I never really wanted to be a runner.
It’s not that I’ve never been the active type. On the contrary, over the years I’ve done everything from hiking and biking to cross country skiing…from basketball (just about the worst player you’ll find) and swimming to rollerblade-ing and ice skating. And when my kids were old enough, soccer, whiffle ball, and football (and more basketball—finally, someone I can beat!).
It’s just that over time, I’ve resisted following in the footsteps of my brother and sister, Damian and Jean, who are both marathon runners. This is despite the fact that, as the youngest (HA!), they’ve both been major influences in my life. Perhaps my hesitancy goes back to my high school days, when I always dreaded the week we would do cross country in gym class (at least it wasn’t in the dead of winter). I had asthma, and it was often “exercise-induced.” Even as I started to outgrow it, and ran a good enough time later in high school that the gym teacher suggested I try out for the team--which he coached--I didn’t. I admit I was something of a “slacker” then, and long-distance running seemed like too much WORK. And that feeling has persisted throughout my adult life—even as my brother ran the New York City Marathon and my sister ran the Boston Marathon twice (including 2013, when she finished less than 15 minutes before the bombs went off). I really couldn’t imagine doing anything more than the occasional 5K run/walk. And yet, here I am, training for the Saratoga Palio half marathon on September 21.
In fact, on August 3, I hit double figures for the first time—a 10 mile run.
How the hell did this happen?
I have to admit as the youngest of three children, I’m probably more of a follower than leader. You know, the older siblings always trying to order the youngest around, or get him to do things that would get him in trouble with mom and dad (or a friend’s or neighbor’s parents). Not that my brother or sister would ever do that. So sometime last summer, I can’t remember exactly when or where, Jean told me about her plan to “celebrate” her 50th birthday this October: run 12 half marathons in 12 months (!), and if I was willing to “take the leap,” she would pay me a visit from her home in Austin, Texas, and we can run a race together somewhere here. After responding with something like “uh, I don’t know, you think I can train for this? I’m not sure I can do it” stammering, I got the “Come on, you can do it, it’s not that hard (yeah, right) line from Jean. And that’s all it took for something to click in my brain (or was it the devil on my left shoulder talking?) to take her up on her offer.
(My sister’s blog detailing her racing experiences to date , which is excellent, can be found here: http://jeanruns12.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2014-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2015-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=12).
It now seems like a long time ago, but I took the dive while vacationing at my cousin's home in South Jersey about a year ago. I have to admit, it wasn't the greatest experience. I believe I tried it twice, somewhere between 3 to 4 miles, and had to stop toward the end because of soreness and exhaustion. And here I thought I was in good shape! The very high humidity on those mornings didn't help matters--it was the dog days of summer, after all, and my muscles hurt for a couple of days after. And yet, something told me to keep at it.
The next month, as fall set in, I actually started running around the Highland Soccer Club’s fields in Scotia during my son’s practices in the fall (when the weather was still beautiful), and actually surprised myself by not feeling like total crap when I was done. Then, when the weather turned lousy, I hit the treadmill at the Y a couple times a week—and worked myself up to five miles. When it finally warmed up in the spring, I started running near my house a couple of times a week. I can tell you that outdoor running is more challenging and harder on the legs than running on a treadmill—but I got through it and progressed without suffering an injury, the top concern of any long-distance runner (missing even one week can really hold you back). Then, I did something I should have done much sooner: read a book Jean gave me for Christmas, called “Galloway’s Guide to Running.” It’s by former Olympian Jeff Galloway, and it’s now become my training guide. Despite Galloway’s accomplishments, his philosophy and methodology appeals to runners of all abilities and ages, from “out of shape” beginners to the advanced (in later chapters). It turns out, a lot of what I thought I knew about running was wrong. Like, you should never stop from beginning to end, unless you’re really sore, or so winded you can’t go on. Not true. Galloway advises to take short “walk breaks” every five minutes or so. That way, you won’t wear yourself out…and your legs will still be fairly fresh in the final few miles. This method definitely helped me reach the milestone mentioned above. If you don’t have time to read one of his books, his website is here: http://www.jeffgalloway.com/
Tomorrow, I take my next step in my journey, and something else that never thought I would do: my first 5K! It’s at the Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa. My goal is to beat Kelly Lynch’s Freihofer’s Time (I think she said it was 27 min. or was it 26?). I’ll let you know how I did next week. Wish me luck…