What now seems like many years ago, but has in fact only been eight or so, I took up running. My reasons weren’t uncommon: on the heels of a bad breakup I needed a way to burn off some of the anxiety, the angst, a way to kill all of the time I suddenly seemed to have.
So I dusted off one of the few sports bras I bought in high school for a short stint on the track & field team, scraped together some poor-college-student dollars and bought a pair of sneakers from Target, and took myself to the park next to my apartment that had a running path.
This was the summer of 2008. I was still a smoker – a pack a day! That stuns me now. I did eat relatively decently, or at least what I thought was decent then. I recall rotini pasta and store-bought pesto being a staple, along with a deep and abiding love for breakfast cereal. Rarely with milk, often straight out of the box.
I knew nothing about running. I only knew that it seemed to me that it was a way to burn energy, to get out of my own head, to quiet those little voices that were telling me that I was unlovable, that I was gaining weight, that no one would want me.
And lo and behold, it helped. As you can imagine, on a pack a day I wasn’t exactly winning races. My running was more of a slow jog mixed with a lot of walking. But I made some friends at the law firm where I was working as a legal assistant who were also runners, and that next April they talked me into a 5k. It took me 37 minutes and 34 seconds but I did it. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a cotton tshirt than the one I got for that. I was a runner! I’d completed a 5k!
And it grew from there. I quit smoking in May 2009, a rough couple of months that involved the nicotine patch and a lot of tootsie roll pops. I went to my local running store to get fitting for shoes that didn’t make my knees hurt. In August, I ran a local race called the Tour de Pain, a two-day series that included a Friday night, 4 mile beach run, a Saturday morning 5k, and a Saturday evening 1-miler. When I tried to get out of bed Sunday morning I almost fell over, my muscles were so tight and sore. I was hooked.
From there were more 5ks, until March 2010 when I ran the Gate River Run, the country’s largest 15k. From there came triathlons and half marathons, followed by a full marathon, The Donna, in February 2011.
Since then, I’ve run another full marathon, trained for one before getting sidelined by injury, completed a 70.3 triathlon, and generally stayed active. While my tri days are behind me, running has stayed as a constant. Just as it did in the very beginning, it helps quell my anxiety, clears my head, and makes me feel good about myself.