I am not a natural runner.
Running isn’t easy for me.
I don’t put on my running shoes and go out for a run expecting the experience to be easy breezy. No matter what my running pace – whether I’m running a race and giving it my all, or telling myself to take it easy on a long run – running is hard work!
Throughout college, I worked out regularly, but was never a runner.
When I graduated I found myself in a full-time job that wasn’t very demanding or stimulating. While this may sound like a blessing (and having a job is!), it also left me feeling unfulfilled and in need of a challenge.
I went to the gym frequently, but never really ran on the treadmill or outside. My workouts mostly consisted of strength workouts (my favorite!), steady-state cardio on the elliptical or a group exercise class.
I was very intimidated by running.
Everyone I knew that ran regularly was really into the sport, ran with local running groups and wore all of the official gear. Their running watches tracked their crazy-fast paces, their dri-fit clothing fit perfectly and I doubted my own abilities to ever feel like a real runner, though the interest was there.
I began looking into running races, thinking that running a 5K might provide me with a decent challenge. I made it my goal to run the 3.1 miles non-stop in August 2007. My goal for my first 5K was to simply run the whole thing.
When race-day came, I headed to the start line with my own personal running mantra for the day: “Just keep running. Run as slow as you want, but just keep running.” Knowing I could run as slow as I wanted, even if it meant that I was practically walking, made me feel less nervous.
I managed to accomplish my goal and ran the entire thing.
I even surprised myself by enjoying the experience. I loved the energy of the race and the camaraderie I felt with the other runners who shared a similar interest in fitness.
The 5K was enough to spark my interest in other running races. I searched for 5Ks and 10Ks in my area, feeling nervous and excited about the possibility of training for a longer race.
When I saw that there was a half marathon at the beginning of December 2007 in Orlando, I immediately became interested.
Could I do this? Could I really run 13.1 miles?
I knew in my heart I finally found the goal I was looking for. Committing to running a half marathon would require lots of training, patience and time and I set out to find a training plan I thought I could follow.
I found several training plans on Hal Higdon’s website and thought that the “Novice” plan seemed like a perfect fit.
Since my goal for the half marathon was to run the whole thing and simply cross the finish line, this plan was ideal. It didn’t complicate training with speed drills, hills or anything that overwhelmed me.
I veered from the training plan a bit, but followed it almost exactly when it came to the long runs. The only long run I missed was the 10 mile run the week before the race because I was sick on the day I typically did my long run (Sundays).
The longest run I did before the half was a nine-mile run, which made me a little nervous. The actual race distance was 4.1 miles more than that!
On the day of the race, I was a bundle of nerves. I told myself to trust my training and my body.
And then I did it. I ran the whole thing.
When I crossed the finish line I felt proud and powerful! Knowing that I just accomplished something I never thought I could accomplish just months before was surreal.
I used to think about my lack of natural running ability as a setback, but now I look at it as a gift.
Since I know I am not going to bust out a half marathon in 1:30, I don’t feel the pressure to run really fast. I allow myself to enjoy the running experience and run at a pace that is comfortable for me. Though I know many runners thrive on running fast and beating previous times, eliminating the pressure of running for time allows me to enjoy long runs and races.
I don’t take my running too seriously other than when I am training for a long race.
I love committing to training, but also enjoy my time away from training for distance races when I can focus on my favorite circuit workouts.
Running is a tricky thing for me.
Sometimes running and I are the perfect pair. Sometimes our relationship is a little rocky. But now I know I can do it. I can be a runner.
Julie, AKA Peanut butter Fingers, was lovingly dragged over here by me to guest post. She and I are remarkably similar with regards to running (though, to my chagrin, she’s a far better cook). We will be speaking together on a panel in N.Y.C. this May about the Business of blogging.