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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a little background

I feel like it might be a good idea to tell my "running story."  The story of how I fell in love with running, broke up with it for a while (wasn't really seeing other people, just "hooking up" every once in a while) and then, finally, we got back together and I made a lifetime commitment and have never looked back.

I will go aaaaalll the way back to the beginning and tell you that when I was a kid I was severely asthmatic and about as big as a string bean until I was 12 years old.  Needless to say, I was not athletic nor terribly well coordinated back then.  When I was 12 though I started to outgrow my asthma and tried soccer.  Soccer and I were meant for each other from the minute I stepped out onto the field.  I took off in that sport and loved every minute of it.  I was good, not a star, but better than average.  Good enough to play center midfield and run all 90 minutes of the game all seasons of the year.  I didn't love the running my coaches made me do as part of my training, but I did it because of what it did for my soccer.  I remember being timed for the mile and going all out in just under 8 minutes...a measly performance compared to my offensive teammates who were sprinters.  I realize now I must have had more slow-twitch muscle fibers than my sprinter friends...I am built for endurance maybe, but at the time I just didn't like running because I wasn't as fast as I wanted to be (I'm just a **little** (can you detect the sarcasm?) competitive). Anyway, so soccer was my sport of choice and I enjoyed running to stay in shape for it, but running "just to run," as I thought of it, simply did not appeal or make much sense to me.

From an athletic and all-around "caring for my body and soul" standpoint, college was a wash for me.  There were a lot of things happening in my life during those 4 years that led to my description of my college years as the darkest years of my life (more details of which I will share at another time) but needless to say I was not running or playing soccer or really doing anything at all that was good for myself during those 4 years and even the year after I graduated.  I came out of college very out of shape and disconnected from myself.  I was smoking cigarettes and drinking too much coffee, diet coke and beer (definitely not water!) and not sleeping much.  Thank goodness for my youth back then because I think it really carried me through those years!

During all that turmoil and depression though, there was always a voice deep within me that wanted and believed I could change.  I wanted to quit smoking and decided that if I quit the bad habit I should replace it with a healthy one.  A friend from high school mentioned she was training for a marathon and  I was curious.  Could this be something I could do?  I was immediately intrigued by the marathon and read as much as I could about it.  I wanted to do it and believed that I could.  One of the books I bought was called How to Train for and Run Your Best Marathon by Gordon Bakoulis Bloch.  I read it cover-to-cover so intensely and became gripped by a conviction that I was going to train for and run a marathon and I was going to quit smoking so I could do it.  Thankfully, it was really easy for me to quit smoking (and other bad habits!) once I started running.  I just did it cold-turkey and with no issues.  My first training run was brutal.  It was April and I was in south Florida with my family and went out for a 20 minute run.  I was DYING.  It was hot and humid and I was SO.OUT.OF. SHAPE.  My parents and sisters really wanted to support me but I know they all just felt so badly for me and thought I was crazy.  But I did it.  Each week I kept at it and within a few weeks my long run was up to about 10 miles and I couldn't believe it.  My transformation really inspired my friend Kathleen and she decided to train with me at that point, which was wonderful.  The two of us would meet in DC before the sun came up so we could log 9 miles before work on a Wednesday and we would do our long runs together on the weekends.  It was so fun to have someone to share this adventure with.  She became a soulmate of mine and I am forever grateful for our friendship.  After about 6 months of training we were ready to run our first marathon, Philadelphia, in November of 2000.  It was a cold, gray, and windy day.  Kathleen and I were running strong (about 8:30 miles) until about mile 14 when her IT Band started screaming at her so from that point on we walked...12 long cold miles!  We finished in a little over 5 hours.  It was SO hard...but I loved it and I knew I would do it again....and again...and again....I was hooked.

I ran three more marathons in the next couple of years, always making wonderful friends through the training process and learning more and more about myself each time.  I never set time-based goals for myself...always just wanted to make it to the start line and enjoy the ride from there.  Each one of my marathon experiences was unique and wonderful.  In 2004 I became pregnant with my daughter Abby and my running stopped due to complications early on with my pregnancy.  My baby and I were both fine it turned out but I was freaked by the running so just didn't do it.  I ran a 10 mile race a few months after she was born but didn't really train for it at all.  My kids are just 16 1/2 months apart so running basically wasn't happening for me.  It wasn't until we moved to Reston, when my son Will was around 2 years old, that I started to realize something big was really missing from my life - and that was running and all that it does for my body, mind and spirit.

5 years and 2 kids since my last marathon I decided it was time for me to train for another marathon.  I put a training program together for myself and once again with lots of dedication began running and working towards my goal of running Marine Corps Marathon in the fall of 2009.  My goal was to get to the start line healthy and finish strong, which I did.  What I realized during my training for MCM was that I was a lot stronger than I thought (in body, mind and spirit) and that running was bringing me so much joy and peace - more than ever before.  I know that for as long as my body will let me, I will be running.

Now the running adventure continues as I experience what it feels like to be growing a baby in my belly while hitting the track and the trails!  So far it has been really wonderful (with the exception of days when I am sooo sick!) and the experience is making me appreciate my body and all it is capable of on a totally new level of WOW.   I wake up and "check in" with myself each day and see what I am up for.  Sunday it was 12 glorious miles on the trails, Monday a 2 mile walk on the treadmill, yesterday 4 speedy miles and today - a rest day.  We will see what tomorrow brings but I am happy knowing that, no matter what, running is a part of me and always will be no matter how fast, far or often I am able to do it.

4 comments:

Thanks for sharing Jess. I love knowing why people take up running. Love the last line of the post, so true.

Some time next spring, we need to meet up to race. Maybe your post baby comeback race?

Thanks, I really liked reading your story of why you started running. This actually seemed very similar to the way I started as well...I quit smoking and started running too, it was the best thing I've ever done for myself!!

Tonia - YES! I would love love love to meet up and run a race with you next spring! Maybe the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April...or something in Richmond or somewhere in between us. I will really look forward to that :o)

Heather - thanks so much! I really feel like running has saved me from depression and bad habits. I love reading your blog, too and would love to meet you some day :o)

I enjoyed reading your story, Jessica!! Keep it up. Your girly is adorable.

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