My chest burned. It was cold outside, and the circular track didn’t provide much of a distraction from the frigid air snaking its way through my body and robbing my lungs of what little capacity they were giving me. I looked and felt like a hot mess, but we were almost finished. Three truncated laps around Seneca Park, and my very first training run ever would be over. Warmth and waffles awaited me back at my home, and I wouldn’t have to run again for two days.
Three miles. I still remember wondering how I’d ever be able to run almost nine times that distance.
Shortly after I arrived at home, mid-waffle, I was able to pull up my training calendar on my phone and mentally check off a task. That was when I fell in love with running.
I know it’s trite to say, but what a difference a year makes. When I read some of my entries from the beginning of 2012, it’s hard to believe the content. The nervousness associated with running 4+ miles has given way to a demeanor of borderline apathy if a scheduled training run is less than that distance.
It’s not a stretch to say I’m a fairly goal-oriented person. Ticking off those training runs, one by one, week by week, kept me going. I wasn’t ever focused on losing weight or sculpting my physique or any of the other myriad benefits that come with the activity, I had just one goal – finish a marathon. Every single in 2012 step led to that moment.
But there were plenty of other opportunities to test out my racing legs. The Anthem 5k provided my first real race experience. It was crowded and runners practiced very little race etiquette, but I still had a blast. Next came the Rodes City Run, a 10k where I ran with my friend, Carrie, for most of the route.
The last leg of the Louisville Triple Crown of Running, the Papa John’s 10 Miler (my favorite non-marathon distance race thus far), was a blast. Thanks to an out-and-back course, I got to see Kenyans (including 2012 Boston winner Wesley Korir) in action for the first time.
The spring season culminated with finish at the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon – my first half. I remember crossing the finish line and thinking, “How is this halfway? There’s no way I could run another 13.1 miles after this.” To add to my anxiety, my friend, Eileen, suggested not watching the marathoners finish.
After the mini, I took some time off from running to let some lingering ailments take care of themselves. I hit it hard again in July to start training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October. To kick off the regimen, I ran a 5k at a bourbon distillery in blazing heat. It was nothing but long training runs (both weekend and midweek varieties) until I ran the Little Miami Half as a substitute for a training run.
And then there was nothing left but The Big One. The good folks with the Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Running group had adopted my friends and me, coaching and advising us through training. September felt like one long run as we covered what seemed like the entire city of Louisville and much of southern Indiana (practicing extra caution since Hoosiers can’t drive – or play basketball). It was in the middle of this training that my affinity for running became strongest.
And then, just like that, a year of expectations came to a head on October 28th. I was in the parking lot of the Pentagon at 5:30 in the morning wearing a trash bag and keeping a wary eye on the skies, all the while saying prayers under my breath to keep Supertropicalcane Sandy away. It was hard, but 26.2 miles later, I had finished the Marine Corps Marathon. And then I caught the next-to-last flight out of DC.
After MCM, I kind of fell into a funk. I took a week off from running to recover, then ran just three miles in three weeks. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t fast. I was tired, and honestly, I thought about just hanging it up. I’d crossed off an item on my bucket list, and there wasn’t a goal to achieve. I had registered for the 2013 Flying Pig Marathon in DC, but training for it wouldn’t start until January. I signed up for a frigid 5k (earning a non-binding PR in the process) and a Thanksgiving Day fun run, but the drive and determination that was so prevalent in September had waned.
So I did what I countless other runners have done. I forced myself into my shoes and out the door. I pushed myself to run harder and faster. My running friends are tremendous supporters, and they’ve helped ignite a new spark and set a simple goal for the upcoming year – get better. Recently, I figured out that I’m happiest when I’m training for a race, so the calendar will be active in the new year.
Running made 2012 a year of enlightenment for me. I learned it can serve as therapy, reward, punishment and distraction. I learned that there’s a peaceful, Zen-like quality to the long training runs, and even though you might be in a group, you can still find a place to be alone with your thoughts – or lack of thoughts. As a bonus, the time carved out for a few hours every Saturday morning was usually followed up by good conversation with good friends and good pancakes.
I’ve also learned that inspiration can come from anywhere. This blog has allowed me to befriend and follow people I would have never met. Dan and Otter are prime examples of setting goals and achieving them, no matter their design or intent. Danielle demonstrates that perseverance can still be fun. And Jeff is…well, Jeff is just a beast. I had the privilege to meet each one of them (even a very brief, mid-marathon encounter with Danielle), and I can attest that they represent the core of the running community – good folks who have respect and encouragement for one another. And these are just the folks I’ve met. There are a ton of other runner/bloggers out there who fit this description. It’s a nice cohort to be a part of.
So that brings me to a theme for 2013: Do work. Get stronger. Go faster.
I’m a sucker for metrics, so I’ve also set some time goals for the year:
5k – 22:00 (7:04/mile)
Half – 1:45:00 (8:00/mile)
Full: 3:59:59 (9:09/mile)
It will take determination and dedication, but I’m ready.
So here we go, 2013. Let’s do work.
Keep running, friends.