Friday, October 18, 2019

I HATE Running! The Makings of an Ultra Marathoner

As I gear up for not one, but two marathons just two weeks apart in two different countries, I think back to how it all began...

I first started running because my best friend Loretta stopped being social, and I missed her terribly. 

"If you want to hangout," she said, "you need to run with me. I'm training for my first marathon."

"I hate running," I said. But I joined her the next Saturday morning at a nearby parking lot to give it a try. To my surprise, a bunch of people in real athletic wear were gathered around stretching and doing high knees and butt kicks. I felt so out of place in my beat up walking shoes and old sweats.

When it was time to run, I told Loretta: "We're taking walk breaks as often as I need them." 

Loretta and I at my first half marathon:
Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon 2016
My first "birthday" race.
"Okay," she said. She may have rolled her eyes.

"And you better not leave me," I said.

"I won't," she said.

"And don't expect me to run more than three miles. Ever. I HATE running," I reiterated.

"Okay," she said, this time with a smirk. And she kept her word...mostly.

When I first started running, I ran about 30 seconds and walked two minutes. Loretta did not complain once, even though I was being a terrible sport. So, I came back each Saturday to spend time with my bestie. I noticed how happy and excited the other runners seemed, and that confused me. We're running...for no reason...what's there to be happy about? But their joy became contagious. I decided to try harder to see what all this "happiness" was about. Over time, I was able to run longer and farther before taking a walk break. People noticed and congratulated my tiniest accomplishments. I'd never belonged to any club before. And I had to admit, it was more fun than I expected. Shoutout to Run Your Health!

But then, Loretta did the most despicable thing. She volunteered me for a relay marathon team at the Cape Cod Marathon. Before I could protest, the relay team captain threw her arms around me and exclaimed her excitement. The team couldn’t race without a fifth person. I knew I couldn’t let these people down. I had no choice but to run.

"You were going to the Cape to watch me run my marathon anyway," Loretta said. "You might as well run, too."

Shooting out the gate with all the other runners
Cape Cod Marathon and Relay 2015
Loretta waving to me as we ran
the beginning our first race together
Cape Cod Marathon 2015

My leg of the race was the first three miles, and I got to shoot out the gate with all the other relay runners and marathoners alike. The vibrating energy of the crowd was exhilarating, and for the first time, I felt like I was a part of something greater than life. Those three miles were excruciating. I had only run three miles without stopping once before, but I was determined to do my best, so I ran for my life. When I saw my teammates at the transition point, I felt like a rockstar. They were jumping up and down—cheering for me. FOR ME! And that was it, I was hooked.

Cheesing it with my first marathon medal
Cape Cod Marathon 2016

I bought a real pair of running shoes from a running store that fitted me for the perfect fit. Then:

Marathon Relay, turned into 
5ks, turned into 
10ks, turned into
Half Marathons, turned into 
Marathons, turned into 
Chowdah Challenge (half marathon on Saturday/Full on Sunday), turned into
Ragnar Reach the Beach (2-day, 200-mile relay race), turned into 
Trail and Mountain races, turned into 

And now I’m running in multiple states, in other countries, on multiple continents.

Loretta ran right by my side through my first half marathon AND my first marathon. We ran side by side for Ragnar’s Reach the Beach for some of our legs, and she even ran on a few trails and mountains with me. Life gets busy, and Loretta and I don’t run together as often as we used to. Part of that is because our schedules don't always mesh, our running goals don't always match, and she isn’t too fond of trail running...or ultramarathons. But that’s okay. I still feel her energy and inspiration with me on every run.

Loretta and I celebrating after finishing my first marathon
Cape Cod Marathon 2016
Running has changed my life in ways I could never imagine. It’s given me the chance to see pieces of the world I would never see whizzing by in a car. It’s lessened my anxiety and increased my happiness tenfold. It’s helped me realize that I can overcome other obstacles or hardships in my life. I’ve learned nothing is impossible; some things just take more effort or patience or time or education.

I'm so excited to be running Cape Cod Marathon in just eight days! Especially since it's the race that sparked my love of running! 

Still, ask me on a bad run day, and I’ll tell you: “I HATE running.” But I also LOVE it. And I can’t imagine experiencing life without it ever again.

Is there something you thought you didn't like but learned to love once you gave it a real shot? Leave a comment below!

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