Running has changed my life. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true.
A few years ago, I hated running. I was on the track team for six years, but I wasn’t a distance runner by any means. I struggled through the required mile in P.E. class every year, had only completed a handful of 5Ks and vividly remember thinking I might die after the ¾ mile Boilermaker kids run when I was 10 (turns out I was just really dehydrated).
I hated running.
But in 2012, I decided I was going to run the Boilermaker 15K. My mom had completed her first one the year before and I thought, if she can do it, I can do it.
I began running with what has since evolved into the Mohawk Valley Hill Striders, and I was miserable. I dreaded every single run, prayed for thunderstorms and wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. When we got to about four miles in our training, I quit. There wasn’t a single part of me that wanted to run more than that, so I dropped down to the 5K instead.
But running for that short time helped me start to lose weight. I had gained weight during my last two years of high school, and running was helping undo some of the damage I had done. When I went away to college in the fall, I started working out nearly every day, and when March came around, I began to run because I wanted to.
And that made all the difference.
I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to run the Boilermaker 15K – for real this time. I was lying on the gym floor, clearly not working out very hard, when I texted both my mom and my best friend to tell them I wished I had signed up for the big race instead of the 5K.
I was in luck – Jess had just found out she would be camping that week and could no longer run the race. And just like that, I was committed.
I began running with the group again when I returned home for the summer, and I couldn’t believe the difference in my mentality from the year before. I was actually enjoying myself.
I remember running 4.5 miles and being excited that it was my furthest run yet. I remember a moment in the middle of a random weekday run when I was actually picking up speed going uphill, and I realized how much stronger I had become. I was shocked – I had become an actual living, breathing runner.
Since then I’ve completed three Boilermaker 15Ks, four half marathons, and various other 5Ks, 10Ks and mud runs. In exactly two weeks, I will be running (and hopefully completing) my first marathon.
I went from struggling through one mile just a few years ago to now getting ready to run 26.2 miles.
Running has changed my life.
I have never been happier, healthier or stronger than I’ve been the past couple years. I lost weight (some of which I gained back), learned how to set goals and push myself toward reaching them, and met some amazing people in the process.
I am not a fast runner, but being able to call myself a runner at all is an accomplishment in itself. I never could have predicted where I’d be right now, but I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. And that’s why I’m writing this.
Sometimes I forget that I love running. Or rather, I don’t love the running itself, but I love what it has done for me. I love the impact it’s made on my life, the people it’s introduced me to and the strength and confidence it has given me.
As the marathon gets closer, the mental strength I’ve worked so hard to rebuild this summer feels like it’s on the verge of crumbling. I haven’t been looking forward to our runs the past couple weeks and during the half marathon today, all I could think was that I had no idea how I would run twice that amount in two more weeks.
Training for a marathon hasn’t been an easy journey. I had a blister that turned into an infection and landed me in Urgent Care. A couple weeks later when I could run again, a blister formed in the exact same spot on the other foot. I wound up with another infection and additional week of no running.
I now have two matching blister wounds on the arches of my feet that have to stay bandaged, one black toenail, another toenail in the process of turning black, a toe with a blister that resembles another toe growing out of it, two sore knees and one very exhausted body.
But the physical strain is nothing compared to the mental. I can run through every ache and discomfort I just mentioned if I believe that I can. Running, for me, is much more a mental challenge than physical.
I know I’m physically capable and ready to run a marathon. I have aches and pains and I’m exhausted, but I can do it. I’ve trained for this. Now, the last two weeks of my training will be mental.
When doubt and worry sets in, I struggle. My own mind is my biggest adversary when I’m running. Five miles feel like 15 and I wonder why I ever decided to do this to myself.
So this is my reminder.
I run because it’s an incredible feeling to accomplish something I never thought I could. I run because it has made me healthier and stronger than I’ve ever been. I run because even when I’m complaining and cursing and wondering why I’m doing this, I’m surrounded by company I enjoy that pushes me to keep going. I run because each new milestone – 10K, 15K, half marathon – makes me want to complete a bigger one. I run because even when it’s painful and frustrating, I enjoy pushing myself and seeing what I can endure both physically and mentally. And I run for the person I used to be, who was insecure and unhappy and in need of the mental strength and clarity that I’ve found through running.
These reasons are what keep me going, and these reasons are what I’ll be holding onto while I push myself toward 26.2.
I don’t love running – I love being a runner. Sometimes I forget, but I won’t let that be the reason I struggle through the biggest milestone in my running career.
I am a runner. In two more weeks, I will be a marathoner.
Running has changed my life.