I was a swimmer in high school. Actually, it's a little bit better than that: I was a synchronized swimmer in high school. If you don't know what synchronized swimming is, go to YouTube and search "synchronized swimming Olympics." It's fine, I'll wait.
So anyway, I swam very seriously throughout high school (we practiced four hours a day, six days a week during the season, and I swam on off-season teams year-round). I was in great shape, but I could not run for love nor money. My junior year, in the middle of the swimming season (when I was working out 24 hours a week) I had to run the mile for some stupid presidential fitness testing and I had an asthma attack. I looked like one of the the contestants on The Biggest Loser on the first day of the show, when their eyes roll back in their head and they nosedive off the treadmill. So that's where I was starting with running. In the best shape of my life, keeling over on the asphalt of my high school track.
Still, I had this idea that successful people are always runners. You know in movies about high-powered career people, how the opening credits are always the protagonist joggin' around some metropolitan area? I really wanted to be able to do that. After high school, I tried a bunch of times to get better at running. When I lived in France between college and law school, I ran every day for a month. And it never got easier, and I was never able to go more than about a mile without stopping. So that sucked.
Finally, in 2013, I made it my New Year's Resolution to run the famed Turkey Day 10k in Worthington, Minnesota, with my dad. He runs the race every year, and I figured I would bite the bullet and get to the point where I could run 6.2 miles, and if I still hated it with every fiber of my being then I would just give up on this idea that I needed to make myself into a runner. The Turkey Day 10k takes place in September (oh, did you think it was related to Thanksgiving? Joke's on you, Turkey Day is a Worthington holiday and it's in September. Duh.) So, naturally, I started training in January. Because running is so hard.
What finally got me running more than a mile at a time was forcing myself to run really, really slowly. Like, 12-13 minute miles. Basically, take the smallest steps you can take and bounce up and down like you are running but don't try to move forward too much, and you've got my initial running strategy down pat. When I demonstrated this technique for Dan, he literally said "Oh, no."
And it worked! I finished my first continuous run around a body of water (Lake of the Isles--shout out to the smallest lake I could find) and on that run I was passed by two men who could not have been younger than 85, but I was so proud. That September, I ran the Turkey Day 10k with my dad and it was awesome. (Wait--one part wasn't that awesome. I got so excited at the beginning that I wasn't looking where I was going and I ate it face-first into the gravel on the first turn of the race. But I finished, and I ran the whole way except when I was falling down, and that was awesome.)
The next summer, I ran the Mayor's Half Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska with my dear friend Jenny (who lives in Anchorage and happened to be running that race when we were visiting her). This was my first half marathon, and we ran it on a day when it was pouring rain and very windy, and part of the trail was actually hills through the woods that turned into complete mud pits. People were sliding down the mud hills on their butts. Also, that course finishes with no less than ten hills, and they all sort of turn corners from each other so you keep telling yourself you must almost be at the finish line, until you turn the next corner and instead there's another damned hill in front of you. It was miserable in the best, funniest way, and then I had run a half marathon. (Poorly. But, you know. That's still a long way to run.)
Last summer, I didn't really run at all until August. We had our wedding, and I was interviewing for a new job and then starting a new job, and it just wasn't happening. But, at the end of the season I signed up for another half marathon in Madison, and when I started training for it I found that my pace had sort of naturally improved to around 9-minute miles, which is a small miracle for me. I finished the Madison Half in 2:05:48 (although I have a bone to pick with their course planners, because my GPS said I had run 13.8 miles by the time I got to the finish line). After that race, I decided I can officially call myself a runner. I really like that training for a race forces me to exercise on a schedule (if you skip a training run you're just making your life harder for the next training run, and if you don't train at all then you don't finish races and that is embarrassing). I like that every time I go for a run I'm doing something that I never thought I could do. Right now, Dan and I are training for the Hot Dash 10-miler (happening in Minneapolis in March--join us!) and the other morning we got our butts out of bed at 5:30 and ran four miles from our house to/around Lake Calhoun and back. I hadn't run since...October? And I could run 4 miles without too much trouble. That's incredible, to the high-schooler in me who had an asthma attack during the timed mile.
Stay tuned to hear more about our training for the Hot Dash, and then for an Earth Day half marathon in St. Cloud in April! Hoping to break 2 hours on my official half marathon time this season.