During my junior year of college, I watched as my best friend spent hours during the week and even gave up her entire Saturday afternoon and evening during college planting carb shots along her running route and then running her miles for the week. Running?! Weird. She had a goal: The 2003 Chicago Marathon.
If you didn’t know me and Beth in high school, this won’t seem as weird as it was to me then. When we were younger, we hated physical activity. We waited to take the required gym class until our junior year (most people took it their freshman year). Even though we had lots of spirit, we were always the last two people to be picked for teams. We failed the Fitness Test, despite all of Coach Alms’s patient support of our un-athleticism.
By the time she was training for the marathon, though, Beth had also become an aerobics instructor and a certified personal trainer. The entire time she was training for her first marathon, she kept telling me that if she could do it, I could do it. I slowly started believing her. So she started me on the American Running Association’s Walk-Run program when I wanted to lose weight before I got married. I didn’t complete the program, but I made it a little over half-way through, enough that I discovered that with the properly increasing training program, I could run for 30 minutes! It was amazing, because when I started the program, I struggled to run for even 2 minutes.
Because of her amazing marathon accomplishment, I was inspired to give it a go myself. I registered for the 2005 Chicago marathon and started a novice Hal Higdon training program. With Beth’s “If I can do it, you can you too” message running through my head, I dove right in. It was not all easy, but it was such a great lesson. If you look at the training program closely, you will notice that the weekend long runs increase gradually. That, my friends, is the secret to starting to run if you never have before. Each time the mileage increased, I knew I could do it, because I had run just one mile less before.
The 9-miler was so hard. Rob and I ran it on a hot, July Friday afternoon. I was dehydrated and I had never run in heat before. It was as much of a mental struggle as it was a physical one. But I completed it with the encouragement of my husband an mental mantras, repeated step after step after step.
The next week was a 10 miler with Beth. It was awesome. I don’t know if it was because we ran in the early morning coolness, but after that run, I knew I could finish the marathon. It was a great victory.
But I didn’t run the marathon. Six weeks before the marathon, I started grad school, including teaching for the first time. It killed the running schedule I had for the summer, plus my sleeping schedule. Bad combination: I got bronchitis, and you can’t run when you can’t breathe. I didn’t finish the training, and didn’t feel like, as a newbie runner, trying 26.2 miles. It was a tough decision, but then: Sarah.
Stay tuned tomorrow to hear how Sarah helped me along my path of becoming a runner.