Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How I Found Running

My first marathon! E and I ran it together.
I recently was asked how I found running, and I gave the short answer, but giving that short answer made me think about the long answer, and how much running changed my life.

Cliche as it is, I came to running on the heels of a really bad breakup. Prior to that, I had been a gym rat, logging hours on the stair stepper, using weights to work out my upper body and dutifully knocking out a series of crunches and pushups daily. I worked out to get in shape and stay fit, but it wasn’t for the love of it, it was just the healthy thing to do. I was still in college then, pretty poor and splitting my time between my classes and a job assistant managing a bookstore.

When the breakup happened, I was devastated. It was unexpected, and I was heartbroken, angry and needed an outlet for all the emotions that seemed to crowd out everything else. My time of the stair stepper no longer cut it; I needed to move.

At the time, the closest thing I owned to sneakers was a battered pair of Chuck Taylors that I wore to work and to punk shows. Poor college student that I was, I took myself to Target and bought the cheapest pair of shoes I could find, a $20 pair of Champion brand sneakers. I pulled on the only workout clothes I owned, which were leftovers from my brief stint as a shot-putter and discus-thrower in high school, hit the trail.

There was a park next to my house that had a .75 mile paved running trail, so I started going there every day, morning, noon and evening, wherever I could fit it in. I was a pack-a-day smoker then too, so speed and consistency were hard to come by; I walked far more than I ran. And really, I knew nothing about running. All that mattered was to keep moving, to break a  sweat and work out some of my angst. And it worked. I didn’t get significantly faster nor even increased my ability to run for periods of time, but I pushed through.

I was working part-time as an office assistant at a law firm by then, and I started going out at lunch with one of the girls. We’d run/walk the bridges, meandering through the downtown area where we worked. It opened a whole new world for me; I didn’t know what it was to explore a place like that, learning the area from the ground up.

Eventually, I moved up slightly in the world by purchasing a pair of New Balance from Kohl's, when the Champion brand sneakers started to make my knees and hips ache (I knew I couldn't afford running store shoes, so I purchased New Balance based purely on the fact that they were on sale, and the fact that they were the brand of choice for my dad, also a runner).
I started doing yoga too, and between the two, found a sense of salvation. I ran my first 5k, and then a couple more. Eventually, I started dating again, and eventually met E. He was training for a marathon when we met, a distance that I barely knew existed, and one that I couldn’t fathom ever completing myself or even wanting to complete. I quit smoking and started running more, really running, and ran my first 10 mile and then my first half marathon, and finally my first marathon. I was hooked. It was (and is) something that's wonderful to do together as a couple, and also something that I have found that can just be for me.

And I still am. I have found a passion for running that has stuck with me; I read about it, write about it and have even been lucky enough to work with a couple running and triathlon companies in my other life as a freelance writer.

I look forward to aging as a runner, and exploring new places and new cities from the ground as I run through them. I've found favorite running spots in places like Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, and some little backroads we explored on a recent trip to Lake Murray in South Carolina. As I began to do triathlons as well, I feel that my fitness journey is only beginning.

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