Monday, October 15, 2012

I am not a runner.

I am not a runner. I never have been, unless you count my year of dabbling in Cross Country/Track during high school to avoid taking "regular P.E.". Running just isn't an activity that comes easy to me. I know what you might be thinking: one foot in front of the other, how could that be difficult? but for me it can be quite demoralizing and has been the root of a few pestering injuries throughout the years. More times than not, my running is to appease others or satisfy what I think I should be doing in order to lose weight/get lean/etc. In the past six months I will admit, I have grown to tolerate, at times even enjoy the experience of running. I have started to include 5k afternoon runs in several times a week in addition to my regular routine at FNS Training Center. In fact, when I vacationed in Europe for a month this summer I ran a 5k in every city that I visited, only skipping one day the entire trip - it was one of the major highlights of my trip.

People may be surprised to hear that I don't enjoy running because for a while I was running races every month. But to me, there is a huge difference between a leisurely 5k after work and an organized 5k event. Races have a special energy surrounding them; being amongst hundreds or thousands of other participants is a constant motivator, and nothing can beat the "finish line feeling" when you take that final step and know that you've achieved something great - whether a 5k, 10k, or half marathon.

On December 5, 2010 I ran my first half marathon. Running 13.1 miles continuously is something that I genuinely had no interest in doing and would have laughed if you had suggested otherwise. In fact, when Katy Casellini mentioned her desire to do one I probably had some choice words to share with her about what an asinine idea I thought it was. Well, on June 6th I decided to give one of my best friends a double birthday gift. Not only did I register her for the Las Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon, but I volunteered to do it alongside her. I wouldn't say I trained specifically for the half marathon, but I was definitely trying to stay fit and we ran some 5k fun runs leading up to it. I went into the marathon with little expectation. Before the race I had never run more than 6 miles continuously. At the start of the race, Katy and I hoped to make it halfway without walking. Once we hit 7 miles, we knew we could make it to 8. Once I passed 8 I was determined to make it to continue my trot to 10 - in my head I just kept thinking that the less I stopped, the faster I'd be done. I finished that half marathon without stopping once to walk - my time was 2 hours and 22 minutes. I teared up when I crossed the finish line. Partially because I was proud, mostly because I was exhausted. It was a great course for a 1st timer because there was literally NO incline, we ran from Mandalay Bay, down the strip to Fremont Street and back. There was great scenery, people watching, awesome entertainment and lots of spectators the entire way.After completing that half I hung up my "long distance" shoes (I put that in quotes because I realize that it is probably considered mid-range, but to me it felt long). I told myself that I'd accomplished that goal and really didn't feel inclined to do it again.

That was until I got a text message from Nicole Yarwasky, while sitting on the beach in Tampa Bay enjoying my Spring Break. Yar asked if I'd do the Nike Women's (half) Marathon. All I'd ever heard about it was how it was a lottery selection process and that you get a Tiffany's necklace at the finish line. She told me that as a student (which I'd just gone back to get my Masters at SJSU) you could bypass the lottery AND pay half price. I figured it was going to be the cheapest Tiffany's necklace I could buy so I registered on the spot. Once again, I didn't train for the race but was in better shape than I had felt the previous year. I'd been doing Crossfit, circuit training and ran a few longer races. I ran Nike alone, me and my playlist. The course for Nike is MUCH different than the Vegas Rock N Roll. Hills. Lots of them. As I navigated the course, having no idea what was coming around the next corner, I race into the finish line at 2 hours and 9 minutes. I was happy that when I did the math, that pace was just below a ten minute mile. Although Katy wasn't able to run this one with me, she was waiting for me at the finish line with a big hug, a souvenir bottle and a car parked strategically close so as to save my aching legs. Immediately upon completion of this race I felt pain shooting to my knees and hip flexors (I guess hills will do that to you). But sweet Katy was there to rescue me and sweep me away.

Yesterday I did what I thought I'd never do, for several reasons. I not only ran another Half Marathon, but I beat my personal record - more on that in a moment. I decided that the student registration for Nike was too good of a deal to pass up, so I signed up to do the race for a second time. As I said in the early part of this rambling I have embraced running in the past six months.While I once again did not train specifically for the race, I had put in more miles in the last six months than I had in my entire running career leading up to last year's run.  In preparing for the race I was met with tons of support and encouragement - My ever-supportive boyfriend got me outfitted with new Nike running shoes, socks, and made preparations for transportation the day of and accommodations the night before. The amazing staff at FNS offered extra services for runners including complimentary RockTape application by Dr. Jen and Triggerpoint Therapy to loosen and prepare our muscles prior to race day. Denise Rodriguez, one of the newest trainers at FNS and fellow athlete Allison Gomez even decided to fore-go their own race success in order to run and pace for me so I could work toward my goal of 2 hours. It wasn't easy. It wasn't pretty. It hurt. But as we came into the finish line, holding hands, I had achieved my goal. We crossed at 1 hour and 57 minutes, 12 minutes faster than my previous best. With the support and encouragement of trainers, friends, and family I was able to achieve something I'd never thought possible. Tears of relief, pride and happiness streamed down my face as I shared the news with my boyfriend at the finish line.

Yesterday I proved to myself that maybe I am a runner. I guess it really is simply the act of putting one foot in front of the other after all.