Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Runner in Me

It took me a while to find her, and goodness only knows she ain’t gonna win any races anytime soon, but she’s there. Poking her head out, waving her arms around like a three year old and just as desperate for attention. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time I hated running.

Phase I- Attempted Jogger

I started running in college because it had never occurred to me before then to do it. I was losing weight with aerobics videos (Jane Fonda…classic), but I suddenly noticed that everyone who seemed to have been thin all along ran. A lovely friend of mine offered to have me go on a run with her. Beautiful gesture. She tried not to make me run too fast and her effort to slow down looked almost as painful as my effort to keep up. We ran to the 1 mile marker and turned around to walk back. Despite my friend’s encouragement I have never felt more humiliated or ashamed in my life which, in turn, fueled my determination to conquer it. I added it to the schedule of punishments for being fat, otherwise known as my workout schedule.

Phase II- Successful, Angry Jogger

Time passed and I found exercises I liked more. I like to dance (don’t judge me), so dance-y aerobics videos were right up my alley. The calories burned while doing them was not enough to compensate for me overeating, though, and over time I gained back all the weight I had lost despite exercising regularly and decided (like so many Navy wives do) that weight loss is an excellent pastime while your husband is on deployment. Enter the jogging. I started off doing 5 laps around a little island in our apartment complex, and forced myself to go further every day. Didn’t matter if it felt good. Further. Faster. Every time. Or you’re a failure. I did that through my husband’s 7 month deployment and continued for about a year all together. Like that I got up to running 3 miles at a time, hating every step. Much further than in my college days so I counted it as a success.

By this time we had bought a house and moved to a new neighborhood. My new neighbors were super-impressed to see me out there running early in the morning and would comment on how much I must love it to do it so consistently. My standard reply was, “I hate running. The part I like is the stopping.” It was true. I hated every step, I mean loathed it to my core the way nature abhors a vacuum. ;) The part that I liked was that at the end I could say, “I ran [insert number] miles today.”

Phase III- Runner!

Yep. I’m morbidly obese and I consider myself a runner. This shift was entirely mental for me and had nothing to do with my speed or endurance. But one of the things that I have learned by talking to other runners is that no true runner will judge you for your speed or your distance. That is for you to judge. If you get out there and put shoes to pavement (or treadmill belt) every day, you can be a part of the clan. But although I have run in years past, I frankly didn’t want to be a part of the clan. I hated the clan and all the torture it represented. That is, until I did Couch to 5k. Cliche but true, Couch to 5k completely changed my running mindset. Instead of running for speed or for punishment, I was only running for time. Just finish. Doesn’t matter how far you go. Just finish. On days where I was a bit run down, I went slower. On days where I was feeling chipper, I went faster. And somewhere around week 7 I began to see—to feel—a beauty in the rhythm of it. I missed it on days when I couldn’t do it and I was willing to make sacrifices to squeeze it in. That’s when I knew I had crossed over to being a runner.

I’ll worry about my 5k time next year.


  1. I love it. (your post)
    I had always hated running as well. Crystal told me once to get on a treadmill and run for 5 min. Just 5 min and it would be done, over, and accomplished. It was nothing short of torturous. But she was right, after just 5 min it was done and more importantly, accomplished. :)
    I remember my mental transition to runner as well and believe there's no difference between jogger and runner. And another exciting realization is "Wow. I'm an athlete. " :)
    Love you and so very proud of you. Xoxox

  2. I LOVE your blog, Marti! I have felt all of these things that you describe and it is so refreshing to know that someone else has felt the exact same way! I would love to join YOUR clan! Lots of love from a fellow runner! :)