I am a runner | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Today we’re bringing you a guest post from one of our favorite Sisters, Bari. If you haven’t had a chance to get to know her (which is highly unlikely if you’ve been around here for any length of time), please be sure to check out Bari’s blog – Live. Laugh. Run. Breathe.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to say that – and believe it. If anyone had suggested I would take up running in my 30s and run my first half marathon at 40, I would have said they were crazy. I mean, really? I’m the girl who dropped out of marching band in 10th grade because walking up and down the field was too hard. True story.

I was never what you would call “athletic”. I was a geek – the nerdy, smart girl in the band. Running was something you did if you were being chased. And I did everything in my power to make sure that NEVER happened.

Fast forward to late 2005. I had lost about 50 pounds but was still really out of shape. I’d get winded walking up a few flights of stairs! However, I had this girlfriend who had taken up running. She’d run a few 5k’s and kept bugging me to try it. My 1st question was, “How far is a 5k?” and then “You actually PAY to run that far?” Clearly, she was nuts! (She still is – she’s now run 6 marathons and is currently training for her 1st Half-Ironman!)

Surely, if she could run a few miles, so could I, and by early 2006, I decided to give it a try. OH.MY.GAWD. It was so hard! I couldn’t run to the end of the driveway! She came up with a walk/run program for me and I set a goal to run the Fifth Third River Bank Run 5k. I kept working at it and got a little better, but still didn’t think of myself as a “real” runner. In my mind, runners were people who could break that elusive 10 minute/mile pace. Eventually, May 13, 2006 came along and I found myself surrounded by thousands of people, standing in the rain, waiting for my race to start. My husband and twins were on the sidelines, cheering me on. It was really intimidating picking such a huge race for my first 5k. (The Fifth Third River Bank Run is THE race around these parts and has the largest 25k road race in the country.) In any case, I did it! I ran my race and finished in a respectable 34:40. I still wasn’t too sure I liked this running thing. It hurt, yo! But I signed up for another, hillier race in July 2006 and managed to knock 1 minute off my time, for my 5k PR (personal record) of 33:40. I ran the Fifth Third 5k again in 2007, but my time dropped to 35:30. I was so discouraged that I took this as a sign that running wasn’t for me. I quit. I didn’t run again for two years.

So, what happens when you stop working out faithfully and your eating habits get a bit (ok, A LOT) lax? You gain weight, about 25 pounds in my case. It is now 2009 and I’ve decide I need to do something drastic. I sign up for another race – the same one I did in July 2006, only this time, the husband decides to come along for the ride. We actually have fun training together. We aren’t fast, but we are moving and losing weight. We finished in 37:31, both last in our age groups, but we finished together. I was frustrated that I was getting slower instead of faster. What did I need to do to improve?

What I needed to do was just run more. Crazy, right? After every race I’d ever done, I would quit running until it was time to start training for the next year’s race. It was around November 2009 that I found the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans and began logging workouts at DailyMile. With the encouragement of the girls I “met” through the Sisterhood, I found the courage to sign up for the Fifth Third 10k race and began training with the Couch to 10k app in February 2010. Four years before, I couldn’t run a block and now I was going to run 6.2 miles? I’d clearly lost my marbles. I discovered through training that I was happier, healthier, and FASTER if I followed a run/walk plan. I finished my first 10k on 5-8-10 in 1:10:08 by walking for a minute at the top of every mile. I was also hooked. I signed up to do the 10k version of my July hometown race. Dude – 6.2 miles up and down the bluff in July when it’s 85-90 degrees SUCKS, but I finished with a new PR: 1:09:57! What’s the next logical progression after a couple of 10ks? You guessed it – I was turning 40 and set a goal to run a half marathon. I cried like a baby when a race volunteer hung the Grand Rapids Half Marathon medal around my neck on 10-17-10. I even came in under my 2 ½ hour goal, finishing in 2:27:52.

I never felt like I could call myself a runner, but I was being too hard on myself. Merriam-Webster defines a runner as “one that runs.” I was a runner the 1st time my feet left the ground, way back in 2005. I run for fitness. I run for solitude. I run because I CAN.

What’s on the horizon now? The Granddaddy of the Fifth Third River Bank Run. On 5-14-11, I’ll be hitting the streets of Grand Rapids with about 22,000 of my “closest” friends, this time to run the 25k race, a race I said I would “never” run. Six days later, I’ll be running the Fitbloggin 5k with my Shrinking Jeans sisters, the same women who encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other and rediscover the joy of running. I’ve even convinced the husband to run a 10 mile race with me in Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend. If you are keeping score, that’s 3 races in 3 weeks for a total of 28.6 miles – my own version of Marathon May. Is there an actual marathon in my future? I honestly don’t know, but I’ve learned “never say never.”

I am a runner. What about you?

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