1999 to 2013 (excuse the closet mirror shot)
I haven’t always been a runner – or much of an athlete at all for that matter. I started out like many women. I gained the “Freshman 15” (or was it 30?), got married, struggled with infertility and then had 2 beautiful babies. I found myself at 30 – overweight and unhappy. There were very few pictures of me with my kids because I hated the way I looked and felt. I realized I needed to make some changes or I wasn’t going to be a very good example to my kids. I started Weight Watchers and in a year I lost 50 pounds, but I still wasn’t healthy or fit, just smaller.
It wasn’t until I was firmly set into my 30s that I started to exercise. I’d learned I could take weight off by eating better, but it took exercise to really be healthy. I tried lots of things before I found my niche – kickboxing, step aerobics, spin classes, I even tried zumba. I’d stick with one for a while but quickly get bored. I’d fall down, but then I’d find something else and get back up again. Then, in 2006, a friend suggested I try running. Me? A runner? I always stressed that the only way I’d run would be if I was being chased. But my friend had started running and was losing weight. She was less stressed and having fun. I figured, if she could do it, so could I.
However, I’d be lying if I said the past 7 years have been all rainbows and butterflies and PRs. I’ve stumbled – both figuratively and literally. I started out as a slow and steady runner, using the Couch to 5k program, to get started. I ran three 5ks over the first year I started running but then I didn’t run again for two years. I decided it “hurt” and I never really found any joy in running. In my mind, I was slow and I had the hardest time not comparing myself to others (in fact, this is probably still one of my biggest downfalls). I never felt like a “real” runner.
But in November 2009, I stumbled upon The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. Through their love, support, and badgering (ok, mostly love and support) they encouraged me to train for a 10k. I seriously doubted my ability. I mean, seriously, I’d “failed” at running already. I quit. How was I supposed to start all over again and then run twice as far as I’d ever run? This amazing support system here at The Sisterhood showed me I could. Many of them were training for their first half marathons and I was so inspired by them. I found a training plan (Couch to 10k) and it worked. I followed the plan but because of doubts, I found myself repeating weeks because I was afraid to take the next step. Somehow, I finished that first 10k in May 2010 and I never looked back. Surely, if I could run for over an hour, I could just keep running. I finally found my “thing”. Running was the one form of exercise that forced me to take time out for me. I kept finding new training plans and moved on to 10 mile races and then half marathons. I even ran a couple of 25k races and in October 2011, a full marathon! I loved the sense of accomplishment that running gave me. I loved having my kids at the finish lines cheering me on. I even started to love running with other people.
Rocking Das Boot
But back to that stumble. I didn’t train smart and I got hurt. In the spring of 2012, I developed a stress reaction in my left tibia and spent 6 weeks in a boot. I thought my running was never going to be the same again. I lost my favorite method of stress relief and didn’t know what to do with myself. I was angry and frustrated.
What I found was something better. I found that when you fall down, you need to brush yourself off and get back up again. You need to find something else that works. I couldn’t run, but I could bike and I could swim. I spent those 6 weeks in the pool and on my bike trying to keep my fitness level up and my weight down. I discovered the importance of cross training. I started slowly running again and decided to put all that cross training to good use and completed my first sprint triathlon in August 2012. I built my running endurance back up but I still wasn’t happy with my running. I finished another half marathon but was pretty burned out. I needed to get my mojo back.
Playing the role of Miss Sunshine at the 2012 Groundhog Day Half Marathon
Would you believe that mojo came in the form of a Groundhog Day half marathon in 14 inches of snow? I decided to run this half purely for fun, dressed in a costume, with a bunch of friends. I re-discovered a different form of running: friends and having fun with no worry about pace. But what happened next was what was truly amazing. I found a new training plan and started to challenge myself with speed work. I put my bike on a trainer and kept cross training, SMART training, and I started to see results.
This spring, I made my comeback by running 4 half marathon (or longer) races in 8 weeks. I knocked 17 minutes off of my half PR at the first race, then 8 weeks later took off another 3 minutes. In the middle I ran a half for fun and then PR’d the 25k I had to spectate in a boot last year by 11 minutes. I was kicking butt but most importantly, I stayed healthy and was having fun. Sure, I’d get frustrated if I had a bad run, but even if I felt knocked down, I got back up again. After my last half marathon (over Memorial Weekend) I brought the bike up from the basement and started riding clipped in for the first time ever. I LITERALLY fell down. Hard. As scary as that was, I got back up and brushed myself off. Next up, I’m going to finish my 2nd triathlon on July 20th and then tackle a 200 mile relay with 9 of my friends in early August. (I might be freaking out more than a little bit on that one.)
I #runthisbody – Do you run yours?
Through all this, I’ve learned to challenge myself, train smarter, and set goals. I’ve learned that everyone falls down, whether those falls be in eating right, losing your mojo, or in my case, literally falling off your bike. We all fall down but the strong get back up again. I am a runner. I am a triathlete. I fall down but I get back up again and I’m so excited to share my journey with all of you as one of the newest writers here at The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans. If you fall or need some encouragement to get back up or just want some running advice, I hope you reach out to me. I’ve been there and I’d love to help. If there are any topics you’d like me to hit on in future posts, please email me or let me know in the comments.
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