by Anne Mileski in Stories

First Steps: From Breathless to Speechless

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If you would’ve told me eight months ago that I would be training for a half marathon, I would have laughed out loud.
No, actually, first I probably would have cried a little bit at the complete and utter outrageous nature of the thought.

You see, I had tried running before.  I’d put on my shoes, hit the trail for about a mile and hate every second of it.  I could never breath, I’d have to take walking breaks, and my shins would scream for the torture to stop.  So I gave up.

Becoming a runner

Every once in a while I would catch wind of a friend training for a race or an equally intimidating event, but simply write them off as “too hardcore” and go back to whatever couch potato behavior I had chosen for the day. Ironically, one of those behaviors was reading various health and fitness magazines and blogs, and trying to convince myself that I could run one of these races.  After reading everyone else’s success stories, I finally decided I was going to give myself the push I needed and sign up for an event.  I found a list of races close to me and signed up for my very first 5k.

Once I signed up for the race, it was official.  I had spent the money, my name was on a roster, and I had told friends and family about my plans.  My goal became a commitment and a promise to myself: to make running fun. The funny thing is, I knew that I couldn’t run half a mile without stopping.  It hurt.  So I found a program I thought I could stick with, and made it my mission to run my first 5k.  I enlisted some friends to do the same, and made a plan for my goal that I couldn’t back out of.

The first few weeks

Although the Couch to 5k program is targeted specifically toward beginning runners, the first few weeks were hard.  I was a victim of intense shin splints and could rarely go the full intervals the plan called for. After 3 months of training, I ran my first 3.1 miles.  I beat my goal of running the race in less than 35 minutes, but didn’t feel strong. I knew that if I really wanted to learn to run and enjoy it, I had to change some things: (1) my diet, and (2) my fitness level. I realized that becoming an athlete meant more than just running.  It meant changing my life style.

I could run for about 30 minutes, but not without walking breaks.  My lower body strength was decent from my cardio marathons, but my upper body strength was pathetic.  I had tried yoga once or twice, but gave up because my balance and posture were both poor.  Worst of all, I was an avid fan of soda and sweets. I cleaned up my diet first.  I didn’t deprive myself of the foods I love, but started to bulk up my meals with fruits and vegetables and stopped drinking soda. Next, my husband and I joined a gym so I could begin strengthening my upper body.  And finally, I started to practice yoga at least once a week even though I couldn’t see immediate improvement.  I forced myself to take on the little challenges to reach my goal.  I wanted to be a runner.

I’m still amazed at my energy level when I consciously and intuitively eat for fuel.  I began to eat for sustainability, for running successfully and was amazed by how easy it was to make the right nutritional decisions for my goal.  I started using free weights 2-3 times a week and noticed a big difference in how my body felt.  For the first time in my life, I felt strong.

Addicted to racing

The next month, my husband and I ran a 5k together.  I sliced 3 minutes off my time, running the race in 31 minutes.  When we finished, we decided we wanted to do more.  That day, we signed up for our first 10k. After deciding to run a big distance, I began to majorly up my game.  I was running 3-4 times a week and for the first time I was running big distances.  I saw my GPS hit 4 miles, then 5, then 6.  I was amazed at what my body could do when I pushed myself.  For the first time, I had finally found success through running.  I saw my goal come closer and closer to coming true.

My husband and I ran our first 10k in May in under 1:10:00, meeting our goal.  Afterwards, we realized we were addicted to racing.  The rush we get from the other runners, the race day environment and camaraderie is enthralling.  Right then and there, we decided it was really time to up our game and set an even larger goal.

We’ll run our first half marathon in September.  Every week we go on a long training run together. I watch the miles go up–6 miles, 7 miles, 8 miles–each week and am confident I can push them even higher.  I’m amazed at what my body can accomplish and know it was my determination that made it happen. No one else can run a race for me.

Running has taught me that anything is possible

I started off not being able to run for more than a half a mile without feeling like I was going to die.  Now I rarely run for less than 3 miles at a time.  I knew I wanted to be able to run comfortably–even for fun!–and was honest with myself about what it would take to get there. If there is something in your life that you want, a goal that you want to achieve, you can make it happen.  Make a plan, set small goals that lead to your ultimate goal, build a support network, and dedicate yourself to making it happen.  You’ll find yourself speechless–I surely did.

After my first half marathon, there will be more races.  Maybe another half, maybe “just” a 10k, maybe even a full marathon someday.  And then after that, there’s always triathlons.

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