Happy Six-Year Anniversary, Running!

This month, I am celebrating six years as a runner.   I can't believe it has been six years since I took those first steps on the treadmill at the YMCA.  I was 36 years old and had never been any sort of athlete.  At the time, I had a one-year old, a three-year- old, and a five-year-old.  I was a stay-at-home mom and my life completely revolved about being Nate, Annabeth, and Julia's mom and Chris's wife.  I loved my family, but I felt like I was losing myself.  Maybe it was a bit of post-partum depression, or maybe I was just looking for something for ME, to have some significance outside these four walls. 

I had actually been a regular exerciser for about three years, but I didn't actually sweat.  I thought I was one of those women who didn't perspire!  In fact, I was one of those women who "played" on the elliptical with resistance 0 for 45 minutes while mainly exercising my mouth to other moms beside me.   But one day, all of that changed. 

Walking through the back corridor at the YMCA one day in early June, I noticed a bulletin board advertising the upcoming Valerie Hunter Kelly Clarksville Half Marathon and 5K in October.  I thought, "I have no idea how far 5 kilometers is, but surely I can be ready for it by October."  When I got to the exercise floor, I had to ask someone how far 5K was.  :-)  

Three miles seemed fairly reasonable.  After all, my friends Tracy and Sherri had recently run a half marathon!   (Again, I wasn't sure how far that was, but I was pretty sure it was FAR!)   Encouraged, I hopped on the treadmill and cautiously adjusted it to a running pace.  It was tough.  I couldn't seem to run and breathe at the same time.  I only made it a quarter-mile before I had to stop.   But the next day, I did it again.  One day, I was so excited to run a half-mile without stopping.  I finally learned to run slowly and breathe at the same time.  Eventually, I started running a bit outside.  (June in Tennessee is a ROUGH time to start, but I didn't know any better!) 

My husband decided to start running as well, and we'd take turns running around the block where we live.  Two times around the block and running to the stop sign down the street was a mile, according to our car's odometer.  I remember the first time I ran it without stopping.   I came in red-faced and proud and announced, "I just ran the whole mile without stopping."  He was impressed.  Then he achieved that milestone a few days later.   In those early days of running, my husband struggled with shin splints.  Neither of us had real running shoes, but I somehow avoided any problems.  Then he broke a toe, and I was suddenly on my own in this journey.  

I was ready for that 5K in October.  In fact, I was ready for one in August!   The week before it, I ran three miles in my neighborhood.  My goals were to run the R3 Anniversary run without walking and under 35 minutes.  Not being last would be nice, too!    I pinned that bib to my shirt for the first time, and the rest is history.....   (I made both goals, by the way!)

I ran a 5K a month for August-December, each a little faster than the one before it.  I started reading everything I could get my hands on about running.  I started writing this running blog.  I joined a 10K training group at the R3 running store in December and was so excited to have a coach.   I remember the first time I ran 5K in under 30 minutes with my coach by my side that January.  In February, I ran my first 10K-- a tiny race on a blustery day and came in LAST.  I ran it in 1:03, which was pretty good, but it was just a small race.  Then in April, I ran the Country Music Half Marathon in 2:19:01, my first big-city race, finishing in the top half of the field.   I was definitely hooked. 

More half-marathons, a full marathon, and becoming a RRCA Certified Running Coach followed.   Two years after those first steps, I found myself coaching a half-marathon training group and a Couch to 5K group for that same October race that inspired me to start.   Just this past year, I coached Valerie Hunter Kelly to run her first half marathon and proudly ran her in to the finish.   Full circle. 

Running is about so much more than fitness.  It has given me confidence, independence, goals to strive for, and hope.  Running has profoundly changed me, or maybe it's just allowed me to realize the potential of who I was always supposed to be.   I will be forever grateful to have had this opportunity and hope to run for many, many years to come.  God knew exactly what I needed when I walked down that hallway that day.  I am so thankful for the new friends it has brought into my life, the adventures, the challenges, and most of all, the "new me." 

This was taken right before my 6th marathon this past April--my first trail marathon.  I ran it in honor of my 6th year of running.