Thursday, September 11, 2014

The evolution of a runner


I remember my first race...vaguely...it was a 5k, I know that. I'm not clear on which one was my first, though! I remember thinking how hard it was going to be. I started running in my late 20s to combat debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. Initially, I started running with a CARA training group in downtown Chicago. The idea was to work with a group that matched your pace. Of course, as a newbie, I had no idea about a pace. I didn't see myself as a runner. I hated that I didn't know what to do. I don't remember what pace group I started with, but I do remember getting a side stitch during one of our first training runs pretty early on. I remember feeling like a loser, that I had to stop and walk it off. I felt so intimidated by the group leader, even though she was super nice and supportive, because she had all this experience. I needed to get over myself. And I did. Somehow, eventually, I got to 3 miles, came back for more runs, and eventually signed up for my first race.

I went to the race by myself, ran it in a respectable time (under 27 minutes) and headed home. I continued to train near my home and started working out at a health club in the area as well. It was there that I met a woman named Jayne, who began to train with me and run with me. Jayne was working on her NASM certification. Lucky me! She helped me with my running form, and began instilling in me the confidence I was so lacking--in running and in life. We ran in the health club on the track and in the warmer weather, we took our runs outside to the forest preserve nearby. We began running longer distances, and I worked up to 6 miles at about 8 minute pace. I ran 4-5 days/week. Jayne decided to train for the Chicago marathon, but in my mind, there was no way I could ever cover that distance. I continued run a few 5 and 10ks, but nothing further than that. As I continued on my running journey, I marveled at what my body could do, and as I became stronger physically, my mental strength also grew, but at a much slower pace.



Meanwhile, I gave birth to my boys, and we moved to the suburbs. I lost touch with Jayne after we moved, but I continued to run. I didn't run races. A lot of my runs were done in the wee hours of the morning, before the sun came up. I needed to get them done before my husband left for work so that the boys weren't alone in the house. Looking back, I still can't believe that I did that but I truly needed to run to keep my sanity and have my me time.

As the boys got older, it became easier to find time to run. I could leave them home alone while I did a quick 5 miles around the neighborhood. I always carried my phone so they could call me if I needed to come home. 5 years ago, I decided to train for my first half marathon, and the race bug bit me again. After running a few halfs, I felt that it was time to add that final distance, 26.2, to my race collection. Even though I made the decision and felt good about it, I could hardly get my head around it. From the moment I signed up in February until race day, I was a wreck. And we all know the outcome of that race...I finished, but my nerves and the heat of the day took their toll on me.


So now, here I am, 3 years later, with a chance at redemption. Physically, I am in the best shape of my life. Yep, at 51 years old, I am running paces that match my mid-30s. Thanks to a smart training plan developed by my CrossFit trainer, I am currently 3 1/2 weeks away from marathon #2 and I am injury free (knocking wood right now). Mentally, I'm in a good place too--much of which has to do with my training. The other aspect that I draw strength from is that I have run this race before. I know what to expect.


I don't know why I feel so reflective today. Maybe it has to do with this upcoming marathon. This essay might sound like a pep talk to myself, and I guess it is. But looking back on my running journey, and how far I've come is really helpful. I am better than anyone at knocking myself down. Reflecting on what I've done and what I've overcome over the years gives me strength. I want to do well at this race more than anything I've wanted in a very long time. I want to feel proud that I did more than just finish. I know what I can do. I'm ready.



Let's do it!

I can and I will!

Trust the plan.

Do you have a mantra?

12 comments :

  1. I think I needed to hear this as well! Thanks for sharing your journey and I can relate to a lot of what you wrote about. You are going to have an amazing marathon experience!!

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    1. Thanks for reading! I hope hope hope so!!!

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  2. I've ordered up the cool weather from mom nature for you. You've got all the other bases covered. Remember the race is the victory lap. You're already spanking all the training. : )

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    1. Thank you! I have completely enjoyed this training. How weird is that?

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  3. You have rocked your training, and will rock your race!! Best of luck, and don't forget to have fun!

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  4. You've come a long way. This training season has been so different than last. You are stronger for sure and will rock it. FYI, the instagram button on the side isn't working :)

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  5. I think looking back on your running journey before a key race is important and beneficial. It sounds like you've come a long way and all of your work will really pay off on marathon day!

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    1. I hope so! It was fun to look back and realize how far I've come!

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  6. You've done such a great job preparing for this race, Wendy; hard not to look back and reflect on how all of this work is coming together! I can't believe you're so close already - jeez! Time flies...you are going to ROCK this marathon, girl! :)

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    1. I can't believe it's almost here! Your support means so much to me! :)

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