Exercise Lifestyle

Becoming a Runner

Everyone says they can’t run. It’s a universal truth. About 8% of those people are correct – the rest, including myself, my husband, and myriad friends can learn how to run.

My husband decided it was time to start running many years ago – 1999, if I’m remembering correctly. He started by walking on the treadmill and then moved fast enough to turn the walk into a run; he lost 20 pounds over the next few months and has kept running as his regular activity ever since. He also owns a dog walking company here in downtown LA so he walks 6-8 miles every day. Between walking and a few runs a week, he has stayed a skinny mini ever since.

As a non-athlete growing up, skinny but weak, running seemed like a good way to start exercising. We lived on a nice park in Baltimore and had a Doberman at the time who was a great runner so we set off in the evenings for “family” runs. Holy smokes, was it horrible. Our dobie was way too fast, obsessed with squirrels, and dog aggressive and I was pathetically slow, out of breath, and heavy legged. I promptly declared, “I can’t run” and was ready to move onto something else. Dan told me he thought he couldn’t run, that his lungs hurt, and his legs felt leaden when he started and basically that I should buck up and keep trying.

Patterson Park is 1.8 miles around and, with some practice, I was able to make it around the rectangle and end (in my defense, at the highest point of the Park) bent over, huffing and puffing. I was on my way. We signed up for a 5k St. Patrick’s Day race in 2002 and I was able to finish it without stopping, which felt amazing! So what does an overachiever, perennially optimistic person do immediately thereafter…

She signs both she and sweet hubby up for the Baltimore marathon, a short 7 months later and the two log hundreds of training miles.

Baltimore Marathon 2006

And, you know what? It was totally doable – hard, often painful, and not without a whole lotta groaning on Sunday mornings before (and later, after) long runs. We followed the plan from The Non-Runners Marathon Training and I reveled in placing check marks next to each scheduled run. The strangest part was that the longest, “long run”, was 22 miles – 4 shorter than the actual marathon. Talk about a leap of faith come marathon day. My memory of the whole event – training and race – are a little fuzzy considering it was nine years ago, but I do distinctly remember that I had to wear a velcro brace on my right knee for any long run greater than 15 miles or so. I had no residual knee issues, and the toenails do grow back, thank God.

There was only one place to go from there, in my mind, and that was the New York marathon. Easier said than done, as it took us four years to get in via the lottery. I got in on the third year, while Dan got rejected so I deferred to year four because, after three lottery losses, they have to accept you. Four years is a long time to wait considering we were in our early 30s for the Baltimore marathon.

In the interim years, we kept up running and I flitted in and out of numerous gyms. I keep coming back to running because it’s “easy”. Easy?! It became easy, and preferred, and invigorating. Long runs give me time to think; outdoor runs always give me something to look at. Running requires no gym membership, no fancy equipment, no commute time. For me, it does require weather above 50 degrees though, so our time in Baltimore cut into outdoor running. Treadmill runs have never been my favorite, but they’re bearable.

As for the NY marathon…worth the wait! I had no knee pain during training and the knee brace never came out of the “sports” drawer. We rented a basement apartment in Park Slope for 10 days and my parents came down from New Hampshire to cheer us on. They tried valiantly to see us from three different, pre-set locations, never to find us – but I knew they were there, trying, and that’s all that mattered. And, surprise, surprise, we became faster runners, even at four years older!

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Dan cut 23 minutes from his time and I chopped mine by 30 minutes (fyi, Net Time is the official time – you can see how long it takes from the gun start to actually cross the start line!) because we’re awesome!

As I mentioned in the past, my guiding goal was to get my name printed in the New York Times, and I was mistakenly informed that they print only up to 4h 30 minutes. So I ran for the glory of my name in newsprint – whatever works.

The pain of recovering is a little more etched in my brain for this race. We spent day 1 laying on the sofa the.entire.day save a half block walk to the bagel store. Day 2 we walked a few blocks to a movie theatre to watch Due Date (omg, snortsville) and nearly died when we rounded the corner after our ticket was taken to find the theatre was at the top of an extremely tall staircase. I basically pulled my body weight up the stairs by using the stair rail and descended it 2 hours later, backwards. Each day thereafter was better and better and we thoroughly enjoyed our autumn in Brooklyn.

Since then, we’ve done a handful of 5ks, kept up with running as exercise, and I’ve finally committed to a gym that I love. I ran the Baltimore half marathon in 2011 in 2:02:36, which, while a faster per mile speed than the NY marathon, left me short of my goal of sub 2 hours. Training for speed, I was all ready for the 2012 half marathon until I managed to impale my shin with the world’s largest splinter. Seriously, it was so amazing that the ER doc took a picture of it to text to his doctor girlfriend. I was pretty proud. And, you’re welcome…

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My new goal: beat the crap out of sub 2 hour half marathon on January 3rd. If I work my tush off, I think I can do 1:55 minutes so I might as well make that my goal. Yesterday’s 5 miles was a first long run and it looked pretty good. Here in Los Angeles, we’re blessed with running weather 365, but I’ve noticed that I really need to hydrate well. Yesterday wasn’t particularly hot, but I had a hard time regulating my temperature when I got home and that’s always a sign for me that I’m dehydrated. I took a warm shower, with goosebumps, and then couldn’t stop sweating for about an hour thereafter.

5 mile run - Los Angeles

So, over and over and over and over, friends have said to me that they would like to add running to their workouts but “they can’t run”. All I can do is tell them, they can. You just start moving your legs faster than a walk, and you’re running. You keep doing that, and you’re a runner.

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