It was September 12, 2010. I was 2-3 weeks off of cigarettes. I found myself standing at the finish line of a local half marathon waiting for my brother, Andrew, to finish. My brother was training for the New York City Marathon and was using this race as part of his training. I had never been to any races before and when he asked me to attend, I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a fun way to spend the morning. So there I was, hanging out at the finish line waiting for Andrew to cross. I must’ve waited 20-30 minutes for him. While I was waiting, I saw dozens of men and women cross the timing mat to collect their medals. I heard the announcer call their names and finishing times as they wearily came through the chute. I saw men and women of all ages. I saw people of all different body types (including my own). I even saw a few people pushing running strollers. But most notably, I saw a look of elation on one face after another. A look of having pushed oneself to the brink and came through on the other side with an amazing story to tell. I stood there in awe. I stood there with a strange sense of desire. I wanted to cross that finish line.
Andrew at the finish line
The (pared down) story of my journey to becoming a runner began shortly thereafter. A few weeks after the River Run. I put on a pair of workout pants (cotton capris with a boot cut bottom) and new balance cross trainers (purchased my first year of college circa 2001) and set off for a loop around my neighborhood. I didn’t track distance but later drove the loop and recall it being .9 miles. I ran and walked while listening to music on my phone and even stopped to take a phone call. I remember getting a burst of energy at the end and feeling like I could go forever…for about 15 seconds. I returned home, sweaty and exhausted but proud of myself. I texted my brother to tell him that I had gone for a run and it was AWESOME!.
I continued to run. No real training plan or consistency. I tried out the treadmill at my apartment fitness center and tried to run for 15 minutes of an HGTV episode. I made it up to 3 miles by early November and my brother surprised my with a registration for the Cleveland Turkey Trot which was my first race. Eventually I bought real running shoes in December of 2010 and ran through my first Cleveland winter. Running was so hard at first (and truthfully still is sometimes) but each time I did something new-a new distance, a big hill, a new neighborhood-I felt so badass.
And that leads me to the day I became a runner (the day I felt like a legit runner in my mind). September 11, 2011. The River Run. I had trained all summer long under the tutelage of my brother who provided a training plan, nutrition and gear advice, and guided me on where to do my long runs. He answered countless questions that summer and really helped me find the confidence I needed in order to feel prepared to take on this distance.
Race day came and I was so nervous!! I wore a cotton t -shirt and stashed extra gus in my pockets. The National Anthem played and I could feel my legs shaking. And without much warning, my we were off on the nice downhill that starts this race. As mile one ticked off I looked over at my (former) sister in law and training partner and shouted ” we are doing it, we are running a half marathon!!” I still had a feeling of disbelief that this was actually happening- that we were here at the race actually running a 1/2 marathon!!! At mile 3 I felt great and confident enough to run on my own. At mile 7 I saw my husband cheering me on! At mile 12 I struck up a conversation with some guys on the course and told them my story; that one year ago I stood at the finish line and today I was going to cross it.
2 hours and 31 minutes after starting, I did just that. I crossed the finish line sweaty and elated. I had done it-I had become a runner.