Saturday, January 17, 2015

The unlikely story of how I became a runner

Just a little disclaimer from the start when I say "runner", I ask you to never ever picture, oh say the Olympics and a person pumping their legs in a fast piston fashion flying past other runners.
I can, in fact run like that but only for the very tiniest periods of time.

When I say I am a runner I mean I jog along for miles at a time.
That sentence alone makes me chuckle at it's improbability.
I have never been an athlete. I muddled through PE. I had tons of heart but zero coordination.
I am NOT a competitive person. I am awkward.

I had since getting married in 1996 at different points in my life done workout videos, used treadmills to walk, swam and had an exercise bike. I am active, I love to garden and be outside but I mainly exercised to maintain a certain pants size. My burst of exercise never stuck. I got sick of the video, I got busy and my heart just wasn't in it anymore.

I have mild asthma that flares up during exercise or allergies. I heard that running could increase your lung capacity and strengthen your heart. I had two friends who were committed runners (at the marathon level) and it sparked my interest.

So in August of 2013 at the age of 37, I decided that while my daughter was in Ballet class near the local university I would start walking the 4 mile trip of twice around campus. Why waste a perfectly good chance to have exercise time?
My goal was to add in a jog at some part of this trip. I was not very confident of success so I just did it alone. If nobody knows you failed, in my mind it seemed less painful.
My mom who worked on campus at the time walked with me from time to time but for the most part I went alone. I found that I really enjoyed myself. I loved being outside.

The first time I jogged a short leg of the rectangle shape of campus my throat, lungs and legs were on fire. FIRE! 
But each week, twice a week I jogged those short stretches until I could make all four. Then I switched and jogged the long stretches and walked the short.

I was a totally newbie to running. I used 5 year old sneakers, I took a week off and tried to go back to the same jog and got a stress fracture in my foot. So by December 2013 I was back to walking the four miles. From December to March I walked inside the Student Athletic center with short jogs added in each time. By March 2014 I could very slowly (13 something minute mile) jog the whole four miles around campus.

I felt like I had won the lottery. My breathing was so much better. I had learned to get proper running shoes and clothes. I knew how to avoid blisters, black toenails, and muscle strains. I had figured out how to stretch for my body before and after each jog. 
Don't get me wrong every time I tried to increase my speed I saw stars, got tunnel vision and felt like I had to throw up, so I still do have asthma.
But by October 2014 I could jog 6 miles at an average pace of 10.45 minute miles.

November to December 2014 I had survived a major pull in my hip and kept at it. I ran my first official race on December 12th 2014. It was a 5K and I finished in 29.42 minutes, slightly behind my friend's two 12 year old twin boys. Hey, those kids rock.

I had a quarter marathon scheduled on January 17th and two weeks before I got hit by a rough allergy attack, my times dropped and I felt pretty bummed but by this point I just enjoyed making my body do the twice a week 4 mile runs. I still have to push each mile and I hate having to increase speed. Increased speed makes me feel like my digestive tract is melting down and brain will explode.

Today I ran in the Louisiana quarter marathon- 6.5 miles. Small by seasoned runner standards but it's the longest run I have ever done. I finished around 1 hour and 11 minutes (update- got the official results: time:1:10:40 pace:10:48). That was better time than any practice run I had done. I was so surprised. 

I felt good for most of the run and so happy to celebrate at the end with my family. My husband said I looked like I was having so much fun, he wanted to run it with me next year. Funny, considering my face during the race looks like a cross between extreme pain or nausea. Hey, I don't concentrate prettily.

And I just realized I have been doing this for 17 months and I don't want to quit. I actually Googled how to train for a half marathon. Yikes!