On August 27, 1997 I came home from my first day of high school, put on my running shoes, and ran out the door. Until that day I had never cared much for running. I was a fast kid, but even I thought that the mile run in gym class was the greatest form of childhood torture. But I came home from that August afternoon run with a sense of pride and power that I had never felt before. 1.5 miles!!! I had run 1.5 miles!!! Needless to say, I was giddy. So the next day I came home from school and put on my running shoes and ran out the door again. And again. And again.
My sister calls me a “Zen runner.” This is pretty funny because most people who know me would never use my name and the word “Zen” in the same sentence. “Anal, OCD, stubborn, driven, and crazy” perhaps. But “Zen?” Probably not. Ironically, I think she might be right. In spite of the races I’ve done and the distances I’ve run, I generally don’t care about time, pace, or place. Instead, running is my time to relax and take in the world around me. Perhaps it is my Zen. (Of course, I did just cave in recently and bought a Garmin, and it is definitely satisfying my inner-Excel-spreadsheet-loving-nerd!)
Running quickly became a central part of my life. It was rare that a day would pass when I didn’t run at least a few miles. Running was my happy place, and the roads and trails were where I felt like my truest self. Running was where I went to when I was happy, sad, frustrated, restless, confused, overwhelmed, or content. It was my physical, mental, and emotional outlet. Running was how I explored the world. It was how I made friends. It was where I went to dream. It is where I went to vent. It was where I went to pray. In essence, it was my coping strategy for life.
For the first few years the idea of running a marathon would occasionally flit into my mind, but the idea of training for a longer race definitely interfered with the informal nature of my running. But in 2003 I bit the bullet. I was studying abroad in Italy and had the opportunity to run the Venice Marathon with one of my professors and his wife. My professor was a seasoned marathoner, but it was going to be his wife’s first marathon. The idea of training with someone who knew what he was doing while still being in the company of another first-time marathoner seemed too good to pass up. And you know the adage, “When in Rome… (or Venice, I suppose).”
Maybe it was the misconception that there would be Nutella-filled crepes to celebrate the end of every long run (ah, but there should be!), but I returned home from my semester abroad having “caught the marathon bug.” Over the past 15 years I’ve accumulated a total of 15 marathons, nine 50-kilometer races, two 50 miler races, and a 76 mile ultra-marathon crossing of the Foothills Trail. I have put over 30,000 miles on my hips, have experienced amazing cities and backwoods trails, have made life-long friends, have been empowered by conquering new distances and faster times, and have been humbled by occasional wipe-outs. Overall, I have had a great deal of fun!