It was just over a year ago, a few months shy of my 31st birthday, that I discovered that I could maybe, possibly, someday be a runner.
Let’s rewind a little. I did my first 5k in May of 2010. Notice I don’t say “run,” but “did.” My friend proposed it to me as a girls weekend getaway, since the race was 4 hours away in Indy. Things were pretty stressful in my life at that time, so any getaway sounded appealing to me. I didn’t think much about the 5k portion of the trip until the morning of. Seriously. I wore a pair of sweats, the race t-shirt and some beat up 2+ year old trail shoes that I had bought because I liked the colors and needed something athletic for commuting. My friend Melanie, also not a runner at the time, promised that we could walk the entire 5k if I wanted. Race day adrenaline kicked in and we tried to run along with everyone else, but I could barely do it for more than 30 seconds at a time. I don’t recall the exact time, but I think we finished in around 47 or 48 minutes. Still, I felt really energized by the crowd and the race atmosphere, and it was at that race that I got my first ever medal so I was proud to have finished, no matter how slowly.
Despite that excitement, I didn’t even try to run again until November of 2011, when I did the Hot Chocolate 5k in downtown Chicago. Once again, I didn’t train at all, and once again, planned to walk most of it with Melanie. We ran in spurts, but I couldn’t keep up and told Melanie to keep going. I finished in 48 minutes, walking most of the race again.
Until last year, I spent the previous 20+ years being very overweight, and at many times, obese. That’s the first time I’ve ever written that out, much less said it out loud, but that’s what I was. I just really love cooking, baking and eating, and until recently, didn’t love exercising. I lost significant amounts of weight a few times throughout my 20′s, but not in a healthy or sustainable ways, so it always came back. But not long after the Hot Chocolate, at my highest weight ever, I decided enough was enough. I was sick of being fat and unhealthy and wanted to change. So I started working with a personal trainer at my gym, learned to eat better and lost 50 pounds in about 9 months. In one session with my trainer last year, I think around February, she made me run back and forth across the studio. My gym is tiny, so the studio can’t be more than 10 feet across, but I was terrified at the idea of running. When I hesitated and told her I couldn’t do it, because I had never in my entire life been able to run, she said what no one had ever said to me pertaining to any kind of exercise, much less running – that yes, I could.
After that day, I started very gradually running, doing intervals of 30 seconds of running on a treadmill, broken up by long walk breaks. Eventually I got up to a minute, 2 minutes, half a mile, and then a mile. I signed up for a 5k in April, the first one I’d ever really tried to run, and finished in 39 minutes. I did 5 more races last year, including my first 8k. By the end of the year, I was hooked. I may not be fast, and I may never run a marathon, but I am a runner. And now here I am, a month away from turning 32, and two months away from my very first half marathon. What a difference a year makes.
Running has been a good outlet for stress, a time for self-reflection, and honestly, it’s really cool to push myself and do something that so many people, including myself, said I’d never be able to. But running isn’t just about me. Last year after a loved one and fellow runner was diagnosed with lung cancer, I wanted to do something to help. I wasn’t sure what else to do, so I used running to bring some friends together to form a team, raised money for lung cancer awareness and research, and we ran a 5k for those who can’t.
I quickly discovered that something that I once thought was a solo sport actually comes with its own great, supportive community that has been full of great advice, helpful hints, and cheering me along every step of the way. I’ve met so many wonderful people through running this past year, and running has also become a great way to connect with old friends in a new way. Just this past winter, a friend and I took our very first run together in our 15 year friendship. And Melanie, my friend from the 5k in Indy, is doing her first half two weeks before mine, so it’s great to have a buddy to go through the training process with.
It’s because of this sense of community, camaraderie, and wanting to give back and help others that the Run For Boston 5k came together. Not long after the tragic events unfolded at the Boston Marathon, I saw my fellow Chicago Running Bloggers spring into action, quickly wondering what they could do to help. We’re all runners, and we all want to help in one of the best ways we know how – by running.
Anne works as a Project Manager in HR Benefits Compliance by day, and spends the rest of her time on Chicago’s North Side with her husband/favorite runner, and their two adorable but sometimes crazy dogs. She still really, really enjoys cooking, and blogs about that in addition to running, fitness, style, and anything else that comes to mind at Anne Really Blogs.