Don’t ask me why, but I always aspired to be a runner. When I was little, I would listen to my dad tell me how in his youth he would run laps in a school field and never get tired. The fact that out of so many stories my dad ever told me; I remember that particular one is a huge clue. Yet, I also remember in Physical Education class, when the dreaded one mile run challenge would pop up yearly. I would feel my lungs about to explode while I ran in the heat of the Miami summer. That’s when I decided to place running in a “for some other time” mental folder and concentrated instead on academics and on staying indoors.
Year later I made several halfhearted attempts to get back into running. Sometimes it was by participating in the Corporate Run, a yearly 5K (3.1 miles) race that many employees join, proudly displaying their company’s logos. Other times it was because of fundraising events in the local community or an annual traditional event, such as pre-Thanksgiving race. Again, a few minutes into these races, my muscles would tighten, my breath would become shallow, and my leg or back muscles would beg me to stop. I would run as much as possible, then walk or jog the rest of the way until reaching the finish line. This would leave me frustrated and disillusioned with my will and motivation.
During the 2020 Pandemic, my office closed, and I was working from home. Since I felt the need to go outside my home in a safe manner, I started walking around my block. I remember I would send text photos to my friends showing them with my finger day one, two, etc. Pretty soon I was walking on consecutive days, and then I realized that I enjoyed the activity and would even miss it on those days when I did not walk. One day I checked the distance of the block, and it was almost 3 miles, so I thought, funny, almost a 5K. I have done 5Ks before, but maybe what I lacked was consistency. Maybe, just maybe if I train for a 5K, I could get better. What a concept, huh?
I remember there was a running group, Team Footworks, who would send me emails ever so often mentioning running programs for beginners. I checked their website, and they were starting an in-person running class with a goal to complete a 5K race. After attending an online information session, I decided to finally sign up. However, I noticed that there was another program, one with a goal to train for a Half Marathon. A Half Marathon is 13.1 miles, more than 4 times a 5K. I was crazy even to consider it. Was I? But I remembered their plan is to gradually increase the miles over 13 weeks and do run-walk-run method created by US Olympian Jeff Galloway. This training is supposed to help novice runners get confidence and avoid injury. I cautiously and optimistically joined the Half Marathon group. I told myself I could always go back to the 5K group any time I wanted.
The first weeks were enlightening, as the trainers would advise us on several key aspects: stay hydrated during the week, do two shorter runs on weekdays, use fitted running shoes, and most importantly, be patient. We would not see results quickly, but if we stuck to the training, there would be results. What were my goals, anyway? To improve my health, my nutrition, or even my social skills? After careful consideration, I decided that at the end of this training, I wanted to finish a half marathon without injury. That sounded simple and doable enough.
I will not lie, the first weeks were tough, but not the way you would think. The interval running actually was fine. The tougher part was getting up at 5am (or earlier) on Saturday mornings to meet my group. A mental fight would ensue every morning when my mind would come up with million excuses or alternatives, such as “you’re not a morning person”, “you could run later on your own”, “you had a tough week and deserve a break”, etc. It took a lot of will power to overcome these thoughts, but once I found myself in my car, I was there. After all, one of the critical parts of success is showing up. The results after finishing every “long run” would be elation at having conquered such a large obstacle. My confidence grew because I realized that if I prepared adequately during the week and followed the plan during the run, I would survive. My mind gave up worrying about so many “what ifs” and my body felt ready to do its job.
Another important thing that happened is that I enjoyed running with others. I am mostly an introvert, but I do enjoy connecting with others, in small intimate groups. There is nothing more intimate than running with others for hours at 6am, all disheveled and with unkempt hair. LOL After being with someone two to three hours, there is just so much weather or sports topics you can talk about. I then started to see other runners in deeper way, and topics become much more personal. I realized that I was not there to simply become a better runner, but a better person.
In training to become a half marathoner, I had become a better version of myself. I am now more goal oriented, prepared, patient, consistent, focused, positive, etc. I would like to discuss these topics in more detail later, but I will just share that after that first running class, I have signed up 3 more times, and have completed four half marathons! I am now starting my second year of participating in this wonderful sport of running, and I could not be happier how it has affected all other areas of my life.