Thursday, August 8, 2013

How It All Began- Part 1



A question that arises often when talking with people about my running adventures is regarding how it all began. I usually receive a quizzical look with my answer followed by, “Are you serious?” Having had this experience recently, I decided it would make for a motivational, and simultaneously comical and at times gloomy, blog post. So here it is. How it all began. :-)

It wasn’t until May of 2008 at the Cleveland Half Marathon that I ever set foot in a race. That is correct. I never so much as pinned on a bib, let alone stretched before a run, until that moment. Truth be told, I’m not sure if I even stretched. I pretty much just showed up. I never ran cross country at any point in my life and the thought of running circles on a track gave me motion sickness. I knew absolutely nothing about running, but gave it a shot anyway. This leap of faith, if you will, was by fluke one of the most significant, life changing jumps of my life. Okay, so how did I make it to the start line of the Cleveland Half Marathon? Let’s just say it wasn’t in any customized fashion.

I would be deceitful to deny any running experiences before this first race. As a kid, I was ALWAYS running. The neighborhood kids and I came up with so many versions of the game “tag” that I probably logged 50 miles a week easy. Time in between games of tag were spent at the pool, so it’s fair to say I had my share of cross training. When time came to play CYO sports, I played every possible sport I could. I loved being active, and was driven to hard work. Even in fifth grade as an underdeveloped munchkin years behind puberty, I was determined to serve the volleyball overhand. And I did, eventually. The roof of my parents' garage can attest to all of that hard work. Nothing would stop me from reaching my goals, not even exercised-induced asthma. 

Volleyball carried me into high school. I still vividly remember showing up to conditioning my freshmen year and loving the “loop” we ran every morning. I’m sure it wasn’t more than two miles, but I was always up with the upperclassmen and soccer girls. It made me feel great about myself and I loved it! However, I never viewed this as a “talent” and was more focused on becoming a better volleyball player.  A few years into high school volleyball and my passion for it died. My volleyball heart EKG straight up flat-lined. It was a slow and painful death, driven by many issues that I don’t want to waste blog space on.  I stuck it out gracefully, but my heart was gone. I was team captain every year, and knew this would look great on my college resume. But beyond that, I counted down the games until the volleyball season was over. It just wasn’t a particularly positive experience for me. Sometimes I wish a cross-country coach would have seen my talent. Or, better yet, that I had the ability to be introspective enough to identify my true passion. But, four years of high school went by and I never saw it. I wasn’t the happiest teenager and definitely could have used running to get me through some pretty challenging years. 

Upon entering college, running slowly started to seep its way into my life. Freshmen year, my dear little friend Natalie and I used to get ourselves lost in the beautiful neighborhoods of University Heights and Cleveland Heights. I continued to run casually throughout college. Initially, its purpose was to help maintain my girlish figure. However, I quickly learned that running was so much more for me. It was an escape. It helped me clear my head and most importantly made me feel good about myself. There were many nights at 2am when I would throw on some tennis shoes and just go for a run. It helped eased some of the pain of the complications of my late-adolescent life. Many of these late night runs weren’t particularly safe and totally foolish. But, I loved them. Sometimes I long for those moments of inappropriate spontaneity! :-)

I stuck with my casual running routine throughout graduate school. Despite my insanely busy schedule, I always made time a few days a week to get in a run. For the same reasons as throughout college, it became an important part of my routine. However even up to this point, I never considered running something I was good at and never EVER contemplated running in as much as a 5k race. It wasn’t until my first year teaching, in the spring of 2008 that I would take into consideration running my first race. 

...to be continued... :-)

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