I am not a lifelong runner. Twenty years ago, somewhere around my 30th birthday I woke up, looked in the mirror and realized that I wasn’t quite sure who the person was staring back at me.
My diet was anything but healthy and my level of exercise was nonexistent. I was not exactly sure how I got to this place in my life, but I knew that it was not sustainable and I knew I needed to make some SERIOUS changes.
So I went to the local YMCA and signed myself up for a membership and some one-on-one sessions with a trainer, and I started running. It certainly wasn’t “love at first sight”.
I began my running journey with a walk/jog on the treadmill. At first I would walk/jog for 15 minutes, and then walk for another 15 minutes. I never got on the treadmill for less than 30 minutes.
This progressed to more time with the walk/jog, and then a walk/run, and in time a run/walk. After about 9 months, I felt confident enough to venture outside. Looking back, there was no reason to wait so long.
The transition from walk to jog to run was slow and steady. I did not want to push myself too hard and find myself injured or worse, unmotivated to keep at it. So, I allowed myself time and did not rush the process.
Eventually I felt comfortable enough to sign up for my first 5k. I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but It was worth the wait. The feeling of crossing that first 5k finish line is one that I will never forget - one that I wish I could bottle up and take out whenever I am feeling unmotivated or struggling to get out the door.
After that 5K I was curious to know, could I run it faster or could I go further, so I kept at it. I went on to run many 5K races, improving my time and eventually toeing the line at 10K’s and half marathons.
I never believed that I could run a marathon - that was for real runners, and I wasn’t quite sure that I fit that bill. As I learned, I was wrong. Three years after walking through the doors of the YMCA, I stepped up to the starting line of my 1st marathon, NYC Marathon in 2004.
After the NYC Marathon, I set my sights on Boston and eventually ran that marathon, and recently I completed my first 100-mile trail run.
People always ask, what keeps you motivated? How do you lace up when you know you have to be out there for 20 or more miles? What about when it is raining, cold, snowy, hot? I am a good self-motivator but even I have days where I am feeling lazy.
Having a running partner or group can REALLY help. Sometimes all the motivation you need is having other people rely on you to show up. Music is another. It is amazing what music can do to energize and push you when you just aren’t “feeling it”.
Over the years, running has given so much more than I ever could have imagined, and I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of. I have developed lifelong friendships, found solace while going through a very difficult marriage and divorce, met my soulmate, and managed the stresses of my career.
Running has always made me feel strong and empowered and resilient and given me the courage to face all the challenges that life throws my way. I know now that if you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how far or how fast, it doesn’t matter if you walk/run or run/walk, it doesn’t matter if you are first or last and it doesn’t matter if you never sign up for a race.
It started as just a quest to live a healthier life, but it has led me in a direction I never, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined. It is never too late to start, as you never know where it will lead. In the words of Ken Chlouber “You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can”. From now on, I am a lifelong runner.