Why I Run: Jen’s Story

Jen and I both ran the OKC marathon this spring on one of the coldest May 1sts in Oklahoma history. She is not kidding when she says she gives a thumbs up after every race, and I think you’ll smile as you read her story of why she runs; her enthusiasm virtually bursts off the screen. Leave her some love, ya’ll.

I have never, ever, ever, ever been athletic…at all (yes, that was dramatic on purpose!). I’m a die-hard band nerd. In 7th grade, I was incredibly thankful to the teacher that recommended me for office aide so I didn’t have to take PE; in high school, marching band gave me my physical education credit. Sure, marching band is athletic in its own way, but since I was a band nerd, I didn’t see it that way…

I’m now a band director for 6th-12th grade students. As a teacher, I’m a firm believer that I shouldn’t ask my students to do anything that I’m not willing to do myself. After three years of teaching and summer band, I’d had enough of not being able to keep up with my kids during the running portions of summer band. I made it appear that I was staying in the back to help the “un-athletic” or slower kids, but I really just couldn’t keep up at all! I was determined to be able to run with my students for summer band 2010.

My co-teacher introduced me to the Couch-to-5k running plan and to RunKeeper. After hearing and seeing his success, I started c25k by myself over Spring Break of 2010. For the first couple runs, I used my stopwatch on my iPod. It was okay, and hey, I survived! Then, I downloaded RunKeeper and started using the app for everything…running, walking, some cycling (I have also put a few parades in there, hehe!). Being able to put my phone away and know that audio cues from the ‘RunKeeper chick’ would tell me when to run or walk next has been a HUGE motivational tool for me. Being able to see my data was amazing. As soon as I’m done with a workout, I’m on the computer checking them out (yes, even before hopping in the shower!).

After doing a few 5k races, I did a 10k race, then decided to take the plunge and train for my first half-marathon. A year ago I couldn’t even run 60 seconds without gasping for air, and now I was going to attempt 13.1 miles?!?

My half marathon was an experience I won’t ever forget. It was a journey that I never expected it to be, but so happy I signed up for that journey! The conditions were not “ideal” – rain, wind, cold temps, etc – but that just made my journey that much more meaningful to me. I obviously loved to run or I wouldn’t have been crazy enough to think about a half marathon. It was on May 1 of this year that I totally fell in love with running.

As I have thought about what to write for the “Why I Run” series, the same thing kept popping up in my head…”Why NOT Run?” No time? Bologna! I totally understand having a busy schedule – you just have to MAKE time. Since I have made the time, this has helped me immensely. I always feel better having run the worst few miles in my life than no miles at all. It gives me time to totally think about everything or nothing at all. You have to give yourself YOU time, especially in a busy world, why not be active? Think life is tough? Someone has it tougher. Someone would love the opportunity to run but can’t due to illness, injury, etc. Don’t think you’re a “real” runner? Guess what? Most people question that about themselves because there is always someone “better.” The best way to better yourself is to challenge yourself against yourself. There is much more fulfillment in setting a PR for yourself than beating someone at a race. (Don’t get me wrong – moving up in my age group always feels nice, but I think you catch my drift.)

Running has and will continue to push me to levels I never thought possible – and I am not just talking about physical ability. I can’t accept “good enough” – it has to be giving my best effort for that time. I have transferred this way of thinking into other aspects of my life. I try harder than ever to really fulfill commitments, chores, mundane tasks, etc. Running has really taught me that what I give is what I will get.

So, that’s the story of this band director. It’s always fun to run into people from high school & college and see the look of shock that I am a runner now. I run because I can & quite frankly, I have no reason NOT to run! I have yet to find a valid argument of why I shouldn’t run. Until then I am going to keep running. I hope to encourage and help people along my journey. No matter how tough the run or race is, I always take a thumbs-up picture after I have finished. Sometimes I might be gritting my teeth to smile, but I finished it. I accomplished something whether big or small.