I nearly took this blog down, thinking we wouldn’t post anything in it again. It had been too long, and we’ve been busy blogging about farming. But then I read Andrew’s blog and I was reminded of how I got into running. I just had to come back here and write about it.
In 2000, I was a freshman at Cornell College. I had probably never jogged more than 2 miles, and running was torture. I had no idea why people liked it. I remember taking an Intro Psychology class. One of our assignments was to develop a new habit (or abolish an old one.) Now, most of the other kids in the class chose something easy, like giving up Doritos for a week to see if they would then eat less Doritos overall. Some decided to cut back on TV. A friend and I teamed up to get to the gym everyday that week and run.
The first day was easy. It’s always the second day that is challenging for me. I’d already proven that I could get up early and go to the gym, so did I really need to do it again? I knew if I didn’t show up, my friend would be disappointed, so I pulled myself out of bed and we ran. We did it all week. And then we continued doing it, not everyday, but 3-4 times a week. At first, I could only run for about 5 minutes, then I had to walk. I would alternate back and forth. Over the course of the semester I found that I could run more and walk less, until I was running about 3 miles.
Around that same time, another friend of mine was training for a marathon. She’s an amazing runner, speedy and smart about planning for the distance. She averaged around 6 or 7 minute miles, while I was lucky to have 12 minute miles. She ran the marathon and did really well, taking first female finisher. I think that was when the marathon seed first got planted.
In 2003, I began training for the Lake Geneva Marathon. I’d never run a race in my life, not even a 5k. By this time, I’d made running a habit and I actually enjoyed it. I ran outside when the weather was good, and I enjoyed the feeling of freedom and feeling my body get stronger and healthier. Why not run a marathon? What did I have to lose?
I borrowed a copy of The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, which I highly recommend to anyone, runner or not. I followed the 16-week training program, while learning about feet and shoes, a healthy diet to support distance running, and reading stories from people who never thought they’d run a marathon either- and did it anyway. At times, friends would join me for some of the runs, but I did most of the training on my own. I watched my calves develop muscles, and I ate endless heaping bowls of rice and beans piled with veggies at the school cafeteria. It was really hard, but it felt really good.
I ran the marathon in 2003 and finished nearly last (5:48:06). I didn’t care about my place, I just cared that I finished. I was a marathoner. It is difficult to describe the feeling of doing something that you had assumed was impossible. It is as if you’ve defied some law of physics and suddenly you wonder if you couldn’t leap tall buildings or maybe even fly. The world becomes pliable.
That feeling is addictive. I wanted it again. I trained with a friend for the Iowa Trails Marathon in 2004. (6:11:00) My friend developed a problem in her knee about a month before the race. We decided to crank back the training a bit and take the race nice and slow. It was a gorgeous race, winding through forests. There were turtles sunning themselves on rocks near the ponds. Again, we were just happy to finish.
I took a bit of a break from marathon running while I worked in Ghana as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I still ran there, although I had to get up pretty early to beat the heat.
I moved to Chicago in January 2008 and started running with a friend. Outside. That was when I met Harvey and we started running together. We trained for a half marathon in Crystal Lake, IL. Then we tackled the Chicago Marathon together. (5:31:16) It was flat and fast. We had trained really well and we rocked that race. Lots of friends and family came to cheer for us. And plenty of port-o-potties along the route!
Then we trained for the Philadelphia Marathon and ran that in 2010. (6:45:54) That was an incredibly hard race. We’d slacked on some of the training runs, the race course was much hillier than we’d anticipated, and we just ran too hard in the first half, running it in about 2 hours and 30 minutes. By mile 19, we’d hit the wall hard. We walked the last few miles. Part of me wanted to hop on the sag wag, but we kept on and managed to finish. I’m glad we did, because right after we crossed the finish line, Harvey pulled out a ring and proposed to me! That might just be my most memorable marathon.
I’ve been thinking about another marathon. It’s been a little while and I miss those long runs…