This is the story of a girl

14 May
Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Me at the Finish Line in Long Branch. An amazing day filled with great Jersey pride and some very supportive spectators.

Friends, I have a confession. I have not always been a yogi. Nor have I always been a runner. I offer you these olive branches in the case you come upon this blog, see that it’s about running and fitness and think: I. will. never. run. anywhere.  In writing this, I hope to convince you that you can, in fact, become more athletic, no matter who you are, what your background is or how much (or how little) time you have. So…without further ado, here is my story.

Although I’ve always been physically inclined, albeit on my own terms, I have certainly never been an all star. I developed a natural talent as a gymnast early on. I was limber, lithe and fearless; qualities that served me well for the rare, bi-weekly occasions on which I dared to exert myself in any form of physical activity. Not even when a fellow team member from the gym where I trained (who differed from me dramatically not in terms of physical capacity, but in terms of grit, dedication and vigor) made it to the qualifying rounds for the 2000 Sydney Olympics was I at all motivated to step up my game.

After becoming too cool for gymnastics altogether and dropping out of the sport so as to free up time for more important endeavors such as loitering in shopping malls and chasing after boys, I retreated into a quasi anorexic realm of what Jessica Clark in this month’s edition of Runner’s World aptly calls ‘skinny fat’. The only selling point for me when it came to sports was, perhaps, the chance to wear slightly scandalous under clothing (e.g. the donning of brightly colored bras under the see through mesh of my soccer jersey).

Apart from the aforementioned opportunities, I developed a disdain for the athletic. I viewed friends who electively participated in such insanity as cross country as sufferers of a rare form of mental illness. And, above all, I DESPISED gym class.  Primarily, I regarded it as a medieval torture camp conjured up by sadistic adults and designed to make young people suffer unspeakable fates. Perhaps the worst of all afflictions was the mile run, a fate I could barely accomplish in 12 minutes flat. I distinctly remember being taken to the high school track as an early teen and being made to run around it on a crisp autumn day. It was beautiful, enjoyable, relaxing…it was…it was…horrid! I felt I was part of a chain gain (okay, I know chain gains are usually made to do labor…but dude, that was my reality).

For fitness purposes, and in futile attempts to stave off the effects of too much tofutti chocolate supreme ice cream (Mmmmm sooo good), I took up running during my freshman year of college. This was a pitiful attempt to stay, or maybe just to get, in some sort of shape. I plodded on day after day on a treadmill in our university’s basement gym. Feeling glad to be moving, but not really going anywhere.

This was my routine for…the next three years. I don’t really want to chalk my ultimate breakthrough up to a guy, but I guess I kind of should. After I broke up with the only serious boyfriend I’d ever had at the start of my senior year, I distinctly remember rolling out of bed one morning, feeling desperate (and probably somewhat hungover) and thinking: I should go for a run. And, so, I did. I remember running out of the campus gates and just going.  I can’t really say why I started running. I guess it was just something my body wanted me to do. And so, I listened.

I think I ran for an hour, maybe more. I didn’t have any concept of time or how far I’d gone but I just kept repeating it, like clockwork every morning.

Wake up and smell the roses...spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Wake up and smell the roses…spring foliage as seen on a recent run.

Strangely, I began to notice things, like the shape of dew drops on green leaves on small patches in front of the stately homes near campus. I enjoyed the smells, the lights and the quiet of early mornings. I felt alone. I felt free. And, for some bizarre reason, I no longer felt as though I was on the chain gang of yore.

Later that year, I signed up for a 5k because someone told me I should try it. I figured why not? It certainly could not be worse than the inaptly named fun runs of my youth where I scraped along just to get…to…the…end…of…a…one…mile…course. Not expecting much from myself at all, I did this 5k.  And, I came in third place. It was a really small race and I think I ran the course at about 9:00 mins per mile. I know for some people it’s not much to celebrate, but I remember feeling really floored. I remember thinking: this is totally, totally amazing!

From that point I’ve pushed on, and I think you’ll find you can too. After 5ks, the miles just started melting away. I moved up to 10ks and from 10ks, I’ve moved on to half marathons. Including the New Jersey Half Marathon, which took place May 5, 2013 in Long Branch which I completed in about 1 hour and 55 mins. Not the best, but under an hour and with 8:44 min miles the whole way through.  I’ve yet to take on a full marathon, but it’s on my list next.

Throughout all of this, non-runner friends always ask me: how?

How do you do anything?

By wanting to do it. During the course of my professional life this passed week, I was asked to speak on a panel to a bunch of high school students about career paths. I probably babbled at them a whole bunch but the one thing I told them was this:

Ground yourself in your passion

because what you plant there will ultimately be stronger and grow more roots.

The same is true with physical endeavors. Find something you love and do it often. Life is short but it’s long enough to enjoy and to build things that have the ability to sustain you. As Buddha once said “to keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

For those of you who hope to run your first 5k. Like everything, it’s always…uh-hem…tough-going the first time. Once you break on through, it’ll all be good. So good, you’ll want to do it again, and again, and again.  AND this month’s edition of Runner’s World features some great tips for beginners (wow, I am really plugging RW in this posting)!

Also, the Mayo Clinic has a great 5k training plan which I think is an awesome place to start.

Or, if you’re like me, just lace up, hit the road and see where it will take you.

Happy trails, my friends!

One Response to “This is the story of a girl”

  1. themovingmuncher May 14, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    Thank you for sharing – as a newbie runner (who would never had thought I would ever be!) I enjoyed reading about your progress and motivation! Had never heard the term ‘skinny fat’ before but so true! Also agree with the Buddha’s saying 🙂

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