I never considered myself a runner. In fact, you might almost say I hated running, or at least running just for running’s sake. Get me out on the court with a good tennis racket and a friend, and I could run around for hours, but running by itself? No thanks! Swimming? YES. Badminton? YES. Cycling? YES. Running? Umm… I think there’s some chores or cooking
anything else in the world I need to do…
I was used to a pretty active lifestyle though, so when I was in Spain and didn’t have access to all the sporting facilities I did at home and in college, I began to feel the need to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING requiring physical exertion. I started running with my roommate a couple times a week through the park near our apartment, generally getting in a respectable 20-30 minutes of what I called running but were more likely a slow jog. I even went to a group running activity one weekend and nearly died (at least, that’s how it felt). I kept truckin’ along, throwing in core workouts in our miniscule living room when I just couldn’t motivate myself to get on the tennis shoes and get my butt out the door.
I continued like that for a while, and then, strangely enough, it was a day of cycling that really pushed me into running. I spent five hours pedaling a trail that runs all around Madrid with two friends who were more active than me on a normal basis, and they whooped my hiney. It was the most I’d been pushed physically in ages, and the next time I went running, I all of a sudden realized, hey! I can most definitely go a little farther than I normally do! I can do this!
So I started going a little longer, getting from 30 minute runs to almost an hour as I extended my circuit through the park. Then one of my best friends invited me to do a half marathon with her the following spring. It was great having someone to train with. We checked in with each other during the week and did long runs on the weekends, exploring new parts of the city and all its parks, and chatting between pants for breath. And it was good. We finished the race. I was so proud of us.
This past Sunday, I was at the starting line again. Different race, different city, completely different continent, but I was ready to run a half marathon again. I had been taking advantage of this waiting season I have been in to train well, so I really wanted to see how much better I could do. I missed having my running buddy from last time there with me, but as I watched the sun rise from behind St. Mary’s Cathedral next to Hyde Park, I was excited to see where the route was going to take me and thankful for what a beautiful day it promised to be.
And then we were off, thousands of feet pounding the pavement together, sweaty bodies jockeying for position, everyone going at their own pace. It was great. It was one of those moments that I now love about running – when you’re running a new trail, or even just a path you haven’t run too many times before, it’s like some grand adventure. You get to see places you don’t normally go. You get to people watch and marvel at just how eccentric and varied humanity can be. You get to smile at a German Shepherd dribbling a soccer ball. You get to connect your body with the environment you’re passing through, maneuvering your feet to find the best direction and modulating your pace to match the hills.
Believe it or not, I was actually smiling most of the race. I was enjoying myself, thoroughly. I, who used to avoid running as something unsavory, was currently incredibly happy to be where I was at and doing what I was doing. And I was so excited to get to see Zach and Kali at the end and share the moment with them.
Hmm… I guess that’s it then. This must be who I am. I’ve become a runner.