Growing up, the word running was synonymous with a few different words. Among them were torture, punishment, pain, and dread. I remember trying to fake being sick on those dreaded few days each school year when we had to run the mile in gym class. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to run – it just seemed so awful to me.
Fast forward to the year 2003 and I’ve decided to get in shape and join a gym. After a year or two of solely sticking to the elliptical trainer and the occasional group exercise class, I decided to take up running. For some reason, I always had it in my head that you weren’t a real athlete unless you were a runner. I wasn’t even really sure how one becomes a runner, but gave it my best shot. I can still clearly remember going for those first few outdoor runs.
I started off by walking for a minute, running the next, and so on. Then my runs got longer, I could run for one mile without stopping, then two, three and so on. In 2005, a friend and I decided to sign up for a 5k race. It was my first race ever and I was nervous! I set a goal for myself to finish in 30 minutes or less. I finished in 28:30 and felt great! I registered for a number of 5k, 8k and 10k races over the next few years.
I started increasing my mileage and started thinking about running a half marathon; it seemed like a really great challenge and realistic goal considering where I was at, so I took the plunge and registered for the Baltimore Half Marathon. I trained for it by running 8-10 mile runs 2-3 times a week (and shorter runs one other day). I felt good and strong and prepared for race day. On race day, my goal was to finish in two hours. The course was pretty tough with a lot of big hills. It was also great because there were spectators along the entire 13.1 miles cheering us on. I got a sharp pain in my I.T. band around mile 7, but just kept running, and my finish time was 1 hour and 58 minutes.
After that, I took a break from running. Because of my injured I.T. band, I physically couldn’t run for a few months, and I really didn’t miss it (and started to resent it). I had this “all or nothing” mentality when it came to running and didn’t think a run was even “worth it” if it was less than six miles. Since I couldn’t run more than a mile without shooting pain in my I.T. band I decided to give up on running all together.
A few weeks ago I decided to give running another shot. I went into it with a different attitude this time: to run for fun and when I feel like it (and never because I think I have to). I started out with a 15-minute run around my neighborhood. The runs that have followed have ranged from 20-25 minutes, which has just depended on how I was feeling. When I run now I don’t pay much attention to time, mileage, calories burned or how fast I’m going. Instead, I focus on enjoying a little “me” time before the work day starts. If I feel like stopping to walk for a bit, I will. If I feel like I’m “done” after just 10 minutes, then so be it.
Now that I’ve accepted the fact that I am not a marathoner (and that’s OK!). I have a totally different outlook on running and (dare I say?) I think I’m starting to like it again. I now believe that it’s okay to just run– not for any other reason than because I want to.