Technically, I've been running since I was eleven years old.
(I guess even more technically, I've been running since I was a little, little kid, as most kids are pretty prone to running.)
But I've been running as a sport since I was eleven, when I joined my middle school's cross country team. My dad was a runner, he always told me I should be one too, so I signed up. And talked my best friend since kindergarten into joining with me. She turned out to be a magnificent runner.
Me? Not so much.
The thing is, I hated it most of the time. HATED it. Don't get me wrong - I loved the camaraderie of being a part of a team, I loved goofing around with my team mates, I loved the feeling you get after you've finished a run. All of that.
I just hated the actual running part.
And this love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship I had with running continued through middle school and high school, as I signed up for the cross country team every year. I was typically one of the last if not the last girl to finish every race. I just didn't really care how I did. It was more about being a part of a team, something bigger, and the fun bus rides home from meets.
Here is a picture of some CC-style fun, for those of you not familiar:
(I'm all the way on the right. I've blacked out faces for privacy.)
Then I went to college. No more team sports, and way less time for exercise. I ran pretty sporadically, but mostly gave it up.
After college, I would go on spurts of running for a few days a week for two or three weeks (if that), then would remember that I hated running and quit.
Fast forward to November, 2010. I ran a 15k with some friends (and by "with," I mean we started the race together, and then I waved to them as they sped forward), and it was terrible. I didn't really train, and I had to walk half of it. I cursed myself for the last five or six miles, and decided at the finish that I would never run another race.
Then, last spring, I was fed up. Fed up with being unhealthy and too sedentary and insecure. I started eating better, and joined my neighborhood gym. One day, I ran to that gym (about .9 miles), and felt pretty okay. I did it again a few days later. It was on and off - I didn't have a consistent weekly mileage or anything - but something was different.
I no longer hated running.
That summer, the family (my dad, mom, sister and I) decided to run a Labor Day 10k together. Here we are at the start line:
(I'm in orange. Once again blacked out for privacy, although I'm sure my family wouldn't care, I still always feel weird about photos on the Internet).
Once again though, I under-trained, and once again, I did poorly. But I kind of had fun - my mom was kind enough to hang back with me, and we enjoyed the time together.
At the end of that race - which I finished knowing I could've done better - I decided that not only would I run another race, but that I would run the 15k that I failed miserably at the year before, only this time, I would kick its a$$. I would stick to a proper training schedule, and I would rock it.
And, I did! I totally blew my time away from 2010, and felt amazing afterward.
From that point on, it was like I caught a contagious running disease, and the only cure was more running. I decided to sign up a half-marathon, and then to sign up for the Chicago Marathon in October 2012. I planned a training schedule for the half, and stuck to it. And even the long runs and the sucky runs that I really didn't want to do, I finished knowing that it was all for a greater good - to make it to that finish line, preferably in one piece.
Last Saturday, May 5, I ran the half-marathon. Remember that best friend since kindergarten that I convinced to run cross country with me? Well, I convinced her to run the Kenosha Half-Marathon with me, too :) Here we are at the start line:
Looking a little nervous, and also a little sleepy. But we finished, and both of us blew our goal times out of the water. This is me nearing the finish line, just after they've called my name over the loud speaker:
It was the most amazing feeling to hear my name at the finish - like it made the whole experience more real. I really just ran 13.1 miles, and now all these people know my name.
My friend and I felt like superheroes, so naturally, we took this picture:
And I still feel like a superhero, a few days later. That is what running can do - it can make you feel like a superhero every once in a while, even when the rest of your life is pretty ordinary.
Running consistently has equaled weight loss for me, sure. And that's terrific. But it's become about so much more. I'm happier. I sleep better. I eat better, knowing that jelly beans don't really make a great pre-run snack. I'm more confident. I have built-in me time every time I go for a run. I also get to catch up with one of my best friends once a week on long runs.
And after I finish a race, I feel like my life is just a little more extraordinary than it was before.
Running has done so much for me, I feel bad hating it for as long as I did!
And now... on to the marathon!