by Carly Vucenich in Start Running, image by Madzia Bryll

One big game of ups and downs

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Red Light! Green Light!
Remember that schoolyard game we all played as kids? We would line up at one end of the field and when you heard “Green Light” you ran like hell until you had to stop dead in your tracks when “Red Light” was shouted. If you dared move an inch on the red light call you were out. It was a game of constant start and go and the object was to be the first to cross the line.

My life as a runner to date has been one big game of Red Light & Green Light!

Green Light: Running track and cross-country in grade school
Red Light: College, the era of partying
Green Light: A double dare to run a marathon
Red Light: Injuries and babies

Grade School

I started running at an early age. I remember very clearly my 6th grade teacher telling me I was born to run. We had a foot race on Olympic Day at school and I earned my first blue ribbon for being the fastest!

Maybe it was the power of her suggestion that got me into the sport or maybe it was that other sports required some sort of coordination. I am a klutz to the core. If you can imagine me hopping with flailing arms that resembled a windmill, you can get a good idea of how I played basketball (a very short lived interest that provided long-term laughs for my parents). Running was really the only thing that I had a quasi-knack for. I ran track and cross country all the way through high school. Although I do not have any state titles, I do have my fair share of ribbons to remind me that I was once pretty decent.
Then, I quit.

College, the era of partying

My years in college brought a new love of pizza and beer. Exercise was not something on the must-do list. As my waistline expanded, my love for running all but diminished. In the back of my mind I always got excited when people would talk about running and my dream to someday run a marathon never died. Sadly, I was too lazy to pursue any of these goals and settled for a sedentary lifestyle. I didn’t see the point of running if I didn’t have a coach leading a workout.

The Marathon

Several years later, I received a phone call from my childhood friend and fellow high school running mate asking me if I would be interested in running the 2001 Twin Cities Marathon. After laughing in her face and saying NO WAY, she doubled down and put a dare on the table. I have a very hard time passing up a dare so I committed to my first 26.2 mile race. Actually, make that my FIRST race EVER! My first race was going to be the marathon and I hadn’t run in a decade. It sounded like a sensible idea to me!

There are no words to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line of my first marathon. Through sheer determination or Divine intervention, I crossed finish line in about 5 hours 30 minutes. It certainly did not break any records, but I did it. I was able to complete something that I never thought I could do. This race brought back my love of running and I was hooked.

Extended breaks

The years following that race brought many fun running experiences as well as several fresh starts. On multiple occasions I have had to take extended breaks from running because of pregnancies, new babies, injuries, and just plain old life.
Now I find myself at the starting line again. I have to run through the aches and pains of those first few weeks. I have a whole new motivation getting me out the door. It is not a double dog dare and it is not because I am “good” at it. It is a really simple reason: Me. Life’s red lights may have made me stop and take a break, but I always walked away with a good learning experience.

I am a wife, a very busy mother of three small children, and I work full time. My time is very limited and running gives me that ME time I need. I love having the opportunity to let my mind wander, listen to my iPod that doesn’t have any Hannah Montana on it, and enjoy being by myself (if only for 20 minutes). Rather training for a race, I am content with mastering the three mile loop in the neighborhood. This is the feeling that keeps me coming back for more.

This is my game now and I hope that the light stays green for a very long time!

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