Why I Run: Lee Ann’s Story 9

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.