I must be meshugenah: I’ve never run more than five miles at once, but I just signed myself up for the a nine-plus mile race, Columbus Hot Chocolate 15K this November.
It gets crazier: Though I’ve dabbled in running since high school, I’ve never really loved it. In fact, of all the workouts I’ve committed to in my lifetime, running was always my least favorite.
Unlike the group fitness classes I loved (Zumba anyone?), running had just been something I did for exercise on my own—not something I could ever see myself enjoying, let alone caring about split times or personal records. I’d always found it to be boring, monotonous, and freakin’ hard. I just did it because it was the quickest way for me to get in shape/stay in shape, especially when I was younger. But in spite of the sport’s many benefits, I never had the desire to take it to the next level, competitive running. I admired those who did, but never thought I’d be one of them.
All that changed this past year. I got back into it, and shockingly didn’t hate it with every fiber of my being anymore. We’d had an unseasonably warm winter in Michigan so I started logging miles after work, making a concerted effort to get two to three runs a week in.
Then I began switching things up–running with one of my besties before work, which was far more fun than my boring solo runs. I decided, “Hey this isn’t so bad,” and I opted not to renew my gym membership in favor of outdoor workouts. Surprisingly, I found myself getting excited for our runs instead of dreading it. We even ran a 5K with some friends this summer. It wasn’t totally terrible, and I loved the sense of accomplishment I felt after.
Still, when this friend suggested taking on a 15K this fall, my first response was: “Hell to the no! There’s no way I can run 9.3 miles! I’ll die!”
She convinced me otherwise. “You’ve been running for fun for years. And you’re already running twice a week with me, and running on your own. We can do it! Let’s make it a girls’ weekend!”
She had me at “girls’ weekend.”
But in all seriousness, it’s about so much more.
I’m a mom of young kids (six and three)—and 99 percent of my brain space these days seems to be filled with their needs, their activities and their social lives. So after we hung up, it hit me that maybe I did need a challenge for myself, something I could own that would be all mine that wasn’t work-related.
I had plenty to kvell about with respect to my kids–their achievements and milestones; cute and funny things they say and do. But I needed something more. I needed a personal goal–something to keep me on my toes, reaching for the next big thing.
I needed to sign up for the race. Equal parts terrified and excited I called her back. “OK … I’m in. Let’s do this.”
And now I’m training for the 15K. I’m putting my own oxygen mask on first. I’m waking before the sun comes up three times a week to run. I downloaded the Strava app to check my progress, and I asked runner friends for shoe recs and got new kicks which I broke in on a four-mile run this weekend. Who am I?!
Training has had a lot of benefits already. First, it forces me to carve out “me time” to run–not an easy feat for a working mama with little ones, but a necessary part of training. Second, it’s making me think of food as fuel and guiding my food choices–a very good thing considering my disordered eating past. Third, I’m setting a good example for my kids. My husband and I try to lead healthy lives by example, and my kids know Mommy goes running to be healthy the same way they know Daddy plays soccer. Lastly, it will help me get stronger and more physically fit.
But even if I don’t lose any inches or pounds, I’m giving myself a new challenge, something that feels right. And most importantly, it feels good to have something that’s not tied to anyone else. I may run with thousands of others during the race, but this one really is about me, Melissa.
Marcel Proust once said, “The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Ultimately, seeing running through new eyes has been a gift—and I’m looking forward to tackling those nine miles in November.
My only goal is to finish the race. Whether I have to be dragged across the finish line or not, I’m hell-bent on turning this challenge into a reality.