Monday, January 3, 2011

A tale and some tips from a formerly fat, "I'll never run" chick

So, if the mere thought of running initially gives you hives and you have a pretty good feeling that those in your life will chuckle at the idea of "Who you? Running? Nah... Come on..." then you've come to the right place.

I was in those shoes a year ago at this time. Running seemed so foreign and out of my league that I think I threw down the gauntlet and started telling people that I was going to take up running out of boredom and a need to cause a little stir of shock. Yes. It was actually shocking to my friends, family and most of all me - to say I was going to run and not just run - I was to run a half marathon. I might as well have said I was going to the moon. It was that unbelievable and farfetched.

"Run a Marathon" always found its way onto my lifelong "to do" lists. I'm not sure why. As a former chain smokin', tequila swillin and fast food eatin' mess - I don't think I ever really believed I would run one - it just seemed something to add to the bucket list. But, one day, on a spur of the moment whim (or via demonic possession) I found a half marathon scheduled in May and signed up.  And then I panicked.

What had I just done? RUN 13 MILES? My ADD barely allows me to be comfortable in a car for 13 miles, what the heck was I thinking? It didn't matter what I was thinking - once in, I'm in. So I decided to take it one step at a time. Literally.

My first "training" consisted of running for one minute. And I use the word "running" loosely. I'm pretty sure that three legged turtles could WALK faster than my run but, none-the-less it was "run like" and not easy. I huffed and puffed but I continually found a way to put one foot in front of another. There wasn't always running, sometimes there was lots more walking/crawling/bitching and moaning than running but I stuck in there.

Slow but steadily, I began to see myself get better. Manage a minute longer, go a bit faster, struggle a little less and I began actually enjoying it. 

My 1st half with a nice fellow runner I met along the way
It's almost a year later and here I am - able to run 13 miles without walking - and training to run a full 26.2 in June - (for the record, I've walked during my previous two half's and there's no shame in that) and while my pace is still a little slow for my liking, I think I could take a three legged turtle. So what have I learned? 

1.  Goals + Accountability - The only thing that kept me motivated to do this was that I committed to a huge goal and started telling everyone about it. I started this blog, which made me not only checkin with myself everyday but I knew others were watching. It kept me responsible in those moments of wanting to back out. The race fee was over $100, people had faith in me, I felt a certain (real or imagined) obligation to keep plugging away in those early days.

2. Perseverance - You don't have to run fast, you don't have to run far, you just have to commit to yourself to never give up. My last half I practically crawled the last 3 miles - but I didn't give up. Don't you give up. Weather too bad outside to run? Do you have a friend with a treadmill you could hit up? Or a kitchen table to run around or an old Sweating To the Oldies workout DVD? While those alternative workouts might not quite match - making something happen instead of using it as an excuse to skip a train day, not only works to keep you physically on track but mentally makes you feel accomplished. You've gone from being a victim of things out of your hands to taking control and making it happen - that pays off in ways you can't even describe.

3. Follow a Program - I find I need structure. There are plenty of programs to get a newbie from the couch to the road, not only is it easier to 'lean on' a program to tell you what to do rather than guess - a good program will guide you along at a rate that's not too fast (as to cause injury) or too slow (to stunt your running growth.) There are many great programs out there that can get you going - drop me a note if you'd like suggestions.

4. Birds of a Feather - Most of my friends and family still don't fully get what I'm doing - by reaching out to other runners, mainly through running blogs - I've made some good friends, gotten some excellent tips and have found an amazing community of support, cheerleading and ass kickin' as needed. Without my new found running buds, I don't know how this journey would've panned out but it certainly wouldn't have been as rewarding.

5. You will LOVE it - I was never prepared for the transformation that happened to me. I started doing this for a little weight loss, maybe a little shock value but never did I expect to find a whole new life.  If you hang in there through some of the tough parts, on the other side you'll find that not only does runner's high exist you can expect: a healthier body, a sense of accomplishment, newfound belief in yourself, pride, passion, less depression and a list of a million other life changing things. As someone who has never seen herself as an athlete, this accomplishment has filled a void like nothing else could come close to. Setting small goals and continually crossing mental (and physical finish lines) becomes building blocks of personal growth that you'll never know if you don't try. Small victories - "Wow I ran for 2 straight minutes!" Or the first time you can run a mile - these small but HUGE moments add up to make you different than you were before. Each finish line is a gift, each mile is a lesson learned, each step is a path to this new person, a YOU, you never knew existed. 

So, if you've been sitting on the fence, feeling a little "possessed" to do something crazy and run - I'm going to tell you in the most cliched way I can think of... Just do it. You'll never have a run you regret. You might have to drag yourself out there, you might question your reasons for being out there during the run but after - you'll always feel better than you did before.


PS: New runners check out RunnersAddict site that invited me to write this New Year's special blog for more tips, motivation and advice from real runners everywhere.

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