Over the last couple of years, I’d told myself that I wanted to become a runner, as if this were a label that one had to strive to obtain. The title had to be earned, and wasn’t something that was going to come easy to me for many reasons I had concocted over the years.
I’ve always been overweight. Even as a small child I was chubby, and it carried through my adult years. I’m short with even shorter legs, and have never excelled at sports (particularly those that involved running). Don’t get me wrong though – I was rarely ever inactive. I swam in middle school, did karate into high school, and even lost about 40 pounds in college with a mixture of elliptical, cycling, and swimming laps. However, I always avoided running.
“I’m not a runner.” “I’m not built to be a runner.” “I’ll never really be a runner.”
This past year, with the motivation and encouragement of my boyfriend, I gave running a proper go. I downloaded a C25K (Couch to 5K) program onto my phone, had Netflix queued up with Fringe episodes, and trudged my way through the program. I successfully graduated and ran a real 5K race in September 2013 with a time just under 38 minutes. I didn’t run the whole way, but I ran most of the way and I felt accomplished. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel like I could call myself a runner.
Shortly after the race, I got lazy again. A 5K was as good as it was probably going to get. I wasn’t an actual runner, just an amateur. Short legs, remember? I could hike just fine, and did regularly, but it would be a waste of time to pursue running more seriously.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Last Christmas, just a few months after my first successful 5K, she commented how it was going to be her last Christmas. She seemed all right to me; tired, but the chemotherapy had always left her drained. A mere 6 months later, she was gone.
As my father and I helplessly watched her slipping away from us due to disease, I found, of all things, that I wanted to run. I wanted an escape from the flood of emotions. I wanted a punishment for not having spent more time with her as she always wanted. I wanted to live a longer and healthier life when hers was cut so tragically short.
We are now just over two months since she passed away, and today I’ve run the farthest I ever have in one session. I ran 5 miles without stopping, at an average pace of just over 5 mph. The entire run wasn’t easy, but as I continued I caught a second wind and it got easier and easier as the hundredths and tenths of miles ticked by.
“I’ll just run a 5K.” “Oh, what’s another .9 miles to an even 4 miles.” “Let’s find out if I have another mile in my legs.”
I’ve been running for weeks - months – now, and today was truly the first day that I realized what running can give me. The awe that my legs are capable of propelling me for a full hour without stopping made me feel human. I didn’t earn the label of being a runner; I simply had to realize in my own time that I had always been a runner. I only had to give my legs the chance.
I have a 5K scheduled in two weeks, and a 10K scheduled in five. I’ll also be running a 5K the morning of my mother’s Celebration of Life in October, and I know wherever she may be now, she’ll be proud.
If you have some money to spare and feel moved, please consider contributing to our 10K running team in honor of my mother: http://supportlongbeach.memorialcare.org/runfornancy.