One Step At A Time, I Became A Runner

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I never thought I’d be a runner. If you had told ages 0-20-year-old me, that 26-year-old me would take a vacation day to watch Desiree Linden win the Boston Marathon, I would have laughed in your face.

Growing up, running was punishment. It was the consequence in gym class when someone misbehaved, the mile that we had to run twice a year where I was always one of the last to finish, and the laps around the soccer field that I dreaded every practice. 

Although they didn’t define elementary teams by varsity and JV, I knew I was always on the bottom team in basketball and volleyball. However, I enjoyed being on a soccer team and played all through elementary school. I loved soccer because I was the goalie. I was the goalie because I hated running!

Once I hit seventh grade, I stopped doing any sports. Junior high and high school sports got too serious and competitive. The only sports I did were in the required PE classes. I would walk when the PE teacher couldn’t see me when we were supposed to be running. I did try golf one season in high school for lessons, not to actually make the team.

My dislike of physical activity followed me to college. You can imagine my excitement when I found out you could take PE online! I signed up immediately, thrilled to check off that degree requirement without doing a sport.

Things started to change the summer between my freshman and sophomore year. I tried getting a job when I went home but no one hired me. I decided to use my free time to get healthier. I did Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30 DVDs and would walk / jog on the treadmill. I made the treadmill fun by trying to walk for different parts of songs.  

When I went back to school, I started going to the gym some mornings with friends to continue the routine but it ultimately, it didn’t stick. I took a three week trip with school to England and Italy in the summer of 2012 before my senior year. Some of the girls would run in the parks in the mornings and I secretly wished I could go with them. When I got back home and saw how much my daily four scoops of gelato added to the scale, I started running. While I wasn’t extremely overweight, I wanted to be healthier and I wanted to be like the girls on my trip who got to explore new places in their running shoes.

I bought a treadmill on Craigslist and started doing workout DVDs again. A friend of mine mentioned running 5ks and I made it a goal to run my first one. I chose one that raised money for a person I knew who had cancer. It was in my college town a couple weeks after graduating in 2013. It took me 35+ minutes at 7,200 feet above sea level. I got blisters, was passed by lots of kids, had to walk a lot, but I was already planning the next one by the time I finished. (Did I mention that I'm always training at altitude?! Maybe that’s why running is so hard!)

From there, I was hooked. I did more 5ks, a 10k, and a 4 miler race. About a year after my first 5k, I followed my first training plan and ran the BolderBoulder 10k. After finishing it, I started to see that I truly am a runner and athlete. Hitting goals like a sub 30 minute 5k and sub 60 minute 10k boosted my confidence and gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. That fall I ran my first half and to date I have now run 13 half marathons. Covering mileage that I didn’t think I could made me extremely proud of myself.

This year I am chasing my impossible goal of running a marathon before I turn 27 - 26.2 miles at 26 years old seems to have a ring to it!

While running still doesn’t come easy, I embrace the days where everything clicks and accept the strength the difficult runs build. That's what makes running something I want stick with! It’s full of surprises and there’s always new goals to chase! Running is now the outlet I use to destress after a tough day, cheer up when I am feeling down, and it's an important part of my life. My running accomplishments motivate me and help me believe in myself outside. It has shown me that I am mentally and physically strong. 

Before I found running, I thought only skinny people ran or running was something people did to lose weight. I realize now that running is an amazing lifestyle backed by the best community. Running has shown me that there isn’t a body type that a runner has to be. I see people of all ages, shapes, and sizes running races at all paces. I never realized how inclusive running is. I have had so many amazing experiences at races getting and giving encouragement to complete strangers!  

Even when I am at a race by myself, I know I’m not alone.

If you’re reading this and think running and getting active is impossible, I hope my story shows you that it’s possible and you’ll give it try. Take it one step at a time at whatever pace feels good to you - there’s a community of runners excited to welcome and encourage you!  

For more from Kalie Spurgas, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.