I cannot believe it’s been so many months since I last added to my blog. One would think that with our kids grown and on their own, life would slow down, but it just seems to get busier. Today we are having our first virtual school day, so I am home trying to stay warm, trying to keep our four dogs warm and out of trouble, and checking in with students as they complete their Elearning assignments. It’s a great day to write since I refuse to step outside.
Last week was my 52nd birthday. I don’t like to make a big deal out of my birthday at all, but I am pretty happy because it was also when I celebrated ten years of running. Ten years. When I started running, I honestly never dreamed that I would actually stick with it. I had never stuck with any form of exercising, and I didn’t really like running, so I just kept waiting to quit. And then something unexpected happened; it changed my life.
I didn’t plan to start running. My husband and I realized we were really out of shape in 2008. We were in Alaska on vacation, and everywhere we went people were biking, hiking, or running. We were struggling to hike. As my 42nd birthday approached, I was becoming more and more depressed. My dad died at 42 of a heart attack, and I just didn’t want a year of being 42. I finally decided to try running; I wanted to be proactive and take care of my heart, and of my mental health. I had always hated running, but I had a few friends who ran, and my husband had begun to run. I started by running on our gravel road. I had no idea what it would lead to. I had no idea that running would change our world. I had no idea the beauty I would experience because of running.
Running has done so much for me that I could write far more than anyone would ever want to read, so I’ll just give the highlight reel. First, running has given me confidence. After several months of trying to become a runner, I began to enter some races, starting with 5Ks. Crossing finish lines, no matter where I finish, has given me confidence in every area of my life. It has taught me that if I set goals, do the work, and get the the starting line, I can reach goals that I once thought impossible. Running also gave me the confidence to try new forms of exercise. I became a Zumba instructor, and taught several classes for a couple years. Then I got my certification to teach Tabata Bootcamp and taught early morning classes for four years. Through these classes and through Everbody’s Fitness, I’ve met so many inspirational and encouraging people. Most recently, I began to help coach our junior high cross country teams. Anyone who knew me in high school would find that hard to believe. Because I can’t keep up with most of the kids, I ride my bike alongside them and encourage (push?) them to keep going. I understand how hard running really is, and know the dedication these kids have for the sport.
Running has provided me with some fantastic experiences. I’ve not only run too many 5Ks to keep track of, but I’ve also run a few 10Ks, and 15 or 16 Half Marathons. We’ve run races in Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, to name a few. I’ve run while visiting Lake Tahoe, Tybee Island, and Louisville. While visiting new places, I’ve found that going for a run is a great way to check out the area. One of my favorite runs was in Chicago. I ran along the lake and had the museums in front of me, Lake Michigan on my left, and the incredible skyline on my right. In my world, that was heaven. Another favorite run was in Lake Tahoe. We were there for my step-son’s wedding, so I took advantage of being is such a beautiful place by making sure I got in early morning runs. One year while were in Las Vegas with several of my cousins and my sister, my husband and I got up early (yes, in Vegas), and ran a 5K before the others got up. We were back at the hotel in time to meet them for breakfast. The views during the race were amazing!
One of the best parts of running is the people. The running community as a whole is so supportive. Seasoned (and fast) runners cheer on the back-of-the-packers; everyone knows how difficult it is just to get to the starting line. The camaraderie of races is like nothing else I’ve experienced. The runners are friendly and excited about the possibilities of every race, no matter the difference in goals. One can see the determination and quiet nervousness of those in front who have the potential to place, and as the line goes on, one can observe the chattiness of those who are there simply to finish, or to spend those miles with their friends. I have run races alone, and with friends. Running with friends definitely makes the miles go by faster, but sometimes I like to run alone so I have no pressure to keep up with anyone, or to wait for anyone if I happen to be having a good day.
Running has given me the opportunity to share miles with my family. My husband and I have gone to almost all of my races together. We share our struggles and our victories. He encourages me to train and supports my running. He is always there for me when I need him to cheer me on. I’ve also had the amazing blessing of running with other family members. I’ve run my niece Erin’s first half marathon with her in Indianapolis, my niece Emily’s first half marathon with her in Bloomington, and my middle daughter Bethany’s first half with her in Indy. I cannot begin to express how much those races meant to me. Sharing a race experience is one of those times one won’t forget; it will always be a special memory.
Running has become something I share with my friends. The first friend I ran with was Jackie. We began together, desperately trying to add miles. In the beginning, we couldn’t imagine how runners actually talked to one another on runs. We could hardly breathe. As we became more experienced, we began to talk…and never stopped! Jackie’s sister, Kassi, then joined us. Because of schedule differences, the three of us don’t run as often now, but they have been my friends for over 40 years, and are part of my running story. They will always be my sisters. I’ve had some other running friends, but now I mostly run with coworkers after school. Kelly and Jennifer are much better runners than I, and they are much younger. They both push me to work harder. Most of the time they are a little ahead chatting away, while I follow, gasping the whole way. The three of us, along with our other friends and coworkers, Katie and Mary Jane, have run a few races together. The most important of those was the St. Jude Half Half Marathon. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, so that race is the most meaningful I’ve done.
I will never be a fast runner. I’ll never win races. I will continue to run as long as my body allows. I hope to experience new places through running, and to continue to encourage others along the way. I hope to always challenge myself and to set goals. I want my grandkids and my students to see that one is never too old to try something new or to get fit. If you are middle-aged or beyond and have thought about doing something new and healthy, do it! Know your limitations and start out small, but don’t let anyone tell you you can’t or that you are too old.
Happy Running Birthday to me!