This morning, I had an incredible run. It was hard and hot and left my entire body feeling tingly and refreshed. For those of you who are runners, you know the kind of run I'm talking about. For those of you who are non-runners, I can only say that the kind of run I had today is the reason why runners run. We don't experience these runs everyday. In fact, some days our runs just feel awful. But, every once in a while, the stars align and we have a run that is so awesome that it makes us want to keep lacing up our shoes and hitting the road.
The morning was warm and sunny, but not yet oppressively hot. I set out on my own with my music and my garmin and let my feet guide me. I only had about an hour, and I was able to hit 6.3 miles by the time I was done. I came home tired, yet invigorated, and dripping with sweat. The run was perfect. It was the kind of run that makes you smile the entire time because you know how well it is going and you can tell that you're going to feel great when it is over.
Toward the end of my run, I passed the twelve mile marker from my first half marathon and a smile crept across my face. I remembered that day in April and how I felt when I hit mile 12. I was so ready to be done, but I also knew that I was going to finish strong. After months of training, I had made it almost all the way through 13.1 miles. For me, this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I know there will be other half marathons (I'm signed up for one in October), but none will ever feel like my first. Passing that mile marker made me think about my first half marathon, but it also made me think about the past year of my life - the year I became a runner.
Last July, in an effort to get in shape and lose the baby weight that I was still carrying around one year after my son, Bennett, was born, I began to exercise. In the beginning, I went to the YMCA and used the elliptical machine. However, a few weeks into my exercise routine, I wanted to do something different. One morning, I put on my sneakers, grabbed my MP3 player and set out to run around my neighborhood. I had always wanted to be a runner and had tried to start running many times over the past decade. Unfortunately, the frustration of not being able to run long distances right away always caused me to stop before I developed any endurance.
For some reason, this morning in the end of July was different. I struggled the entire run (1.6 miles), but I somehow found the determination to keep going. I mean, I did have moments where I thought I might actually die, but I found a way to keep moving my feet. I might have been barely shuffling at some points, but I kept running. Through it all, I had a constant dialogue going in my head. I reminded myself that I gave birth to two children without any pain medication, and I didn't have the option of stopping during that process (even though I wanted to at points). I told myself that running isn't supposed to be easy, or everyone would do it. I contemplated giving up, but something kept me going. I knew if I could make it around my neighborhood without stopping, I would continue on as a runner. Something just clicked that day, and I have been running ever since.
In those first few weeks, I struggled each time I ran and thought of just giving up many times, but I kept going. I laced up my sneakers, grabbed my music, and went running. I was able to add more distance to my runs, and it was an amazing feeling to see the mileage increase. It was tangible results. Instead of measuring my progress by pounds lost or dress sizes dropped, I was measuring my progress by how far and how often I was running. Then, one day it happened. In conversation with someone else, I called myself a runner, and I haven't been the same since.
Today, I ran 6.3 miles and it was an incredible run. But, it's not the farthest I have run and it wasn't even the most incredible run I have ever had. Over the past year, I have gone from running 1.6 miles to running 13.1 miles. I have run 5K races and a half marathon. I have run in intense humidity, rain, snow, sleet and 5 degree weather. I have run on indoor tracks and treadmills, and I have run on the open road. I have had runs that made me feel incredible and I have had runs that made me feel miserable. Through it all, my love for running has grown
I love running because it allows me to see life, and myself, differently. I am more capable of getting through challenges because of the mental endurance that I have built through running. I am more physically fit and able to play with my children because of the physical endurance that I have developed. But, more than any of that, I am more aware of who I am because of running. It gives me time to think and reflect on my life. When I come home from a run, I am more grounded and patient, which makes my entire family happy. Sometimes, I question why I keep running during a particularly bad run or when I am in a running rut. However, runs like the one I had today always remind me why I do. Every time I lace up my shoes, I have the possibility of having the perfect run. That's what runners strive for, whether we run 5K's or ultramarathons.
This past year, I became a runner. I plan to be one for as long as my legs will keep going.