Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Running ...

(me and bff Saundra, Race for the Cure, circa 2005)

If you've been reading the blog for a while now, you know that my relationship with running is ... in a word, complicated.

A brief history:

I first began to warm to the idea of running for fun when I was in 7th grade. To be honest it actually started with the idea of playing volleyball, which I had deemed to be a totally glamorous sport, and worthy of me trying out for. I mean, I'd always enjoyed playing volleyball in gym class, and I had decided that perhaps it was time for me to start doing something with my life which would perhaps *ehem* move me a wee bit further up the social ladder. (It didn't. Ah, hindsight...)

Believe it or not, I did play volleyball with the 7th grade girls' team during the fall of 1997 (Yikes - almost 14 years ago?! How did that happen?)... and while I do think it was a good and valuable experience to be on the team, I was never particularly good at it.

...In fact, I was pretty awful :)

Nevertheless, 7th grade volleyball did get into my head the idea of exercising on a regular basis, and this lead to joining the track team in the spring of 1998, which is really where my story begins. You see, track was where I first met Coach King, who, more than being a great coach, was a truly beautiful person inside and out. She was a fantastic role model: calm, capable, graceful; able to control 20+ 7th and 8th graders without once raising her voice, and oh, so kind. It was she that inspired me to go out for 8th grade Cross Country... which was where my 'running career' ("distance running career"?) really started. After 8th grade, I continued in Cross Country for 2 years in high school, before life intervened (I got a job babysitting after school :), and from that point out I kind of did my own thing.

Until freshman year of college. ... Until Saundra :)

When I look back, I remember that when I first met Saundra I was totally intimidated. One of the ways I had been defining myself to others, in a Christian group I had gotten involved with like this, "Blah, blah ... and I like to run." ...To which they'd reply, "Ah, have you met Saundra? She's a runner, too... she runs like 8 minute miles.." *gulp*

Side Note: I guess this might be the point at which I tell you that I am not fast at all... Never have been...although I hold out great hope that I can still discipline myself and get faster. I am entering the years of my life with the most athletic potential, so they the magazines tell me.... To give you an idea of what I mean by "not fast", I run a 9-minute mile, if I'm running like my life depends on it. My PR for a 5k is 27:xx, and my PR for the half marathon is 2:27:xx... My (running) goals in life are to run an 8 minute mile and a sub-2 hour half-marathon. ...I digress...

But anyway, I met the girl, and she seemed really nice... so when she asked me to run I put on my big girl panties and accepted. And it was fantastic. And it started a friendship that lasted throughout the rest of college and through today. I believe it will probably last forever :)

Saundra and I ran together several times a week for the rest of freshman year, and when we lived together sophomore year, I was in the best shape of my life. We ran 3x a week, and built up to 10 mile runs together. Together, we explored Toledo neighborhoods, while we worked through problems we were facing, talked "school", shared future dreams, and reveled in the magical newness of budding relationships (It was actually a pivotal 'relationship year' for both of us: she met the man that will soon become her husband, and Jon & I went through some pretty defining stuff as well.)

Because I was an engineer and was working off campus (and for the most part out of state) every other semester, we weren't able to live together after sophomore year, but we still held our weekly long-run dates sacred. But then, college ended, she went off to grad school, and I moved home & was left to do my own thing... And, you know how that's going :)

So, as I look back through my running past, something stands out to me. Each time I began running in earnest (which, consequently, I really enjoyed, and they were some of the best times & memories I have), I did it because I was inspired by a strong, beautiful woman. Which makes makes me feel all the more certain about what I am about to tell you.

As soon as I recognized that I had started to see running as a chore, I knew that I wanted to fall back in love with it. I knew that if I really wanted it to "stick", I couldn't just do it because it was good for me, because I needed to fit into a wedding dress (hypothetically, of course!), because I thought it was glamorous, or because someone I loved did it (although, all of those can be valid starting points!) I knew I needed to fall in love.... to fall so deep that it became a sustaining force, to the point that I wanted to do it for me and me alone.

In short, I need to become the woman that inspires me.

I want to reach deep and prove my mettle.
I want to challenge myself as I've never challenged myself before.
I want to have fun... to do it because it feels good and I enjoy being alone in my own brain.
I want to run for joy and not for time.
I want to get out of my own way and just go.

It is because I feel passionately about these things (you might even say this is my runner's manifesto), that I know this time it will stick. And it is with these principles as my foundation that I stand tall and declare to you:

This is the year of the marathon.

(So excited to see where these take me in 2011!!)