200 miles later…

13 Feb

In the past eleven months, I have run 200 miles.  Who’d have thought?

Warning: this post is insanely long.  Enjoy!

On 21 March 2011, I went outside and I ran for the first time.  This is what I wrote in my running log:

A 6 a.m. thunderstorm messed with my morning routine…but I still ran. It was a rainy run, but I enjoyed it. However, I curse those hills with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. One day I’ll appreciate the hills, but today is not that day.

I started out with the popular Couch to 5K program, but after four or five weeks of the 9-week program I decided that I just didn’t like it and would rather go at my own pace.  It was slow going…really slow.  Four weeks into my running career and I had just gotten to the point where I could run five minutes without having a walk break:

C25K w4d2: I ran for 5 minutes without stopping! Doesn’t sound like much (which it isn’t) but it’s been my struggle this week…I just had to remind myself that if I didn’t finish the 5 minutes, I wouldn’t forgive myself. So I did it!
I bet the non-runners who pass me think that running is something horrible. I mean, my face must make it look like torture! I’m all sweaty and red (stupid Irish skin) and have this fierce look of tired concentration…it must not look like fun at all.
But it is, my non-runner friends. It is.

And that was the last day of Couch to 5K before I decided to quit that and do my own thing.  At that point in my running, it still felt like a chore.  Something I had to do for my morning routine, something that I would beat myself up if I skipped, something that I did for no other reason than because I knew it was good for me.  But soon I began to really really enjoy it:

Didn’t fit in a run today as I’d hoped. Won’t be able to do one tomorrow either. I’m upset.
It’s funny, there was once a time when I’d be super glad for my busy schedule to give me an excuse not to run–now when I don’t have time for a run I actually feel sad! This is progress, people!

And shortly after that, I got my brother Jake to run with me!  Of course, he’s very athletic and on his first run he was already a better runner than I was…but we have fun together.

Ran with Jake today. It was basically awesome. Weather was pretty miserable though…so humid; we got out of breath so fast. But the sunset was pretty.
Jake (jokingly): “I’m tired. I think I’ll skip my shower. What’s a little sweat?”
Me: “Yeah, me too. Then when I wake up, I’ll harvest the salt crystals and put them on my hard-boiled egg.”

It was around that time that some of our best friends took up running as well, which is cool.  We do all sorts of races and stuff together…I love it.
The next highlight of my running was when Jake got me my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers as an early birthday present, in May.  I was running in them the first day I got them and never ever went back to conventional running shoes (and probably never will).

Couldn't have made it this far without these guys. 125 of my 200 miles to date are on these shoes.

Shortly after that I began training for my first race, a four-miler in the end of August.  Early August was the first time I ever ran more than 2 miles in one go:

Three miles–my longest run yet! I ran the first mile, and then alternated running and walking for the other two.
I love the way I feel when I sit down after a hard run–my muscles feel loose and tired and my lungs feel so open. It feels so good to just breathe slow and deep (once I actually catch my breath from the running part!)

It was also right around that time that I hit my first major milestone: 100 miles.  And then came my first race.

My first race ever!
This morning’s Fun Run certainly lived up to its name. Couldn’t have asked for better weather–overcast, 70 degrees, slight misty rain for part of the time. It was super windy too, which I loved except for the half when I was trying to run against it.
I’m not terribly pleased with how it went, time-wise. But now I know what to shoot for at next week’s race–55 minutes. I don’t care if it kills me, but I’m going to go at least one minute faster next time. Today’s goal was just to finish, which I did easily, so my next goal is to improve.

A week after my first race, I ran my second.  This was was four miles again, but it felt a lot bigger because there were >4,000 runners as opposed to the <200 I’d run with the week before.  But it was lots of fun.

Great race, had lots of fun (: The 4-miler I ran last week took me 56 minutes, so this week I made it my goal to do at least one minute better than last week…which I did 😀 4 minutes, actually.
Sometime during mile 2 my ankle started to ache, and it was pretty bad…I found myself wondering if I should keep on running or take it easy and walk the rest of the way. I decided I’d keep pushing, and while my ankle gave me trouble for the whole rest of the race, the pain went away as soon as I crossed the finish line and slowed down. So I don’t know what that’s about.
Anyway, this morning was great 😀

Then a month later came Warrior Dash Virginia–the most fun I’ve ever had at a race.  And we’ve got plans to do another in May, so I’m excited about that.

The Warrior Dash was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. Okay, not really…but it was definitely up there.

Then in November came the double digits.  I distinctly remember when I first began running, thinking to myself, “I wonder if I’ll ever be one of those people who runs like five miles, or maybe even ten!”  Like it was some huge distant thing that I could never do.  Well, I did it:

Perceived effort on a scale of 1 to 5: a million.
My first double digit run, and I gave it everything I had. It was terrible. I’m in pain. But it feels so good! I love this.
However, I think I’ll just plateau at the 10-mile distance for a while until I can complete it without waddling or collapsing.

The day after my ten mile run, one of my best friends, Noah, mentioned to me that he was doing a half marathon in December…and I couldn’t sit there and let him do it by himself, so I told him I’d sign up too.  Impulsive?  Absolutely.  Signing up for a half marathon that’s three weeks away?  I must be crazy to do something like that.  But we got Jake to sign up too, and we made it happen.  I was so proud of Noah, of Jake, and of myself.  I never ever in a bajillion years would have thought I would run 13.1 miles (even if it did take me three hours…minor detail).

I’ve never enjoyed a race like I enjoyed this one. Jake and I stuck together for most of it and just goofed off and had a good time. I mean, it’s not like I actually had any chance of winning anything…so why take myself so seriously? We just had fun. Noah, on the other hand, smashed it. 1 hour 49 minutes. He’s ridiculous like that.
My muscles aren’t nearly as sore as I’d thought they’d be…tomorrow might be a different story though.

After the half, I took a nice long break from running.  For a couple of days I was too sore to even walk, and then for like two weeks after that I was too sore to run.  Then I went to Africa, started back to school, and now here I am.  I’m back into running regularly.  Four days ago I ran my first ten-miler since the half marathon, and while it still nearly killed me, I found it easier than last time.

It simply blows my mind that in less than a year, I went from killing myself to run for two minutes straight, to completing a half marathon.  I can now confidently call myself a runner.  I’m finding that running isn’t so hard anymore.  I’m watching my body change, my jeans get looser, and my calf muscles get tighter.  And most of all, I’m learning to enjoy it.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Running


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