Monday, February 27, 2012

When Running Becomes Who You Are, Not What You Do

The first mile I ever ran (without stopping) took me 15 minutes, flat. Huffing and puffing, I hit STOP on the treadmill and felt like I had just climbed Everest. I felt so proud of myself. I ran a mile. Without stopping. I can still feel the blood pulsing in my temple as I woozily got off the treadmill at the Y in Oviedo.

Thursday night after my spin class, half way through my half hour core workout, I was thinking about how I'd found myself on the road to an Ironman 70.3 and, let's be real, a full Ironman. I thought of myself on that treadmill and the dogged pursuit of a full, running mile.

Chadd is fond of reminding me that I can run a half marathon with very little training when I'm down on myself. How did I get from that 1, 15 minute mile to a half marathon in the tank? I wished I knew. I felt like I had accidentally stumbled into this life. Don't get me wrong, I still felt very grateful, but it felt less like a goal, more like an accident on Thursday.

Sunday afternoon, while I was cleaning the house and Chadd was at the gym, I had a bit of an emotional breakdown. Bryan, the voice of sanity in my crazy workout world , and I made a pact a few years ago: I would do an Ironman if he would do a marathon (right, Bryan? I can't remember the exact terms, but they were outrageous). I was at a point in the job I held then where I was so miserable and down on myself (just like I felt before I registered for the half Ironman) that I was ready to take the deal. Whenever Bryan or I have been particularly down or in need of encouragement, this video gets passed back and forth via email. Maybe y'all think that's the exact opposite of encouragement, but between Bryan and myself, it's the perfect medicine.

My joints aching, I decided to watch that video again. Halfway through, I totally lost my cool and started crying. As I described to Bryan, "I legit had a 'hold the cat and sob' moment while watching the 'you will do this' video." But I wasn't crying from sadness or exhaustion (ok, maybe some exhaustion). I was crying because I so clearly saw myself on that treadmill, 10 years ago, begging my body for that mile and because I am so proud of myself. It was like watching myself through all my running accomplishments:

- the first, wretched mile
- the first long run (9 miles, in a victoria's secret cotton outfit - bad bad bad plan)
- the first time I did 20 miles
- my first expo (Marine Corps marathon!)
- running a 5k turkey trot with my brother and mom
- the first time I ran after foot surgery
- the second marathon and all the tears, toenails and blood that came from that one
- Ragnar.
- Ragnar Ragnar Ragnar
- My first sub-8 mile (downhill at the 4 courts 4)
- The first time I pulled a half marathon out of thin air on no training (Marine Corps Half Marathon)
- My brother's first half marathon

The list goes on. But suddenly, running didn't seem like something I became something I am. And I was so damn proud that all I could do was cry. I clutched our big, stupid cat, crying into his fur and said, "this isn't very iron, is it?" Or maybe that's what being Iron is all about.

This week was a great week in training - I almost hit 9 hours of training, and minus a very tweaky shoulder, I felt fabulous. I can see myself getting in better shape, stronger, healthier. I learned how to swim effectively (and less scarily!), ran 12 miles at a decent pace and got away with not being sore on Sunday.

Best part of the week? My Saturday run showed off weather like this:

So, moral of the story is this - you have it in you, whatever it is that you want to do. Sometimes, you just have to make it past the first 15 minute mile of your life with one foot in front of the other.

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