I consider 2009 the year I became a real “runner” but there was a long road leading up to it. I was never the athletic type growing up. I enjoyed riding bikes with the neighbor kids and I unsuccessfully tried a few organized sports but being physically active was not my thing.
Back in 2003 I ran my first half marathon. In fact, it was my first road race ever. I signed up and ran it because my boyfriend-at-the-time and his whole family signed up to run it after picking up his sister from her summer at bootcamp. They were physically active people but I was not. At that point in my life, I did not run, I did not exercise, and I did not eat healthy. I appeared fit because I’m a small person but in actuality, I was in terrible physical and cardiovascular shape. I had poor muscle tone, high cholesterol, and low physical endurance. I did not train for this race and I didn’t know anything about running. I wore the wrong shoes, the wrong clothes, and I knew nothing about hydration, energy, pacing, or breathing. Needless to say, the race was miserable.
I started out in the wrong corral running as fast as I could. I slowed down considerably after a mile and literally thought I was going to die by mile 3. I stopped on the side of the road, gasping for air, unable to take a deep breath… it was terrifying. Thankfully a kind runner passing by stopped and waited with me for a few minutes, encouraging me to slow down my breathing until I could breathe more deeply. I walked for a few miles after that and then started jogging behind two girls who were running a slow and steady enough pace that I could keep up with. My energy was depleted, my muscles ached, my feet were a mixture of numbness and pain, and I had to dig deep to keep moving with every step. When I stumbled across the finish line, the tears poured out of my eyes; I couldn’t believe that I finished and I was unbelievably relieved that it was over.
I could barely walk for more than a week after that race (stairs were impossible!) and I lost four toenails. I stopped running after that. At a later doctor’s appointment, I told my doctor about my ordeal about not being able to breathe, not mentioning that I hadn’t actually trained for the race. He diagnosed me with “exercise induced asthma” and gave me an inhaler. I didn’t have “exercise induced asthma”, I had “I wasn’t in shape to run and pushed myself way too hard syndrome” but I took it as an excuse to lay easy on the physical activity for the next few years.
Fast forward to 2007. I was living in Asheville, NC where people are generally more active than those in small town Pennsylvania where I had been living. I was inspired by some runner friends and decided to try running again but I did too much, too quickly and got an IT band injury that took months to heal.
In 2009 I was living in Valdosta, GA and was inspired by some physically active military friends. I finally started learning about fitness and nutrition, joined a gym, and started running again. This time, armed with knowledge and taking it slowly. Luckily the climate I lived in was great for running almost year round and there were often local races to run in. I turned a friend onto running in February 2010 and we ran many races together, including a half marathon in September that same year. I’m so proud of my friend for coming that far in about six months time and I loved having a running buddy who ran at my pace! Now we live apart, but still get together every year or two to run a half marathon together.
In 2010, I ran 13 local road races. Dulce ran 3 of them with me! Each race was a learning experience and taught me a lot about race preparation and running gear.
My running buddy and I ran the Muddy Buddy race in Atlanta in June 2010. This was a 5 mile running/biking partner race that included obstacles to climb on/under/over along the way and ending with a crawl through a mud pit. It was the coolest race I’ve ever done yet! We were team “Short and Sweet” – I was Short 🙂
In September 2010, my running buddy and I ran the Virginia Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon. This was the same race I had miserably run back in 2003 and I was determined to redeem myself. This was my second half marathon and my running buddy’s first. I was familiar with the course, the expo, and the course so I felt confident going into it. The race went well, we finished in a good time, and I felt very proud of my successful do-over. I danced across the finish line this time, no tears involved.
I’m hooked. I’m a runner for life now. I’m not a fast runner but I’m a strong runner. It’s great for getting and staying in shape but it also has a strong positive effect on my mental well-being. I actually enjoy running (now that I know what I’m doing) and finally get that “runner’s high” which really is an addictive feeling! My goal is to one day be winning first place in my age group at races simply because I’m the oldest one there still running.