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How I Became a Runner

by Ashley on October 9, 2013 · 9 comments

running

You know how I mentioned that I’m running the Chicago Marathon? Well, it’s a mere 4 days away now and it has completely consumed me. It’s all I can think about, all I can talk about, and every free second of my time is spent researching and reading stories about running and marathons and OMG what has happened to me?!

I mean, if you know me, you know that I’m not a runner. Or at least I didn’t used to be one. Before 2010, I had never run a mile in my entire life. I skipped those days in P.E. class and I never played sports in high school (I was on the dance team, thank you very much), so it still blows my mind that on Sunday I am voluntarily running 26.2 miles.

So, how did I become a runner?

It starts with friendship. 

My first race ever was a 5k put on by a local high school booster club. Nothing fancy, but super fun (they gave out tiaras and feather boas!) One of my friends asked us to run it with her for her birthday, so of course I said yes. I walked more than half of the course and finished in about 45 minutes. I didn’t fall in love with running and I didn’t think I would ever do another race.

Obviously, I was wrong.

In November 2011, two of my friends decided to run the Livestrong half-marathon in Austin (along with several other bloggers I knew), and that’s when I started questioning myself.

Up until this point, I always said I wasn’t a runner. I couldn’t run. My legs were too short and my lungs weren’t built for it. Nope, not for me. But something kept encouraging me. As my friends where talking about it, something was telling me to sign up. The more I thought it over, the more excited I became. And so finally, I signed up. (There’s nothing better than a little healthy peer pressure, right?)

Since I wasn’t a runner, the entire training experience was completely new to me. I didn’t know what to wear or what to eat or how to not look completely ridiculous out on the road. My friends helped me create a training schedule, I downloaded the MapMyRun app on my phone, bought a new pair of sneakers at the Reebok outlet (which I later had to replace due to an injury) and started running.

In the beginning, I could only run for one minute at a time, because that’s as long as my lungs and my legs would allow. But slowly, I became stronger and faster. I ran four days a week with my long runs on the weekends. By February, I was up to 11 miles (with walking breaks) and I was in the best shape of my life.

On February 19, 2012, I ran my first half-marathon. It was a life-changing experience, to be cliche, but it’s so true. It really did change my life. The race was challenging, with countless hills- which I unfortunately did not include in my training. It was seriously tough. Still, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride when I crossed the finish line and was impressed with my time of 2:37:58. My training had allowed me to run 13.1 miles and I accomplished that goal without passing out.

Just like that, I was hooked.

I knew it wouldn’t be my last race, but I took a break from training and focused more on my yoga practice for a few months. It was summer in Texas and the 100 degrees temperatures weren’t too enticing. I still ran a couple times a week, but not more than 2 or 3 miles early in the morning.

By late 2012, I was ready to start running again. A few friends and I signed up to run the 3M half-marathon in January 2013. I was still practicing yoga once or twice a week and would sporadically run on the weekends, but my longest run was 5 miles and I only reached that distance the weekend before the race.

I went into this second half-marathon with the expectation that my time and my pace would be much slower. Since one of my goals for 2013 is to run three half-marathons, I knew I wanted to do this race, but I told myself I would be happy if I finished within three hours, taking several long walking breaks. I didn’t want to injure myself because I hadn’t trained, so I told myself I would take it easy.

But then on race day, something magical happen.

The weather was chilly (my favorite for running), I felt rested and calm, and my body felt prepared. Of course my feet were aching and my ankles were sore as I ran each mile, but I felt strong. My legs continued pushing my forward. My breathing was slow and steady. I was in the zone and I was seriously impressed with myself.

I crossed the finish line with a new personal record of 2:23:14. Almost 15 minutes faster than my previous time.

When I was home later that evening, I saw this post by Liz, that basically convinced me to sign up for the Chicago Marathon. I wanted that feeling. I wanted to do something  I never thought I could do. I wanted to do something incredible.

So I kept running.

A month later, on February 17, 2013, I ran my third half-marathon with a new PR of 2:19:01. I’m pretty sure I jumped up and down (and probably would have done a cartwheel if I wasn’t in so much pain) when I saw my time. I was stoked.

I continued running regularly until the official training for the marathon began over the summer.

Over the course of a few months, I went from running 3 miles to running 20 miles. I broke my goal of running a sub 30:00 5K, set a new half-marathon PR, and ran my fastest mile yet. I went from being someone who forced herself to run and suffered through 80% of the miles to someone who actually craved a long run and enjoyed every minute of it.

Monthly miles:

May: 88.38 miles
June: 56.7 miles
July: 88.71 miles
August: 102.95 miles
September: 123.77 miles
October: 22.37 miles

I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I thought (physically and mentally), that when I start having negative thoughts and am getting annoyed during a run I need to eat, and that the support and encouragement of others will carry you through. I’ve learned that ice baths aren’t fun, but are so worth it, that carb loading actually works, and that the Joy the Baker podcast and Taylor Swift are my favorite running buddies.

Training to run the Chicago Marathon has been an emotional experience with tears welling up in my eyes each time I set a new record or run further than I ever have before. I felt my legs grow stronger, my breathing become slower, and my mind become quieter.

I saw myself break through barriers and move past my so-called limitations. I saw myself change. I saw myself become someone I didn’t think could ever exist.

I can’t imagine my life without running now. It’s part of who I am. It’s something that makes me feel alive, and most like myself. It’s where I think, where I release what needs releasing, and where I connect with everything else that’s out there.

And so here I am, 4 days away from my first full marathon and more in love with running than ever before.

Butterflies in my stomach, almost-healed blisters on my toes, and excitement in my heart.

I can’t wait to do this.

P.S. If you want to start challenging the status quo and begin living on your own terms, check out my new e-course, Cake for Breakfast.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby October 9, 2013 at 9:08 am

I love your blog because you say inspirational things in ways I totally relate to — that seem grounded and not cheesy.

And also because of this line. -> “I didn’t know what to wear or what to eat or how to not look completely ridiculous out on the road. ” How are you in my head?!? I thought I was the only person who worried about these things. Love it.

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Akirah October 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

You’ve got at least one person rooting for you in Pittsburgh. :)

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San October 9, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Very impressive. I’ve always run, but I’ve never pushed myself to do a marathon or even a half-marathon. This is inspiring! :)

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Cassie October 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Holy crap, this is so awesome! GO YOU. Amazing how little time it took for you to become a hardcore runner. A little time, and a LOT of effort, that is. You have every right to be proud!

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Elizabeth S. October 9, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I am a 30-something, but I LOVE THIS POST so much. I, too, am totally in love with running. I am training for my first 10k and I am loving it. I never (ever!) thought I was a runner, but the first time I went for a run, all I could think about was that I loved it. Yes, I felt as uncoordinated as a hippo running and my lungs burned and I realized that I have to run with gum and chapstick or I’ll be hating it, but I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. I am always so sad when I tell people I run and the first thing they say is “I hate running!” It is a sure-fire way to change your life, 1 drop of sweat at time. Best of luck to you!!!

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Val October 13, 2013 at 7:47 am

Hi Ashley, I stumbled here after googling Chicago Marathon… I have a lot in common with you as I am also a life coach who lives in Chicago and I’ve run the Chicago Marathon 3 times :) I WISH I was running today too!! I can’t believe how perfect the weather is… ideal running conditions. I hope you had a fabulous race today!!

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debora October 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm

That is amazing !!
Lots of luck this weekend !!!!
You can do it !!!!!!

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