I was the kid in school who would throw a fit if our gym teacher made us run laps. I grew up doing gymnastics, so sports that required running were basically a foreign concept to me. I didn’t understand the point of running, I thought it was miserable, I just wasn’t going to do it, and that was that.
I was never really athletic growing up. The extent of my athleticism was joining the swim team (the only sport where everyone made the team) for two seasons to avoid having to do another year of P.E. in high school, and then sitting in the slow lane for two seasons and never competing. I always thought it was cool that other kids were so athletic, but I thought that just wasn’t me and probably never would be.
I started running for the same reason most people do; to lose weight. Toward the end of my high school career, I started running a mile here and there only because my prom dress was backless. The neighborhood I grew up in is very hilly, and I remember running the loop around the block and gradually working my way up to running the whole 1.3 mile loop, half of which was a steep downhill. I ran consistently and still hated every second of it.
My turning point came in 2006. As I started applying for colleges, I realized I had zero volunteer experience under my belt, so when my Dad asked if my friend and I wanted to volunteer to hand out medals at the finish line of the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon, I begrudgingly accepted. I waited patiently at the finish line for the runners to start collecting their medals and when I saw the first group of runners approaching us, I felt an excitement like I have never experienced before. I was instantly hooked. I couldn’t believe that all these people, over a thousand people, were doing something that I had always understood to be unattainable.
When we left the race that day, I told my Dad and my friend that I was going to run a marathon, and I would have been shocked if they had believed me. But I started running. I started with a mile each day and slowly built up until, by the time I graduated high school in June of 2007, I could run/walk about 6 miles.
I went off to college in 2007 and my running became less consistent. I ran 5-6 miles at a time, but wasn’t ready to push for anything more. By the time I picked it back up seriously in 2009, I was ready to get my head in the game. I downloaded a training plan off the internet and just started running. I ran and ran and ran until, in June of 2010, I stood at the starting line of the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon, the same one that had started me on the path of running, ready to complete my first marathon.
It was brutal and I wasn’t even close to trained enough for what I was undertaking. I ran in the tech shirt that the race had given me the day before (the only one I owned) and ended up with terrible chaffing on my stomach from a rogue tag. I didn’t carry any gels or water and I wore shoes that I had found on a bargain rack. But I finished.
Feeling concerned that this might be the end for me.
From the moment I crossed the finish line, I was completely hooked. I ran my first Portland Marathon later that year and to date, I have finished 8 marathons.
26.2 is never something I would have ever thought I could achieve. I thought those kinds of goals were for other people… not me. Over the past 8 marathons, I have shaved 48 minutes off my time. I have learned which race fuel works best for me (gummy bears!). I have learned what to eat the night before and morning of so I don’t get sick. I have learned how to push through extreme pain and discomfort. I have learned mantras and how to turn my brain from everyday mode to marathon mode.
Running has given me an identity and a barometer by which to measure preparation and success. Running will always be a wonderful way to stay in shape, but the effect on my mental health and general view of what is possible is something I never could have predicted.
I hear so many people say, “I could never run a marathon,” but the truth is that if you are lucky enough to have a body that is healthy and able, you CAN run a marathon. It doesn’t take superhuman skill and agility to do it, just an appropriate amount of training and a lack of willingness to accept failure.
If I can do it, so can you!