Folks often ask me how I started running. I always have to start by explaining that before I became a runner, I was a walker.
The Background—“Fitness Walking”
I started walking for fitness (aka, “fitness walking”) to help me lose weight, because I knew that, to truly take the weight off, I needed to exercise. I chose walking because it was free and readily accessible most of the time. I could walk in the mall before work, at home down my road, or around downtown on Sunday mornings while my kids were in Sunday school—anywhere I was, I could walk! As a working mom of two very busy hockey players, I had a lot of demands on my time, and I wanted an exercise program that I could do in about 20 or 25 minutes each day.
A lot of my family and friends were surprised when I chose to start a walking program, because I have flat feet. It’s hard for me to be on my feet for long periods of time, and I did find that after the first couple of months, my feet hurt if I was walking more than 25 minutes at a time. Plus, I also found I had blisters—really painful ones! Eventually, I took the advice of a friend who runs and went to my local running store, where they fitted me for shoes specifically designed for flat feet. What a huge difference those shoes have made in my life! Not just in walking either—I wear the shoes every day now, and my feet feel much, much better. (I suspect that having lost 40 pounds hasn’t hurt either!)
I walked every day for two months, no matter what the weather—I started in November, probably not ideal for someone who lives in the north, but I just dressed appropriately and made it work!
The more I walked, the faster I got. Besides the shoes, I also splurged on a Garmin GPS watch (the Forerunner 410) to help me track my speed—I was getting sick of doing the math in my head, lol! In January, some of my “runner friends” joked that I would be a runner before long. I told them absolutely not! I was happy as a walker, and I just couldn’t see myself committing to the kind of time and effort required for running. I mean, it was hard enough to find the time to walk for 25 minutes most days—I really had to carve it out and pretty much forcibly “take” the time from all my other obligations. Where would I find the time to run???
I did let those friends convince me to sign up to walk the 5k portion of a half-marathon they were all running. I was nervous, but I also wanted a new challenge, and I decided it was worth a try. I used Hal Higdon’s 5k training program for walkers, and I set a goal for myself to walk it in under 44 minutes—pretty ambitious, but like I said, I wanted a challenge. As it turns out, I didn’t just meet my goal—I blew it away, finishing in less than 41 minutes—as a walker!!
I actually beat some runners! The whole experience turned out to be way more enjoyable than I expected.
A week or so later, my family and I were having a gathering with one of those runner friends…my friend Renee and her family. Renee and her husband are both runners, and at dinner that evening, she and her husband both began to hint around about me taking up running. I remember specifically telling her husband that I was not going to take up running—I just wasn’t interested. That was the last weekend of March. I did, however, let them convince me to sign up to walk another 5k in an event they were both running on Mother’s Day.
Somewhere, somehow, in the next two weeks, something changed. I think part of it was the unseasonably warm weather we were having—I always get more energy when the weather gets warmer. But I think more of it was just the fact that I was feeling unchallenged with walking at that point. I had already done one 5k at a pace that was faster than some people run it. What would be my next goal—to walk even faster than that?!
On Sunday, April 15, our temperature was in the 80s—unheard of for April around here. On that afternoon, I decided that instead of walking, I was going to try to run. I looked up Hal Higdon’s 5k novice training program for runners, and the first day, you had to be able to run a mile and a half. So, I put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and set down the road to run a mile and a half. Ha! I was definitely a novice, and there are a lot of things I would have done differently if I had been more experienced (emptied my bladder, for one thing!), but I just figured it was another one of those “now or never” things. About a quarter mile down, I was surprised to have a little fawn running alongside me—he ran (really, more like frolicked, lol!) with me for about 1/3 of a mile. It was amazing! I decided that it was a sign that I was supposed to start running, and I just kept pushing myself until I made it to a mile and a half. And then I had to turn around and walk back, ha ha! (Told you I was a novice!)
By the time that Mother’s Day 5k rolled around, I was ready to try to run the whole thing, and I did. My time was okay, but the important thing was that I ran the whole way. I was very proud of myself for that accomplishment, but even better, I had lots of friends and my family there to cheer me on. It was a great day!
The Real Reason I’m Here
From that moment on, there was no turning back. I love the challenge of running—it’s fun to try to go faster or farther with each run. I love the feeling that I get when I’ve just finished a run—I’m hot and tired and always out of breath, but it’s a great feeling of accomplishment, especially when I’ve done it early in the morning. I love how running allows me to maintain my weight loss and still splurge on occasion—those activity points really add up when you run long distances! Most of all, I love waking up each morning and knowing that I am healthy—truly healthy—for the first time in my adult life.
At this point, I have done several 5ks and two 10ks. I also did the final leg (4.4 miles) of the Detroit Free Press marathon relay in October 2012, which was great fun and so rewarding. A half-marathon was next on my list…and then I did not one, not two, but three! So what came after that? Well, a marathon, of course!
Beyond that…well, I guess I’ll just keep running and see where it leads me.
Thanks for reading my blog!