Throughout my life I have been involved in many different sports. While my biggest playing commitments have been to netball, field hockey and women’s rugby, I have also dabbled in football (soccer), tennis, golf and cross country (although not so successfully). I do remember representing my school at a track meet once, although not for the races but rather for discus. The story of me taking one too many turns, ending up facing the wrong direction and almost killing my P.E teacher will be saved for another time (and needless to say I was not chosen to represent a second time), but in short I’ve always been a pretty active person so have never been able to understand why running is such a complete and utter nightmare for me. I could run for 80 minutes on a rugby pitch, or 70 on a hockey field, or 40 minutes on a netball court without any problems at all, but if you had asked me to run a mile or even half a mile a couple of months back, I simply wouldn’t have been able to.
My complete inability to conquer the art of running is something that not only annoyed me throughout my 20s but has continued to annoy me through the majority of my 30s too — so much so in fact that with only a matter of weeks of my 30s remaining, I decided that it is now or never, and I went ahead and signed myself up for the Chicago half marathon!
A little extreme, I agree, but there was at least some method to my madness, as I will try to explain. Firstly, I should clarify that in between the inability to run for half a mile and signing up for the half, I found myself a running partner who found this form of exercise just as challenging as I did. We started off very slowly (and this involved many bursts of running for two and three minutes) until we built up enough stamina to run a whole mile non-stop. I remember feeling like I was going to die initially but after repeating that a few times we suddenly found that we were able to run two miles. For the first few weeks we met religiously and ran/walked together as we needed the motivation of each other’s company and found that arranging to meet held us both accountable, especially on days where staying in bed felt much more necessary than a 5:45 a.m. run.
But before I knew it we were running three miles and actually almost starting to enjoy it! It was around that time that my running partner told me she was running a half marathon and we were going to have to step up our distance a little! Just hearing her talk about the race made me want to curl up into a ball and hide; after all, running three miles is one thing but adding another 10.1 is quite another. It wasn’t until my husband pointed out that it seemed ridiculous to do all the training and then not complete the race itself that my competitive nature decided to kick in!
I downloaded the Hal Higdon novice training program immediately and have followed it word for word ever since. It’s stuck to my refrigerator and I cross off each training session as I complete it. He has me running three times a week with strength training, stretching and cross fit on the days in between with one rest day too. Sometimes I add in a two-mile run on the treadmill, and still marvel at the fact that I am able to do it so easily! I’ve spent my whole life being jealous of people who can run so I still find it hard to believe that this program has built me to the point of being able to run for over an hour without stopping once! It’s almost like magic!
This past weekend I ran six miles. Six whole miles! And I felt like I could have gone further, which is handy seeing as I have to run seven miles on Saturday! Never in my life did I think I would ever be capable of running such a distance, but suddenly and for the first time ever I realized that if I can do that, I can do 13.1 miles too! It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world, but the satisfaction I get from it is second to none. Running so early in the morning affords me the luxury of time to myself as well as allowing me to focus my mind and organize my thoughts. It has forced me to accept that I feel proud of myself and shedding a few pounds and toning up my muscles hasn’t hurt either! I can see that running might not be for everyone — it wasn’t for me for years, but with a little hard work and a lot of determination the fact that I have been able to conquer what I once considered to be impossible makes me realize that if I can do it, anyone can. At the end of the day, if everything in life was easy would it be worth even trying in the first place?!