I am a runner.
It has taken me a long time to accept that sentence. I guess I thought of track stars as runners; I am no track star. The kids in school that ran cross country, they were runners. I think of myself as just someone that runs, not really a runner.
I never ran much as a kid, and I was never an athletic person. My Dad has said to me several times, “I could not get you to run or do anything as a kid.” He is pretty amazed at my transformation.
(photo by Kenneth M. Ruggiano)
I played on a soccer team in second and third grade, often standing out in the field just twirling my hair instead of kicking the ball around. I felt awkward when I ran — so I just avoided it.
So how did I get to the point where I run several times a week and run in races several weekends of the month? I had to start.
In the beginning, I started with my diet, but I knew I needed to exercise. “Diet AND exercise” is something we all hear and know, and yet it was a concept I had to teach myself. I lost some weight with just watching what I ate, but I soon hit a plateau.
I was a mom with a busy life, and I needed to do something with the biggest bang in the least amount of time. I couldn’t spend multiple hours per day exercising. I worked full-time and felt guilty about putting my daughter in a gym’s child care since she was in daycare all day, and I just didn’t have the money for a gym membership. At that point, I found inspiration from someone I worked with. He was in great shape, regularly running and riding his bike. A bike was far too expensive, so I decided to start running. I had tennis shoes and I figured I could load my daughter in the jogging stroller (at that time, it was just a stroller - certainly not meant for jogging) and trot around the neighborhood. My daughter and I could do it together and I could do it at our convenience. It didn’t have a set schedule, and I didn’t have to rush around to make it to a class. It seemed like the perfect exercise for me.
The first time I ran, I put on my over-sized t-shirt and sneakers, loaded my daughter in her stroller with juice and snacks, and headed out. Well — it didn’t go the way I thought it would. It was painful. I was winded very quickly. My lungs burned and I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t even make it down the street before I had to slow from “running” to walking. My shins felt like they were being hit with a sledgehammer (I was 65 lbs. or so heavier than I am now). I felt uncomfortable running because of my size, but also because the motion seemed so foreign to me. That first run was a reality check for me. As a kid I could run down the street and not think twice about it (I just chose not to) and I guess I just assumed that I could do it whenever I wanted. Truth is, if you haven’t ran in 20+ years, it’s not as easy as “getting back up” if you fall off your bike.
Some people just accept getting older, and ” just falling apart.” I on the other hand want to be the lady that people ask in awe, “she’s how old?!?” I can fall apart when I am old, but why would I want to fall apart now? I won’t be old for another 50-60 years. I plan on living a very full and long life, enjoying every day.
Ultimately, I decided to take charge. I wanted to run. So I read about shin splints and went to a running store here in town and I bought new shoes. The shin splints eventually went away with the proper support and the building up of muscles in my legs. Then, I worked on being able to run down the street. Day after day, I got ready, loaded my daughter in her stroller and ran. Slowly, I was able to run down the street without stopping. Then I could run a street, walk a street, and then run another. I just kept running.
My daughter started looking forward to our daily outside time. On days I was making excuses and didn’t want to run she would say, “Mama let’s go running.” I needed that little push. I wanted to be an example, so I would
lace up. She and I played games while I ran – counting neighborhood cats, looking for a red truck, or counting all the stop signs we passed. We talked about cheering me on and she would say, “Good job mama” or “Go Mama Go!” Thinking back to this time with her makes me teary because they are memories I cherish. She helped me so much by just being someone that was there for me. Over time, I worked my way to running around the block. I signed up for my first 5k and the rest is history. I am a runner.
I have learned to enjoy the challenge. It’s not easy every time I lace up and run, but I enjoy pushing myself. Running may not be your thing. You have to find something that works for you and push yourself. Find something you enjoy. Don’t hold yourself back with what you think you can do. It may not be easy in the beginning. But I have learned — there is so much more within you than you thought possible.
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