Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Running is punishment

I played sports my whole life. You would think running should come easy to me right? False. The only thing that group sports taught me was that running is punishment. You mess up in practice, you're running laps. I spent the first 26 years of my life believing that running was only the result of two things: being chased, or being punished. 

Last year, for my birthday, my best friend Jacob convinced me to sign up for a 5k race. He was really excited about it and didn't want to do it alone. I hated running but I loved my friend so I reluctantly agreed. We went for one run together and I thought I was going to die. He had been training and I had been lazy. Race day came and the excitement drowned out any doubts or fears I had that day. I could barely make it through the first mile at a light jog. The rest of the race was a mix of walking, jogging, and complaining. I was out of shape and it was a struggle. Eventually I finished, and by some grace of God wasn't the last one to do so. It made me realize that a change had to come. That day I made a promise to myself to do at least one 5k race a month. Little did I know how much that one small promise would lead to.

 Slowly but surely, each month came and another race was checked off my list. Jacob joined me for the first follow up to my debut and so did Abby which got her hooked. The next month Jacob was off at school, but Abby and her husband Johnny joined me for our first race of the new year. February was tricky because noone really wanted to run in the snow, but I didn't want to break my promise to myself so I bundled up tight and ran through the blizzard on Superbowl Sunday. I did the next couple races by myself and enjoyed the freedom of running at my own pace.

 Six months into my journey I was so excited that I wanted those closest to me to get involved too. I convinced my mom to do a 5k run with me for Mother’s day and she loved it! That same month I also tackled my first 5 mile race (it was Cinco de Mayo themed and I just couldn’t pass it up). By June I finished my first obstacle/mud run and was completely hooked. Those of you who are runners know what I mean, and those of you who think you should only run when you’re being chased, well, I was one of you less than a year ago.

Last month, completely by accident and a stroke of good fortune, I signed up for the Chicago Rock’N’Roll half marathon. I didn’t think I would even finish but I was eager to at least try and see how far I could make it. Each mile I kept wondering if that was the one where my body would just give out and I would have to get carried to the finish line in the medic van. I never gave up, just kept pushing myself to make it one more mile, and finally when I made it across that finish line I realized that everything I needed I already had inside myself. I can’t even describe the feeling of pure elation when you find yourself at the finish line of a race that you never even thought you would start. All those excuses I kept giving myself just faded away and I proved to myself that I was my own biggest obstacle in reaching my goals.

Over this past weekend I took things to a whole new level...I conquered my first triathlon. I wasn't trying to win, or even set some kind of personal record, I just wanted the opportunity to cross that finish line. That’s pretty much how I approach all of my races, it’s a journey and I am my only competition. To be better than I was yesterday, because whether I’m the first or last person to get there, the finish line is the same.

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