I started running sometime around late 2008, I believe, after a job switch and an older coworker who was a runner (As detailed in my first ever post!). It took me a while to get off of my treadmill and onto the roads. I hid on my treadmill, doing slow intervals at first, just plain feeling schlumpy and slow. I wouldn’t hit the road until I could run all three miles at once (thinking 5k), no matter how slow. At the time, I was living in a small town with lots of folks I’d grown up with – maybe this was part of the deterrent too. But eventually, I hit my mark of 3 miles without stopping on the treadmill.
Onto the roads I went. I remember being slightly scared and feeling like everyone was watching me those first couple of weeks while out running. I know now that they weren’t, but that sure is what it felt like. I kept it to the back roads to avoid lots of cars.
I remember my first race, a tiny little 5k at the local community park. It was Memorial Day, and I was wearing my cotton tshirt, slightly baggy spandex knee-length shorts, and plain white Asics from Kohl’s. I definitely thought I was going to be last (I wasn’t, but it was close, thanks to a tiny race – poor choice on my part). For the life of me, I can’t dig up those pics but they exist. In the pics my mom took, I look like I’m walking (I wasn’t) and sweating and my nostrils look like a fire-breathing dragon. 7 years and a ton of races later, those looks still haven’t changed, I’m just 20 pounds lighter and a few minutes faster – still not a high-kneed, floating while running, type person. My nose still flares out like a dragon. But that day I learned that I could do things I thought I could not, even if I was almost last. I was proud of myself, none the less, and with my best friend by my side, kept on running and race.
In the following year, my BFF and I lured many other folks into the running world that we’d created: 5ks were sometimes 10+ person events, with friends from HS and college, cousins, parents, significant others, and eventually babies in strollers. Though those numbers have changed each year with pregnancies, moves, and other life events, whether I do a race by myself or with friends, the feeling of being supported by my friends and family hasn’t changed, even if they aren’t at the race with me. This has been an amazing and surprising benefit to running.
I could not be more joyful that I didn’t give up after one very hard, slow first race.
Over the years, I’ve learned that running is much more than the place you finish. I’ve learned that we are a community. I’ve learned that being fit matters to me, no matter what my current weight is. I feel like I’m in a not-so-secret club, and that I “belong” among fellow runners, no matter my speed. I can’t say I thought these things were a possibility back that first year, in my geeky cotton t shirt. Sure, this isn’t about fashion – but for me, that also had to do with wanting to be seen or not seen: my confidence as a part of the running community has grown exponentially. Now, if I’m even close to last (which I still am sometimes) – I’m comfortable enough to be my bright, glittery self, and don’t mind everyone looking at me. I can’t say that I would have expected that outcome after that first tough year learning to be a runner!