Let’s start with a little backstory. I started running on a whim almost 4 years ago. We had just moved to the desert, I had a preschooler and a toddler, and I was desperately trying to find something that could be mine. My husband and I agreed that being a stay at home mom was best for our family for now, but I knew in my heart needed to find something that could be just for me-something to feed my soul, give me a sense of achievement and community. An identity other than ‘wife and mother’, which is how one often feels when they are a stay at home parent. I wanted more. I needed more. I had to find some way to find my worth again in more than just serving meals and wiping faces. So, I searched Facebook for local spouse groups. And in a completely out of character move, I joined a local running club.
Now, I have never been a runner. Ever. In high school I was in every type of band program they offered, but I was also the kid who walked the mile in gym class because I just hated to run. I had a couple times in my adult life where I tried to go for a run, but once it hurt (which was almost immediately) I would quit. Walk back home tell myself that running is insane and people who run are a special kind of insane who think torturing yourself is enjoyable. I, as a self proclaimed sane person, was not going to run.
So, why would someone who was so clearly terrible at running decide to join a running club? I wondered the same thing. But I knew I needed to try something….different. I needed to just see what I could do, so I told myself I would try their Couch to 5K program. I would commit to the 3 day a week runs for those 8 weeks, and for once in my life see what happened when I didn’t quit.
I showed up the first day, and sat in my car as I watched the other ladies show up. It was spandex and jogging strollers as far as the eye could see. It was intimidating to say the least, as I loaded my toddler into my hand-me-down stroller and tugged at my oversized sweatshirt and stretchy pants. I figured I must have looked so out of place and terrified as I was quickly greeted by one of the women who asked if I was new and what my name was. She was so warm and welcoming as she showed me where the other runners who were doing the program were waiting. Before I knew it, announcements and greetings were done and it was time to *gulp* start running.
Day 1 was supposed to be easy. A 5 minute warm up walk, alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, and then a 5 minute cooldown walk.
I. WAS. DYING.
I couldn’t even run for 60 second intervals without feeling like my lungs were on fire and my legs were going to fall right off my body. I told myself that I was not coming back. That this is crazy and just not for me. I would find something else, a wine drinking club perhaps! Those would be my people, not these ladies (as nice as they were). As we rounded the corner towards the parking lot for our cooldown walk, the woman who first came to greet me pulled her stroller up next to mine. She asked me how it was and if I had fun. Uhm, no I did not have fun. We were running. And running is not fun. She laughed and said she hoped she would see me Friday at the next meet up, and I told her she would. Because the truth is, as much as it may have sucked and as much pain as I felt, I also felt….good? Like, really good. And proud! I mean, it wasn’t pretty by any means. I was slow, and winded, and looked more like someone who had just gone 12 rounds in the ring instead of ran for 60 seconds. But none of that mattered when the run was over, because all that mattered was that I did it. And all that mattered now was if I was going to keep doing it.
And so I did. I kept showing up. The intervals got longer, and so did my endurance. The runs were more challenging, but somehow they also got easier. I learned that even when my legs burned and my chest hurt and it was hard, I could still do it. I could still push, for one more mile or one more lap or just make it to that street lamp ahead and you can stop. Running showed me that hard is not the same as impossible.
I went on to graduate from the 5k training program. And then the 10k program. And I have since done several 5k’s, 10k’s, 2 super sprint triathlons, a half marathon, and a 366 day running streak (more about that in a future post). I even went on to become a leader for that running club, and yes I still think running is hard. But I now know that I can do it, and I know that it has changed my life. I started running as a way to find myself, but it has become so much more than that. It has become part of my identity. I’m not just someone who runs, I’m a runner.