I love your perspective on running, Emily – plus your attitude, energy and happiness is inspiring. Thanks for motivating me!
I had never really considered running to be a pleasurable thing. I didn’t like it in middle school gym, no one forced me to do it in high school and when I joined some friends a couple of times in college, I thought I would rather die! One day during the summer of 2012, my husband made a loving off the cuff remark about my fitness level. That flipped a switch in me that made me want to do more than just walk or try to imitate Jillian Michaels once a week and hope that I’d get stronger.
For awhile prior to this my dad had been talking about “chi running”. I usually didn’t listen too closely and I never read the book, but what I did hear is that I needed to be running on the balls of my feet rather than just walking really fast – which is what I had always thought running was. I know there are some people who heel strike and it works for them, but learning that there was a form to running, and that if I ran in that form it would be easier, changed everything. I started becoming very conscious of how I was running and pretty much looked like I was prancing for probably the first 9 months of my running life trying to stay on my toes. But it made running so much more comfortable and enjoyable! I feel sad that no one really taught me how to run in middle school when I had to run the mile every day or whatever.
So…I started running the summer of 2012. We were living temporarily in Raleigh NC. I had an 18 month old and no running friends to speak of so I had to run with her in the stroller after my husband went to work. All I had was a Chico umbrella stroller and because we were temporarily located, I did not want to acquire a jogging stroller. I would put her in that umbrella stroller and run with her in the hot, humid Raleigh heat.
It was amazing and hard an discouraging… but slowly and with consistency I started to improve. I started to enjoy running and I felt happy! I signed up for a 5K when we returned home to Delaware, got a jogging stroller, a GPS watch (I’m a little data obsessed) with a heart rate monitor, and kicked my rear end into gear! I learned that running is not about how fast you go, but it is about your heart. Every other time I had tried running, I was running with someone else and most of the time I was not at the same fitness level as them, yet I would try to keep up. It resulted in me feeling very frustrated and giving up quickly. My heart was not in shape to run consistently and comfortably with my runner friends.
Once I realized this I put all my focus into my heart. It no longer mattered how fast or far I went. I needed to strengthen my heart. I would do slow runs where my heart rate was supposed to be at 50-60% of my max heart rate and it would take me 20 minutes to run those miles and there were NO hills! They were slow, long, and arduous. But it wasn’t about what I could do compared to others. It was about what I could do compared to myself. And I was doing my best. As I listened to my feet hit the pavement I would remind myself over and over that my heart is getting stronger.
It has now been over two years and running is an integral part of my life. I recently ran at 60% my max heart rate and found I could do it in about 14 minutes! I have made progress and continue to do so! My heart is stronger physically and spiritually and I attribute it to running. I have learned much about myself and my capabilities. It has been an outlet for emotions – happy and sad and it has helped me cope with life’s trials that I never expected would be mine. I hope I can run for a long time and I am grateful I learned how to run, listened to my heart, and embraced it!
**I attached a picture of me with my husband and daughter before a run we did over the Mississippi River (it has become a family affair – my daughter ran a mile race). May your half marathon be not as hot and blastedly humid as that run was! Yay for running in MS!
(I feel like I could just go on forever encouraging people to do this because I thought I could never be a runner. Impossible was my first impression, but anyone can run! Really! You just have to ease into it and be persistent!!! Ok. I’ll be done now.)