Fast forward approximately ten years and a lot of extra pounds later. Not only was I out of shape, but the idea of running more than a minute was laughable. I'd tried; running always seemed like a good idea. But I could barely make it through one song on my iPod before I was convinced I was going to collapse and die. (Fatigue makes a person rather overdramatic.)
I'd probably still be in the anti-running camp if it weren't for spotting an ad for The Color Run online last summer. It looked awesome. And allegedly the Couch to 5K program could get me there and, hey, it might be kind of fun to run a 5K. So, starting from pretty much ground zero, I enlisted the aid of the BF to help me train for it. Slowly, slowly, I began to do intervals and build up to being able to run for more than a couple minutes at a time. My biggest achievements were a fifteen minute run and a seventeen minute run. The fifteen minute run didn't start out as one; I'm not sure what I had been shooting for that day, but when we reached the goal time, I told him, “let's try going one more minute,” and so we did. And each time the minute was up, I would tell him to add on another one. Minute by minute, I built myself up to fifteen – and reached the end of that particular trail. I had run the whole way. Many high-fives were had. A week or two later, we were out jogging and we'd reached the point where normally we would stop and start walking, and he looked at his watch and informed me that we were at fourteen minutes – in other words, I could break my record. So I kept going for another three.
When it came time to run the Color Run, it was really hot and humid and miserable (HELLO KANSAS CITY IN JULY) and I started with the best of intentions, but ultimately... I made it twelve minutes, to the first color station. Then I had to stop. Or at least I thought I did. I guess there's no way to know otherwise, but I didn't realize at the time how much of the whole running process is mental. Maybe I was just mentally exhausted, or overwhelmed, or something. I ran a few little bits here and there over the course, but ultimately... I was really disappointed in myself when I crossed the finish line.
As luck would have it, they added another Color Run to Des Moines in October. In this, I saw a second chance. I didn't really get a chance to train like I would have liked, but my only real goal was to run longer than twelve minutes – in other words, longer than I had the first time. I trudged on through the race, slower than some people were walking, repeating my new mantra in my head, a quote from Confucius: it does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop. I was going slower than a turtle but I was still moving my feet. (I was going so slow that when I happened to run into a friend – no pun intended – I was able to pull out my camera and take a picture of us... while still technically running. She was walking.)
I made it to just past the last color station and finally I decided to call it. I stopped my watch at 32 minutes – a full twenty minutes longer than my last 5K attempt, and longer than I had ever run in my life. I'm not sure how far that was, distance-wise, but if the color stations were set up like they were advertised, I had made it 4Ks. I felt like I was going to collapse as soon as I stopped running – my legs were so rubbery and tired that I was afraid they weren't going to support me any longer. I kept walking and made it up the giant hill at the end (a bit relieved that I had already decided to walk the rest) and then jogged it in across the finish line.
Fast forward to probably about April of this year. The weather was finally nice enough to make it outside, and the BF and I went on a few jogs. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn't starting over – I had retained at least a little bit of my endurance from last year, and was able to start out at a solid five minutes of running at a time. Run five, walk a few, run five, walk a few. Eventually five turned to seven and I felt a glimmer of optimism. I still didn't like running, but I was glad I was doing it.
Then the BF got busy at work and our running schedule got thrown out the window. Instead of making excuses, though, I grabbed some headphones and hit the trail by myself. The first time going solo, I had a really hard time keeping my pace – and I wondered if I was going to always require a running buddy. After a couple outings, though, I got my pace in check and started to enjoy the solitude and knowing that I could run for as long (or, I guess, as little) as I wanted.
I also got a fancy schmancy phone and downloaded the Runkeeper app. I also invested in an UP band, which is equal parts pedometer, sleep tracker, and run tracker. When I first got it, I was most interested in the sleep tracking, as I'd been sleeping terribly and wanted to figure out what my problem was so I could fix it, and maybe start feeling better. It was the last puzzle piece in my health makeover and I figured that in itself was worth the expense. But the stopwatch function is pretty handy, too, because it also tracks time and distance, so if there is a discrepancy with Runkeeper (like the time it tried to tell me that I ran over 2 miles in 16 minutes – I mean, that would be awesome and all, but I know my trail and my speed well enough to know that that was impossible), I have a backup. Or the time when I accidentally paused Runkeeper when I took it out to check my distance and thus failed to record my record-breaking run. I was so, so disappointed, until I realized that the UP band had caught it too. DAY: SAVED.
I don't have all my runs, especially the ones from before I decided to download/use any sort of tracking app. They were sporadic at best and largely intervals. I know the first time I hit ten minutes, I was pretty pumped. The first time I ran twenty, I pretty much threw myself a party. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as I tend to do.
The point of this blog is to journal my progress and have something to look back at on days when I'm feeling like a failure or getting down on myself, to see how much progress I have made, even if it doesn't always feel like it. I guess deep down I think it would be kind of awesome if it inspired someone else who was new to the game too, and maybe we could have an Internet club of newbie runners. Or something. I don't know. I do know it's very easy to get discouraged reading about people who have been running for a long time or are really good at it or really serious about it. But you know what? At some point, they were beginners too. So if you're a beginner, LET'S BE BEGINNERS TOGETHER, and if you're an ace runner, please don't laugh at me. (I mean, all the runners I know have been super supportive and encouraging, but let's be real: I know how slow I am and how many things I am probably doing wrong.) I suppose that's worth repeating: I don't really know what I'm doing, so maybe don't take everything I say without the proverbial grains of salt. You should probably consult with professionals or trainers if you want real information. This just happens to be my little corner for figuring stuff out.
So, without further ado... ready, set, go!