I was one of those people who said, “I can’t run.” Or another classic non-runner statement, “I hate running.”
In March 2012 I was the finish line of the Mercer Island Half waiting for my friend Ilyse to cross the finish line. I was utterly sedentary at that point. The only exercise I got was walking around at high school softball games taking photos for the community newspaper I used to work for and even that was laughable. Before that race, I was telling my friends on Facebook that I did not understand why they ran, much less 13.1 miles. It made no sense.
Just three months later I started moving toward understanding of the runner’s mindset. A family friend died. Mary was my mother-in-law’s best friend. I first met her in 1996, the summer my husband and I started dating, so she was part of my life for a long time. She was — like many people in my life — a part of the family I chose. Mary died after falling and breaking her leg in June 2012. Her body could not take the stress of the surgery or the damage done. It was heartbreaking. She was 63. A mom, a wife, a grandmother and a friend.
Then four days later we put my beagle, Lucy, a 13-year-old rescue we had eight years, to sleep after she was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. I had not walked her in about six months. I realized life is too short. I felt guilty for not walking my other beagle, Langdon, and resolved to get active as well as to be a better dog owner. I knew what I looked like, wearing a size 18, weighing 90 pounds more than I did when I graduated from high school. I am a Type 2 diabetic. I knew that if I did not do something soon, perhaps I would not be able to recover from a catastrophic injury. I want to live a long time for my 4-year-old daughter. I am 35. I would like to make it 50 — that’s three more years than my father lived.
I started walking my dog. A mile a day, five days a week. Then two miles. Then three. Weight started coming off. I started changing my diet. Ilyse challenged me to walk an 8K (that’s just shy of five miles) that was a month away. I decided a few weeks later to walk a 5K in my city, the Wings of Karen Bra Dash. It was in September. I did walk it. In fact, I huffed and puffed my way through it, finishing in just under an hour. That 3.1 miles kicked my butt.
I knew then I would start running. I decided to try the Couch to 5K program. I downloaded the app to my phone, dragged my husband, daughter and dog out for the workouts. Then on Dec. 9, 2012, exactly three months after walking my first 5K, I ran the Jingle Bell Run 5K. Ilyse ran with me. My friends Bambee and Ed ran, too. Bambee pushed my daughter as well as her son, who was 6 at the time, in a double BOB jogging stroller she borrowed just for the race. Ed ran ahead of me with the camera and took photos. I had my own personal paparazzi. My running friends are amazing.
It took me longer than I thought it would, but, I ran the whole Jingle Bell 5K. Then I set a goal of running five more by the end of June 2013. And I did. Since that first 5K, in fact, I ran eight 5Ks, an 8K, two 10Ks and a half marathon — I’ll write another post about that soon because it was a big, huge deal for me.
I understand now why runners need to lace up and hit the pavement. I have always been high strung, though I think initially I come across as laid back when people first meet me. Running is amazing. It helps me manage my stress and I can actually be the laid back person people think I am at first. Running has also impacted me in other ways. Thus far, between walking and running as well as dietary changes, I have lost three dress sizes and as of February, 51 pounds. My health is excellent, the best it has been in years, and that’s from challenging myself to run, to race, to get out of my comfort zone.
I haven’t always been a runner. But I became a runner in October 2012 and I will be a runner until I can no longer physically do it. I am glad I now understand why people run mile after mile but I also know why not everyone understands why I do. And that’s OK. Now that I am part of the running club, I have accepted not everyone will understand but if you want to understand I am happy to help. Let’s run together. Let’s race together. I am a runner and you can be one, too. Even if, like me, you never thought you could be a runner.