Lee Ann and I go way way back, to high school and then to college. She is strong, quiet and wicked funny—she is Superwoman. I hope you like her story; I can almost hear the theme from “Rocky” playing as I read her words. What a great tale.
Like many people, I started running to lose weight. It eventually became so much more than that. I started running at 5:30am under cover of darkness so no one would see how bad I was. I had never been athletic in my life- I could never do a handstand or climb the ropes in school. Gradually I developed enough nerve to run on the trail where the “real” runners were. I’ll never forget this one man that ran past me, going the other way. He was clearly a “real” runner, and he saw me slogging along, face red and my regular cotton t-shirt soaked (didn’t know about tech shirts back then). All he said was “Looking good, girl”. I cannot tell you what an impact those three words had on me, I’m sure he had no idea. All of sudden, I was being acknowledged by a fellow runner! I can do this.
So for the next 5 years or so, I ran just enough to lose about 20 pounds and keep it off.
I never ran more than 2 or 3 miles at a time. And then one day, a friend invited me to sign up for a 5K. I ran the 5K and was hooked! I finally felt like a “real” runner. All of a sudden I was setting goals for myself just to see if I could accomplish them. I’ll never forget the first time I ran 8 whole miles. I kind of stumbled home in shock. “Surely I can’t go any further than that,” I told myself. Then one day I ran 9 miles before meeting some friends for lunch. I didn’t tell anyone what I had just done that morning- but I sat through that whole lunch feeling like Superwoman in disguise. That is why I run- for that incredible feeling that I have just done the impossible. In 2009 I registered for my first half-marathon. I trained religiously for ten weeks and sailed through the race (at my normal slow pace) without any problems. When I crossed the finish line, I actually teared up. I had never been so proud of myself. I had worked hard and it had paid off. I never knew my body and mind were capable of something so athletic.
The next summer, five weeks into training for my second half-marathon, I broke my foot at work. I hadn’t realized how much I loved running until I couldn’t do it anymore. I was so jealous that my friends were discussing their running online and I could not contribute anything. So in 2011, fully healed and determined, I secretly registered for my first marathon. “I’m not going to tell anyone because it’ll be too embarrassing when I drop out before the race,” I told myself. So I kept training, and surprisingly I kept making the milestones. When it looked like I was actually going to be able to do it, I started announcing it to everyone. Now I was obligated to finish it. I’ll never forget the day I finished my longest run, 20 miles. There was that Superwoman feeling again. Two days before the marathon, the training schedule called for an easy 2-miler. It felt like the last day of school. I wasn’t prepared to be so reflective on that run, to be almost emotional over how far I had come. And so I did it- I ran the marathon. It was really hard and I didn’t have a great finishing time, but I did it. No one completed it for me- I earned that medal all by myself. That’s why I run.