The Day I Became a "Runner": My Proudest Running Moment

I’ve thought long and hard about my proudest moment as a runner. Was it my first half marathon? My first marathon? My last PR?

All of those moments were amazing and incredible and full of tears, accomplishment, and yes, pride. But for me, the moment that hits me in the gut and makes me feel most PROUD to be a runner was the first one – the first time I ran 20 minutes without stopping.

It was ten years ago, but it still feels like yesterday. I remember thinking that there was NO WAY I was going to be able to run a full 20 minutes without stopping. Surely, I was going to collapse in a ditch on the side of the road, where someone was going to have to scrape me up and bring me home. Running was for other people – I was the girl who told her high school gym teacher that she couldn’t run the mile for the Presidential fitness test because she had asthma after all.

But finally, March 13, 2009 rolled around, and the assigned day was HERE. My blog post from that day captures it best.

“Until today, my longest running interval had been eight minutes (on Wednesday), which felt like a lot to me. So, I’d been dreading the 20 minutes since I found out on Monday. Both my coach and another triathlete told me that I could do it and should think about it as four five-minute intervals. But still. I was freaking out.

So, I stretched extra. A lot, in fact. And I took Advil in the morning and before I went to bed to ease any soreness. I drank lots of water. I ate protein. I thought about downloading the Chariots of Fire theme, as suggested by my best friend, but thought it might encourage me to run in slow motion (not that you’d know the difference). I tried not to think about it.

I tried not to think about it all day yesterday. I tried not to think about it during yoga. I tried not to think about it while watching Grey’s Anatomy. I tried not to think about it while trying to fall asleep. I wasn’t that successful.

So, this morning when my alarm went off, I pretended it was like all my other workouts. I put on my running clothes and put in my contacts. I laced up my sneaks and put on my headphones. I got out my gloves, because my dad had texted me to say it was cold and windy. Yes, that’s right. Not only did I have to battle my own fear of failure and of running, but I had to deal with the cold and wind again. I figured I might as well get it over with! Plus, at 30 degrees, I figured it was already ten degrees warmer than some of my other runs.

I started out with my five-minute warm-up and told myself that I’d do it five minutes at a time. It definitely was chilly out, but I’d dressed appropriately, so I knew I was ready. Then, it was time to run.

The first five minutes were tough. My knee always starts to hurt as soon as I pick up the pace, and my mind tells me ‘Ah, see, you can’t do it!’ But I yelled at myself (not out loud) and kept going. I told myself it was only for five minutes, while the little voice in the back of my head said, ‘No, it’s 20 you fool.’ But I knew that if I ever wanted to run in a 5k, I had to be able to run this 20 minutes. And if Coach J, my twitter friend, and the Couch Potato Plan thought I could do it, it probably was possible. Probably.

The next five minutes were okay. I’d run eight minutes on Wednesday, so I just kept telling myself that it was only a little bit more than that, and I would soon be turning around to head back. The wind started to pick up, which was not fun, so I turned around with about 45 seconds left to go, thinking that the wind would be at my back.

Not so much.

It was even worse heading the other way and that felt defeating. But I kept slogging along at my slow pace because I really wanted to run 20 minutes without stopping or walking. I prayed that the wind would die down and it did! So, then it was just me against myself.

The third five minutes were good. I was more than halfway through, and although I was tired, I hung in there. The wind eventually died down and I was thinking about finishing strong.

But I still had to get through the last five minutes. And those were tough! I had a bit of a stitch in my side, though my knee seemed to feel fine again (thank you Advil!), and I was just tired. But so many people knew about my quest for 20 minutes that I could not picture coming back home and saying that I hadn’t made it. I had to at least try.

When I hit the 2:30 mark, I knew I would make it. Only 1/8th the way to go? No problem! Short of getting hit by a car, I was going to finish running. And I’m sure the determined look on my face kept all of the cars far, far away. I even forced myself to run as hard as I could for the last ten seconds, which by that time, was not very fast. But I was so proud of myself – I did it!

I did it!

So, I guess that makes me a runner now. I know a few people have said it to me already, but today, I really feel like a runner. I ran about two miles without stopping for the first time in my life! I am so excited! I am so proud! I am so…tired!

But I can’t rest on my laurels, since I still have that pesky 5k to worry about at the end of April and the 18-mile LBI run in October. Now, I can’t wait until I think of 20 minutes as a quick easy run instead of the hurdle of a lifetime!

So, one more time…

I AM A RUNNER!!!!!”

I still tear up today looking back on that first two mile run – it took me 9 more years to run that 18 mile race (it was terrible, but I did it!), and only a couple of months to get to my first, very triumphant, 5k. I’m an injured, sidelined runner today, but that feeling of pride and accomplishment has never left me and is what keeps me coming back. Running has never been easy for me, and I don’t think it ever will be. But two miles DID eventually become an “easy” run and today, running brings me more pain, joy, laughter, heartache, strength, and self-satisfaction than I ever could have imagined. And I am so grateful.

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