther than 5 miles, but I was content and I was comfortable. Occasionally, I’d get out of the habit, but I usually came back to it… Until I became pregnant with my first child. 9 months after he was born, I was pregnant with my second.
Running took a back seat. I was triaging adjustment to motherhood, holding down a full time job and keeping my marriage together. Then I discovered one of my kids had special needs, so the appointments and therapies and evaluations and specialists became part of the triaging. and then special needs for one of them: therapies, evaluations and specialists became part of the triaging. Then came the marital difficulties and all that went along with that. There just wasn’t enough time for all of it, and running was put on the back burner.
Looking back now, it was only for three years, but it seemed like an eternity. Late 2008 I realized I was profoundly unhappy and needed a change in my life. I thought about the happiest I had ever been: in college and shortly after when I was a runner. I needed to get back to that.
Thus started Devil’s Chasin’ Me 2.0. I had a long way to go: I had to loose about 30 pounds and I was slower than molasses in January, but I was determined to get that feeling back. I got up at 5 am and did my weight watchers couch to 5k, gradually earning back the feeling I had in the 1.0 years.
I confided in a friend that I started running again and he was an amazing influence on me – still is, for many many reasons. He suggested that I enter a race. No, no, I’d neigh… I’ve only done 2.5 miles. I’m not ready for a race. He’d smile, tilt his head and say “if you can do that, you can do 4” and so it was, I entered a 4 mile race, and did well. “You should do a 10k” he said. No, no… That’s almost twice as far, I’d rebut. Again, he smiled, tilted his head to the side and said “if you can do 4, you can do 6”. So I did… And I did well.
I finally saw a reason to keep running. I had a way to test myself and I was hooked, but aside from my friend, there weren’t many who got it.
I joined a group on Active.com of supportive people who didn’t call me crazy, but understood and encouraged me, just as he did… And still do. I have an increasing network of runner friends I can honestly say inspire me in many ways.
Then my friend said “you should do a half marathon” I laughed – noooo… That is more than twice as far! What are you, crazy?? He smiled, tilted his head and said “if you can do 6.2, you can do 13.1”.
So, I did.
And, now I’m hooked, 9 half marathons in as many states later.
About to do my 10th.
My friends, these people have been indispensable friends to me and have encourage me to keep going when I had a bad day. Honest to God, the best friends I’ve ever had, some of which I have not even met in person yet.
So… I write this diatribe for a few reasons… The first is: I want to get better at running. I am getting better – better than I even thought I could be, but I don’t have many years left to improve, I know that. I am going to take advantage of every second I do have and pray I stay healthy and injury free. Believe me, I do not take that for granted.
The second is: I want to give back the support I’ve been given. I tell all new runners the same thing my friend told me: you can do it – I know it better than you do. I am not perfect at it like you think I am: I have ruts; I hate it some days (and then feel bad about it the next day); I skip runs; I feel crappy sometimes during a run.
It happens to everyone and it will happen to you, but at the end of the day, if it is true love (and it is for me), you’ll never really leave.
And, If you do 2.5, you can do 4.
And, if you do 4, you can do 6.2.
And if you do 6.2, you can do 13.1.
I believe in you.
I’ve been told a couple of times recently that I was an inspiration and quite frankly, it humbled me.
Thus, starts 2.1: mentor. I hope.
I will have more specific advice for those newbies shortly.
Until then… Good night, friends.