My 5 Happiest Running Memories

Running changed my life. I still can't believe I started running because of how much I hated running. It was boring and painful. Every time I tried to run I felt defeated. Then I snapped and I needed to find a way to press the mute button in my brain. (You know when all of your worst fears or biggest flaws play on a never ending loop in your brain?) I couldn't stop thinking about how much I missed my brother or how terrified and lost I felt after graduating from college. I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide until someone told me what to do next. Then after a sleepless night, the sun was rising, I got dressed, laced up my shoes and the rest is history.

I want to share a few of my happiest running memories with you because there's a time in every runner's life, especially when you're starting, when you lose that spark or it starts to become less rewarding and more like a chore. Here are 5 of my happiest running memories:

1. Watching My Best Friend Irene Run Her First Marathon.

I didn't start running until Thanksgiving Day 2012 but it was a few months prior in June of 2012 that the running seed was first planted in my brain. When Irene decided to run a marathon everyone was dumbfounded. No one we knew ran. She literally decided one day, "I'm not only just going to start running but I am going to run a marathon." She joined Team In Training and would tell me these stories about the people she met and the things she was experiencing or finding about herself. I'd never seen her so happy or full of life. (And she's probably my most fun and incredible friend. For me to see that was a big change.)

Then the morning of the marathon, my sister, Irene's Mommy Cathy, brother Eddie, her boyfriend at the time and I all went to the finish line to support her. Watching all the runners approach the finish line was infectious. We waited on pins and needles, stressed and impatient, then when she saw us she burst into tears. Everything she'd gone through to get to that finish line was visible on her face. We all cried. I didn't know it at the time, but I think that experience was the beginning of me becoming a runner.

2. My First 2 Hour Run...In Hawaii.

My journey to my first half marathon was anything but smart or traditional. It was January, 2 months after I started running and I was on vacation in Hawaii when Irene called me to see if I wanted to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon with her in 1 week. The furthest I had run was 6 miles and I told her I really wanted to do it but I wasn't ready. She said, "Try to run for 2 hours and see how you do." Wednesday Raven and her then fiance (now husband) Tom Tom had a special date night planned so I thought, "Perfect! When they leave for dinner, I'll go run."

I put on my clothes and ran around the resort 3 times. I ran 11 miles in 2 hours and didn't die! I wish I would have written down exactly what went through my mind during those 2 hours because it was an out of body experience. Every mile past 6 was terrifying. But at the 2 hour mark I immediately called Irene and said, "I DID IT! I'M ALIVE!" She said, "Perfect I'll see you Saturday!" I got off the plane late Friday night and drove home only to turn around and drive back to Disneyland with Irene to run the Tinkerbell Half on Sunday. I'd never been so amazed at myself. I actually couldn't believe I was capable of running longer than an hour.

3. Joining the Charity Team for Kids to Run The NYC Marathon.

There is no better feeling than wearing your charity's singlet when you run a race. Raising money for Team for Kids when I ran the NYC Marathon has to be the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I met some incredible friends thanks to my Team for Kids family and having the opportunity to run for a charity made the marathon so much bigger than it already was. (And they had heated tents at the finish line...THAT was one of the best things that ever happened to me.)

When you run with a charity you have this huge nation wide support system of teammates and coaches that motivate and inspire you. For months you lean on and support one another and and then on race day, you all run as one. It was an unforgettable experience and one of the best decisions I ever made. (CLICK HERE for 5 reasons why you should run with a charity.)

4. The New York City Marathon

My first marathon could not have been more different than my second. Neither was better or worse but the New York City Marathon didn't feel like a marathon. It was a complete out of body experience. For 4 hours and 14 minutes thousands of New Yorker's pulled for me and supported me by screaming my name. The amount of people who run this marathon or show up to cheer for the runners is inspiring. I've never experienced anything like it.

I spent much of the race reflecting on my life and thanking the people around. I literally spoke the text, "THANK YOU!" more than a thousand times. Running this marathon felt validating. It was a way for me to say, "Look what I've done. If I can do this, anyone can do this." I am tearing up just thinking about that final 2 miles through Central Park. I've never felt as close to my brother since he passed than I did at that moment. I was looking around because I  expected him to be standing right next to me. It was, bar none, the best day of my life. (CLICK HERE for a more in depth race recap.)

5. Reading What Running Means To You.

An odd thing has happened in my life. I spent 20 years running towards a life as an actress, director and a writer. I went to college without a doubt in my mind that I was going to live my life on stage, telling stories and investigating the human condition or how we cope with what we go through. Then I graduated and I lost my creative spirit. I lost whatever it was that drove me towards the theater. Then hot guys of the NYC Half happened and Run, Selfie, Repeat was born. And through those silly selfies I was able to create a space where I can tell my story, and more importantly yours. I am doing everything I've always wanted to do...just on a different platform.

I get to light the spark for people who, like me, would never predict they would be able to run a half marathon. I still don't consider myself an athletic person. I really don't. I'll always be the funny girl who runs only so she can have a cupcake. Running teaches you so much about yourself from patience and perseverance to pushing through doubts and set backs.

Running something like a half marathon will change your life.  I’ve learned what it means to have to work for something you actually don’t believe you can do. To wake up every day and say, “This is hopeless” and then actually accomplish it. Crossing the finish line of every race from a 5k to a marathon, and remembering all the times when I actually believed I couldn’t do it, that’s a feeling I hope the entire world gets to experience.

Whether you love the entire experience or do it and decide to never run a day in your life again, it doesn't matter. I don't care who you are, what your given circumstances are, what you've been through or what you're going through (that's a little dramatic, of course I care) I hope you run a half marathon. I hope you get the opportunity to feel truly limitless.

Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.