“When you run on the earth and run with the earth, you can run forever.” –Tarahumara Saying
The first memory I have of experiencing the wildly perfect sensation that is running was when I was about 9. I was playing with a neighborhood friend down at the end of the street, and my little sister was roller blading. Then I heard a thudded crash. She fell badly and she immediately started to cry. When I looked up I knew she was really hurt. She was maybe a quarter of a mile away. My heart started pumping and I got a surge of adrenalin; I went into this instinctive mode and busted out a full on sprint. I remember feeling a bit guilty because I was panicked and worried about my sister (turns out she sprained her wrist), but I was also experiencing the exciting and thrilling sensation of running for what seemed like the first time.
Flash forward 9 years. I’m eighteen and living in a shoebox- aka the dorms in college. Along with college tuition comes a fancy gym membership to the student recreation center. It was my first time being a member at a real gym, and I fell in love with it. Working out is awesome if you are a procrastinator. Working out is awesome if you are stressed. Working out is awesome if you are sad, angry, happy, or confused. I started running on the suspended indoor track that was above the basketball courts. It was a tenth of a mile. I would always start my workouts with 10 laps, a mile, to warm up. Then one day I decided to up it to 20 laps, 2 miles. I was consistently running 1-2 miles probably close to 6 days a week.
I had brief stints of running in between the time I was 9 and 18. I remember running an about-a-mile loop around my apartment complex with my cd-walkman in tow in the pitch black before highschool on days I felt super depressed. I remember taking my hours off working as a lifeguard at summer camp to go on runs along the windy coastal/forest road on days where I just needed some time to myself to think, process, and feel my feelings.
Flash forward again to a cold winter day that freshman year that I decided to just keep running around that track. 50 times. I ran 5 miles for the first time since summer and I felt absolutely fine. Better than fine, I felt amazing! But it was just sort of a fluke, like those few fluke long runs of summer. I went back to the normal regimen of the 2 mile run for cardio before doing some other exercise at the gym. Was I a runner? Not really in my mind. But it became obvious to me that my favorite part of the gym experience by far was those runs on the indoor track. I may have wanted to run on the streets, but I think I was both self-conscious and the weather was crap, which was a great excuse. I never enjoyed running on a treadmill (and can still only tolerate treadmill runs to this day if I am watching a really entertaining show or movie). And that was basically the extent of my running regimen my first 2 years of college.
Things changed the summer before my Junior year. I decided to stay in Eugene rather than go back to Portland, work at camp, or travel. I’m so glad I stayed, because summer in Eugene is made for running. I began to go on runs with my friend Shayna, who taught me a lot about running technique. She pushed me to be a better runner than I ever was before. I was never on a track or cross-country or anything so I had very little knowledge of technique to back up my limited experience hitting the pavement. That was the summer I fell in love with the sport of running. I ran with a buddy. I ran by myself. I ran from place to place rather than walk or bike. I couldn’t get enough. One day I ran 7 miles just for the hell of it.
That year I continued running. Running made me happy. Running made me sane. Running caused me pause. Running was the one thing I could do that was completely and utterly mine. It gave me confidence and independence. Most importantly it gave me clarity.
Running is a lonely sport until you decide to join the pack. AKA sign up for a race. I really can’t recall exactly why I decided to sign up for my first 5k. I think it’s because the Eugene Marathon is kind of a huge deal in my town. Eugene has the nickname of Tracktown USA. My roommate JT and I both ran separately and it seemed like everyone and their mom was registered for either the 5k or half, so we decided what the heck, let’s sign up.
It was my first race and I was extremely nervous even though I knew I could easily run a 5k. It wasn’t the distance so much as the fear of not knowing what to expect. Turns out it was lovely! It was the first time running felt like a group activity. All in all it was a good experience. We had so much fun at that race in May we decided to sign up for the 4th of July 10k, the Butte to Butte. Jonathan and our friend Brendan (not pictured) ran too!
The 10k was challenging but even more fun than the previous 5k. The truth is I prefer running to be a solitary activity. Like I said before, Running was the one thing I could do that was completely and utterly mine. I didn’t get the urge to race after that 10k for a long time. My senior year I began teaching Yoga at the student recreation center. All Personal Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors had the opportunity to coach a 6 week couch-to-5k program. My friend Hila, who is an awesome Personal Trainer, and I decided it would be fun to coach together. Our running group met Tuesdays at 6:30 am… I’m not sure what we were thinking haha. It was always freezing, pitch black, and miserable weather. But it turned out to be such a rewarding experience. One of our participants wrote this letter to the director of the program:
“Thank you so much for this program. I will admit that when I saw “5K” my initial reaction was to say “like I could ever do that.” But then I saw the training program. It was easily laid out and the biggest challenge was going to be sticking to it on the weekends. I printed out the training schedule, posted it to my wall at work, and set two goals for myself over the course of the program. My first goal was to break past a weight plateau (more like a brick wall) that I kept running into. My second goal was to jog at least half of the 5K. I didn’t think I could do any more than that.
At the first Tuesday morning training, Becca and Hila asked if we wanted to try jogging instead of just walking. We all said sure and off we went. I jogged a full, straight mile that morning. It was a slow mile but still the first time I have jogged a full mile in over 11 years. I was floored that I could do it. Becca and Hila have been slowly building us up over the last 5 weeks. Not only by increasing the distance but also through adding hills and coaching us as we go. I feel that I have their encouragement to thank for where I am now.
As we enter the final week of training, my goals now stand here:
– I broke through that weight barricade, lost 5lbs, and think I am still dropping.
– I no longer have the goal of running half the 5K. My goal is now to run the entire 5K.
And after this weekend’s training, I know I can do it. During my 60-75 min long walk and jog I went 7 miles in 70 minutes. Not only did I hold up to that, but 3.3 of those miles were jogging without having to slow down to walk. I NEVER thought I would be able to do something like that.
So thank you. Thank you for the wonderful training program and thank you even more for recruiting wonderful trainers like Becca and Hila.”
Receiving that letter really meant something to me. It was the first time I realized sharing what I know about running could inspire others. I started to get more serious about the sport. I read about technique and form. I started following runner Youtubers and Bloggers. I researched chi running and barefoot running methodology. I watched running documentaries and Prefontaine and other running classics. I read Born to Run, Eat and Run, and others.
A few other notable races along my running journey include:
The truth is that registering for races is now something I do to hold myself accountable, test and challenge myself, and just keep me running. It’s not the race day that is my motivation (although I do love race day). I run with my legs and my body and my heart. I run with my mind and my imagination. I run from my worries and anger and all my cares in the world. When I run I feel alive. I just run; and I love it.