Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why, and how, I started running

I think a person's motivations are very important. My motivations for running have changed over the years, but the first motivations were basically to get in shape.

I had a moment, back in 2010, Where I found myself looking for ways to pay for medical school. I came across a military-based scholarship program, and even a military medical school. The more I researched it, the more I felt like this looks like it would fit me well.

The only thing I needed to do, really, was volunteer a whole lot more and get fit and get strong. This is the part that posed a problem for me. You see, growing up, in elementary school there were bi-annual timed mile tests, sit-ups, curl-ups and sit-n-reach. The only thing I could do was sit-n-reach. I could not run to save myself. I was an overweight kid.

At the time, I didn't know that running was the sort of thing that a person could learn to do. I thought it was either you can or you can't and if you can't, you get to suffer through the mile test time after time. That is what I did. Fast forward to high school and the test now becomes a test to see how many laps you can run in 20 minutes. I could do thirteen; I couldn't run them. It was embarrasing. I got A's in PE because I always participated but that was because I had to make up for the complete lack of fitness somehow (13 laps was a 'C' grade, 22 was an 'A+'--That's on a 10th-mile track). I even had PE teachers tell me that I have to run the whole time. "Keep running!", they said. "I can't".

What they never did say was, "Just slow down and run a slower pace", "Alternate 2 minutes running with 3 minutes walking, next week we'll increase to 3 minutes running and 2 walking". I was never taught how to run, I was just expected to know. Would you be expected to pass an exam on the neurosystem without studying? No. Why would you in running?

Let us flashforward to my freshman year of college, 2008. This is the year I hit my highest weight. This school year is also the year that I started to establish better eating habits. I walked everywhere (miles a day). I walked up flights of stairs (I lived on the seventh floor). By the end of the first semester, I had lost 20 lbs without realizing it.

Let's move forward again. By the start of my junior year, I was biking everywhere. I had lost even more weight, not really intentionally, it was just a by-product of my healthier choices and increased activity. I was no where near fit, but I had laid the foundations to actively seek out becoming a fitter person. I made all my own food because I was cheap, I biked because it took too long to walk to work or school from my apartment, and I drank only water because anything else made my tummy upset.

And so it was that I began to think about my applications to medical school and ultimately how to start running. I didn't use couch-to-5k as so many people I know did; I used the Navy's guidelines for learning to run. It went from speedwalking 2 miles to speedwalking 3, then run 1 minute/walk 4 for 25 minutes, 2 min run/3 min walk, 3/2, 4/1, and ultimately running 2 miles without stopping. I did these things three times a week and elliptical on the other days. I even convinced one of my swimmer friends to re-teach me some basic swim strokes and I improved my backstroke enough to use it to work out. I loved the pool at my school's rec center. Honestly, I was spoiled with the olympic-size and depth pool. I didn't know I had it so good there!

As the end of my junior year came, I could run on the indoor track 2 miles at a time. I had lost even more weight. I was feeling really excellent about myself and these accomplishments. I had even gotten a new bicyle that year as a birthday present (which I absolutely love. It is a Giant Avail 3, an entry-level road bike), so I was even learning how to go pretty far cycling. It was easier to do outside than running was to do outside. The oppressive heat and humidity of summer in New Orleans is very difficult to get used to after running inside an air-conditioned gym. I knew I had to get outside though. So I went back to alternating my run/walks, working up to running two miles again. My friend asked me if I wanted to do an imprompteu 5K with her (free) and so I said "that would be really difficult because I can hardly run outside". We still did it and I think I finished in about 45 minutes because I had to walk so much. This was also the first time I had really run in Audubon Park (I lived in New Orleans). It was exciting and empowering. I kept running outside. I got better. I got to three miles without walking. Then somewhere down the line my same friend asked if I wanted to do the Jazz Half Marathon with her. At first I said "no, I can hardly run 3" but she said, "it's ok, you have time to train for it. There's a method" and so I agreed.

I completed most of the training for that race. I ran the race in just under three hours. I was slow, but I did it. I felt amazing and tired and amazing after finishing that first half. There's nothing in the world like having your hard work realized. Nothing.I signed up for another race the for the next spring, the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll marathon. I actually was registed for the marathon because there really wasn't a price difference and I thought "what the hell, I might as well let myself have the chance"--HAH. Anyway, I got faster and more consistant when training for that race, at least after I got back from winter break at home. I hardly did anything at home that year. Thankfully it wasn't back to the drawing board with my training. On this half, I shaved over 20 minutes off my first time. That was really out-of-this-world to me.

It's crazy what you can do when you just know what's possible.
That's why, when people say, "Oh wow you did a half marathon! I could never do that!", I shake my head and say "but I did".
If I can do it, anyone else can, I'm sure.

They just need to know that it's possible.

My motivations now have changed and now I run more to show myself that I'm in control of my life, that I can do whatever the hell I am persistant enough to pursue. I challenge myself on purpose in order to grow.

I amaze myself that I will actively seek out a challenge instead of slinking back and saying "I can't do it". "I can't do it" is the lie I learned was a lie by learning to run. I now think "how would I accomplish that?" instead of "I could never".

And it's amazing.
That's how I learned to run.

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