In elementary school my mother was really into local races. She would do a local 5k and I would wait patiently at the finish line for her to come across. This is where I was first introduced to the sport and to the racing scene. I did a few with her and I distinctly remember one race where I actually got lost and had to find a police officer (I obviously listened in school to find a cop when in doubt) to have him take me back to finish line to meet my mom. What a great way to start the racing career.
In 8th grade I was on the track team. My 200 pound plus body proudly did what every other larger person on the team did. We threw shotput. Obviously I wasn’t a prodigy at it but being on an organized sports team made me feel athletic and included. I would cringe when our coach made us run. Why did the throwers have to run when our event involved absolutely zero running? I hated running and wanted no part of it.
Thanks to my mom’s racing days in my childhood I was no stranger to races. I knew what to expect and what made a good race or bad race. But that didn’t mean I necessarily liked running. For my freshman year project in college, I took up local races. Originally it was just to “fit in” and seem athletic. I’ve mentioned in my weight loss story that somehow completing races made me feel like more of a person and gave me a sense of value. In my mind, completing races made me fit. Oh, how wrong I was.
For the Biggest Winner team the following year I ran to try to lose weight. It worked for the most part but I didn’t really love it. I just loved the benefits. When I rowed at UT, we had to run all the time and that’s where I sort of started to like it. I enjoyed getting faster. I enjoyed seeing my interval repeats get faster at the track workouts. I enjoyed being able to run more than 3 miles without any walk breaks. The love of running actually started to wear off on me. But once rowing was over so was my love for running and I fell back into the whole “running so I can eat” and “running to lose weight” categories. Nothing wrong with that but it is just not where I wanted to be.
It took me flying across the country to run through Las Vegas to help me fall in love with the sport. Running Ragnar Vegas was everything I wanted running to be. I got to be in a beautiful place and actually enjoy the views around me instead of slugging through and only looking at the ground. I got to cheer on my wonderful teammates which really showed what the sport should be about. I ran fast (for me) paces and wasn’t scared if I had to take a few walk breaks. I freaking loved every minute of it!! I still truly believe that the relay really set the fire in me.
Right after coming back from Vegas we started training with the new Biggest Winner team. After talking with the Biggest Winner from last year we set up a training plan. I shared the plan with my favorite running pal Brittney and we began. At first it was scary following a plan. I was scared to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I was scared to think about running up hills (for fun). I was scared to run on the treadmill. But you know what? I love running AND I love myself and sometimes it takes doing things that scare you to show you that you actually like something.
This weekend I did 8 miles with the Knoxville Track Club. I used some good run/walk intervals and the much needed help of my friend Bryan but I conquered 8 miles. The best part was not even being sore the next day which gave me permission to push even harder next week. The next day, my Momma and I went on a walk and we hit up Stonegate and I ran up this huge hill. Yes it was hard and yes I wanted to quit but I felt so much better after getting to the top. Running isn’t easy. It is hard and it takes practice and dedication but it is worth it.
Yesterday I did a treadmill workout where I would walk for one minute and then run for one minute. I consistently increased my running pace and by the last little bit I was able to run over a quarter of a mile at a 7:24 pace. That’s blazing fast for me and I really couldn’t believe what my legs were doing. I hopped off with a huge smile on my face and a newfound love for running.
If running helps me lose a little more weight, then that’s great. If running helps me eat an extra slice of pizza then that’s great too. But lately I have really fallen in love with running. I love the feeling I get afterwards, I love seeing progress, I love talking with fellow runners, I love seeing beginners take their first steps, I love seeing my Momma beaming after being able to shuffle for a quarter of a mile, I love finish lines at races, I love stepping outside of my comfort zone, and I love being completely out of breath with lungs burning after a good strong finish. I just love running. It has given me so much and I want to put in the time and the effort it takes to become a faster and stronger runner. I’m not shooting for the moon here, just the finish line.
I challenge you to remember why you fell in love with running (or just walking). If you aren’t on that “OMG I LOVE IT” level yet, then what’s holding you back? Running used to scare me and it still does at times, but stepping just a little out of your box is so liberating and rewarding!