So I’ve been putting this topic off for some time now. I know, it’s way overdue. But this post gets kind of deep, so I wanted to make sure I hit everything I wanted to. (Note: this post is also my new Run page.)
It’s funny…looking back, I have not always been a runner. In fact, I use to despise it. I was always an active child, though…playing the standard trio of soccer/basketball/softball during elementary school, and later transitioning to tennis (yes! a sport I was actually good at!) once I reached middle and high school. I also dabbled in swimming and track (high jump, what!) but was never outstanding in any of those. Tennis was my sport, and I truly enjoyed my years playing (a lot of this was due to the amazing girls on my team… a core group of us played for 6 years together!)
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I discovered running. This was the year that a tragic car accident killed the boy I had dated for 2.5 years. We had been best friends since we were 13, and he was taken away from my life forever at 17. This event pretty much shattered my world. I tried to stay collected and did a pretty good job at keeping a positive attitude for all to see on the outside, but I can’t even begin to put into words how much pain I felt on the inside. I can remember the months following that accident in such vivid detail, and I can sometimes still feel the emotional pain if I allow myself to drift back in time to those memories. I felt so many feelings — sometimes all at once, and sometimes separately—anger, pain, sorrow, guilt… anxiety. You name, I felt it…and dealt with it. My high school friends were my rock. They are truly the ones who got me through such a painful and hard time in my life. They sat by my side to keep me company, cried with me, went on trips with me, and sat around and acted crazy with me once I was ready to begin the healing process. To this day I am so grateful for their companionship and love.
Nevertheless, there were things I was unable to share with them. Feelings I kept deep inside, and feelings that I needed to deal with. Looking back, I should have gone to counseling. I wish I had. But thanks to my Type-A personality I convinced myself I could “deal” on my own. I needed a venue to channel this pain, and running became my choice of therapy.
Fast-forward a few years… to my junior year of college, and another tragic event happened. This time I was half way around the world, on my study abroad in Australia. I knew I needed counseling, so to counseling I went. I had a wonderful support system over there… my friends, professors and counselors continuously checked in on me and acted like family since my own was so far away. The fact that this event happened so early on during my abroad experience convinced me that I wanted, no…needed, to stay in Australia even longer. I was learning so much and experiencing so much that I could not let this one event scare me away from a once in a lifetime chance. I mean, when else could you drop everything and live in another country for a year? My reasoning was simple: I didn’t have a family to support, I didn’t have a career… I was simply a student, studying abroad. So if I could do that back in the States, why not just continue my studies in Australia?
So that’s what I did. I entered my study abroad experience with the intentions of being there for only one semester, and I ended up staying for the year. That’s a long time to be away from family, especially after going through yet another traumatic experience. But during this time, I matured and learned things I never would had if I had been back in the States. I learned how to travel to different countries on my own, and I gained a whole new, international family. During my Christmas Break, I spent 2.5 weeks touring both islands of New Zealand and I was one out of two Americans on the entire trip. I became close with each and every person… and still keep in touch with many of them today (hello! if you are reading this!) Anyway, the reason I talk so much about my experience abroad is because this is the time when I really started to make running a part of my life.
It was here, on this boardwalk, that I cultivated my passion for distance running. And I have never looked back.
Once I graduated college, I moved to Charlotte N.C. and moved in with a girl who was big into running. She had done a few marathons, and encouraged me to track how far I ran on one of my daily runs. Turns out, my normal loop was about 5 miles. “Holy WHAT!? I’ve been running 5 miles and didn’t even realize it? Huh…that’s kinda neat!” That’s pretty much went on in my head when I saw the mileage on the computer screen that day. Like I said earlier, I was never much of a serious runner, and never really cared how far/fast I went…In fact, I remember being completely stupefied a few months earlier when one of my college buddies announced that she had just got back from a 3 mile run. Little did I know I had probably been doing the same thing. Knowing that I was able to run more than a few miles was a major turning point for me, and the running switch in my head was finally flipped from “dim” to “bright.”
About a week after this discovery, I signed up for my first half marathon in Davidson, NC… a town very close to where my Aunt Libby (my mom’s only sibling) and Uncle John lived. During this time, my Aunt Libby was battling cancer. She was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer just a few months before I graduated college (she went in to see her doctor for a sore throat… and that visit turned into a series of tests that discovered a tumor in her throat and cancer all throughout her body). By May, she was wheelchair bound and could no longer talk. And by August, hospice became a part of the household. I decided to dedicate my training and my half marathon to my Aunt Libby, and on September 20th, 2008 I crossed the finish line. The very next day, she passed away.
Since then, I have continued running and have completed a total of 4 half marathons.
1. Davidson Run for the Green Half Marathon (Time: 2:23ish, September, 2008)
2. Charlotte’s ThunderRoad Half Marathon (Time: 2:22ish, December, 2009)
3. Dowd YMCA Run Half Marathon (Time: 2:12, November 2010)
4. Charlotte’s ThunderRoad Half Marathon (Time: 2:06, December 2010)
(I’ll be doing a recap of each of these races in the future)
I love the distance of a half-marathon, but to be honest, I don’t find them a challenge anymore. I want to feel that rush again, to feel scared…to question my ability of whether or not I can finish. And the fact that I am running these Halfs with energy to spare, and crossing the finish line wanting more… tells me that it’s time to up the ante.
And in the Spring of 2011, I did just that. I completed my first full marathon in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio – The Flying Pig Marathon on May 1st, 2011. I am currently training for my second full marathon — the Savannah RNR Marathon on November 5th. I’ve now run six half-marathons, and am sure there are plenty more in my future 🙂
So I guess the take-away from all of this is simple. Running has become a major part of my life. It is my therapy… my saving grace. It is a time for me to escape, and a way for me to sort through my thoughts. It is a time for me to be free, and it provides a place for me to just be me. I know I’ve said this before, but I cannot emphasize enough how much I really do not care about how far I go, or how fast I run. I run to be free. To sort my thoughts. To jam out to music, and simply listen to the sounds of nature and the pounding of my feet on the pavement. Running allows me to break away from the hectic ties of the modern world, and to simply just be.
Nevertheless, I realize that I may not be able to run forever. So I am aiming to cultivate some new forms of exercise that can provide the same tranquility that running currently provides for me. One of my goals this year is to dive into yoga and/or Pilates. I truly believe that this will allow me to be a better balanced person, and help me ward off injury as I further my running career.