Why I Started Running

A gangly kid, all knees and elbows, I also carried “baby fat” until well into high school. I also had no reason to exercise because no one in my family exercised for health or fun; instead, we had a herd of goats Goat and a couple of horses to take care of. I might have been a strong kid from wielding shovels full of manure into a wheelbarrow, or lifting 60 pound hay bales, or even throwing the saddle on my horse, but I was not a fit kid.

I would run the Jr. Olympics at my elementary school every year because we had to, but I came to enjoy the 50 yard dash…I never won the 50, or any other race for that matter but I started to see the joy and feel the freedom of running.

Running in earnest didn’t start for me until High School and even though we still had livestock and I had absolutely no time for after school sports practice or events, I ran in PE when track came up in the rotation. I use the term ‘run’ lightly here. I fast walked because I always felt like my shoes had concrete glued to the bottom of them. I would lumber along for about a half a lap and then I would walk. I was frustrated and figured since I wasn’t a natural at any sport that running would be no different. Still, the allure of it would call me back. Lumbering continued but I could get all the way around the track after a while. My pace was a mystery and no one was recruiting me for the track team; however, I could feel the improvements: my feet felt lighter, my legs felt stronger and I was breathing with less effort by the end of the six weeks. Then, that would be that, 6 weeks of track and done for the year. In High School I ran a total of 12 weeks.

After high school graduation I had an opportunity to travel with my humanities teacher and then I would start college in the fall. Running was the farthest thing from my mind until I was hit by a drunk driver on my way home the week before I started college. The left side of me was bruised and battered and my car was wrecked! My left knee took the brunt and I was a bit nervous that it could be permanently damaged. When I found out it was a deep bruise and mild sprain, I was relieved but the doctor wanted to send me to PT anyway; and that’s when I started really exercising for the first time in my life.

They had me ride a stationary bike, work on my flexibility, and strength train until my legs felt like Jell-O but man did it feel great! I hated the stationary bike so I asked my PT guy if I could start running (lumbering) and he said sure! Since I was now in college, I had some free time to run between classes or after chores at home (my dorm was the detached garage at my parents’ house). I started walking again but for a purpose. I would map out a route with the car and then give myself a time limit to walk it. I bought a Polar HR monitor and strap and paid attention to pace for the first time and it motivated me. I began to absorb and appreciate the outdoors for more than just a place to house animals Red rose. My walking pace started at a blistering 20 minute mile but in a few short months it was down to 16 and then 14 and then 12 minutes. At that point, I was walking fast enough to break into a slow jog and then my times went down to 11 minute miles, then 10…and that’s where I stopped progressing. In my early 20’s, and having no experience being pushed to exercise I just stayed at 10 minute miles and felt like that was that.

If you run, and you might now and again: to chase the cat, to chase your kids, to chase your husband if you have one, you know there are ups and downs to both motivation and to effort. My effort has steadily increased with age but my motivation continues to wax and wane almost with the moon. My motivation peaked in my mid to late 20’s when I ran 5 marathons, 4 halves, and more 5k’s and 10k’s then I can remember; all before the age of 30. My best marathon time was a 4:13 and my best half was a 2:20 and when my motivation waned because of other interests like rock climbing, camping, hiking, marriage and children I figured I could never get back to that level again so I stopped running for quite some time. I would go for a jog now and again but I never felt the urge to really get out there and RUN!

I jogged to keep myself in some semblance of shape when I was pregnant with my son in 2003 and a off and on after with a baby jogger but mostly I walked, fast, but walked. After my daughter was born in 2005, I had a bit more trouble losing the winter coat that had built up by this time (I was 35 when she was born). After a year of trying to get my figure back (I am one vain mama!!) I was frustrated with yoga and not pushing myself so I joined a women’s boot camp at the beach and let someone else motivate me and kick my butt back into shape and it changed me forever.

In August of 2006 I registered for the Carlsbad Half Marathon to be run in January of 2007, and trained like a mad woman. I was on a mission! I was unstoppable! Nothing was going to get in my way! Unfortunately, my mom had a stroke in December of ‘06, but I simply added taking care of her to the list of things I had to do. I was going to break a 2 hour half if it killed me! Well, this is when I learned that motivation is good but obsession is not. I did break a 2 hour half and was elated (for the whole 30 seconds I allowed myself to celebrate), but the stress of training, taking care of my mom, taking care of two kids under (age 3 and 1) and starting a house project (I multi task like all good moms) took it’s toll and I was knocked down a peg or ten for about a year. That took a bit away from the accomplishment. I cherish that race, more because it taught me balance than for breaking the two hour mark.

And so I started all over again, for the 4th or 5th time. I am back to my 9 to 10 minute mile times and entering races again but I really run for my sanity, for my health, to be a model of fitness for my kids and my mom (who walks every day so I won’t bark at her Winking smile) and for me because with all of the ups and downs, the lead feet and the early mornings, and the dreaded hamster mill it’s still the best feeling on earth, to me anyway.

To getting out there and running, no matter what, no matter how far, for you…

Stacy

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