Monday, November 11, 2013

On the Road Again

I never thought it would be running.


If you had asked me five years ago how I preferred to channel my emotions, clear my head, or build my motivation, I might have said singingdancing, or likely a combination of. I am a born performer. The closest thing I’ve ever come to being a real athlete is to play one on stage.
In 2010, as I neared the end of my senior year of college, my best friend suggested we run a half marathon during the summer. “Running?” I thought. “Well, there aren’t any balls, nets, or goals involved…Maybe this could be one sport I wouldn’t embarrass myself in.” So I agreed.
My training process was nonexistent. Just two weeks before race day I finally reached 8 miles, the longest I had ever run. Needless to say, I didn’t feel all that confident on race morning knowing that I had 5.1 more miles to run beyond that.
Miraculously, I crossed the finish line alongside my best friend and sister, who I coaxed into joining us last minute. I had survived my first half marathon. Although my body was definitely exhausted after the race, I realized it didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would. In fact, later that night I performed in a local production of The Sound of Music. (Told you. Born performer.)
Feeling as though I may have finally discovered my long, lost athleticism, I decided to one-up myself. Five months later I ran a full marathon. Me. Perhaps one of the least athletic people you will ever meet, ran 26.2 miles. Four months later I ran another half marathon. I had officially caught the running bug.
While everyone competes in races for their own reasons, mine was never about winning (like that would EVER happen). In fact, the actual race had no real importance to me. It was about the weeks leading up to it. My runs were my therapy. No matter what kind of day I had, I let everything out when I ran. With each step into the pavement, each lap, each mile, I felt stronger, more confident, more alive. No activity, not even performing on stage, had ever made me feel that way.
A few years back I had a lot of friends ask me how I trained. As a firm believer in the fact that anyone can do this, I have decided to share some super awesome secrets to help inspire other non-runners in the world to lace up and give it a try.
Rule #1 – Makeover your running attire from the ground, up. 
If you can bend the toe of your current athletic shoe backward to meet the heel, you need new shoes. You need a shoe that will protect your feet and knee joints. I have high arches so I run in asics. They provide a lot of protection and comfort when pounding the pavement for an extended amount of time. If you are unsure of what kind of shoe is best for your feet, visit a local running store for guidance. As for clothes, the reason we didn’t have to wear Nike attire in junior high gym class is because it is okay to exercise in a t-shirt and shorts! Athletic wear does breathe better than cotton but budget in a new wardrobe after buying new shoes.
Rule #2 – Find your happy place.
When finding your running location, here are a few important factors to remember. Try to be as far away from the road as you can. Not only is it dangerous running so close to traffic, breathing in the exhaust is harmful to your lungs. Parks are great places to run. They often have easy parking, water fountains, and bathrooms, which you will need after running for over an hour. Find an atmosphere that you enjoy. Whether it is running near the water, trees, mountains, or maybe just a peaceful neighborhood, find a place that you look forward to returning to because sometimes it will be the only motivation you have.
Rule #3 – Don’t underestimate the power of a playlist. 
Most runners enjoy listening to music while they run. I can’t run without it. Much like finding a place you will enjoy running, find the right music to keep you moving. I choose my running jams based on what inspires me. I feel confident when Lady Gaga tells me I was “Born This Way.”I feel strong when Miranda Lambert says I’m the “Fastest Girl in Town.” And I feel sexy when Pitbull says my… oh, never mind. Having a set running route and playlist can also be a great tool to track your pace in case you don’t have a fancy GPS strapped to your body. If you find that you are reaching that intersection a little further in the music than you remember, you know you need to speed up… Or add more Lady Gaga to your playlist. Works for me.
Rule #4 – Don’t just run. 
It’s true! Training to run a race takes more than just running. The reason many training plans suggest cross-training throughout is because when you run long distances, you start to burn away muscle. Balance out your training with some light weight lifting and strength training. Also, try not to get too comfortable with your running. Throw in some speed intervals, sprint up the upcoming hill, or pass that guy who recently jogged past you (How dare he!). These methods will increase your strength and endurance. Just because you can easily run 9 miles doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to run it faster.
Rule #4 – Do it for something bigger than yourself. 
This is the most important rule of all. If you aren’t a seasoned runner, getting through the training of your first race can be really tough. Getting out to run on the days when weather isn’t great or your body feels tired can be just plain impossible…unless it isn’t just about you. Some organizations, such as The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, organize fundraising teams to inspire new athletes to find purpose in their race. It is also easy to pioneer your own fundraiser for a cause you feel passionate about. Online giving pages, such as gofundme.com, allow you to share your efforts with friends and family across the world, and you will be surprised with the incoming support! Whether you raise awareness, funds, or both, using your race as a platform to make a difference will help you reach your goals and empower you to keep moving forward.

In January 2011 I ran a marathon for Jasmine who was in the middle of a 36-week chemo treatment. Using raceraiser.com, friends and family donated over $2,000 to help her family. Here I am meeting my inspiration for the first time 7 months after the race.
So now you know.
You don’t need a personal trainer, $200 shoes, or a God-given talent to be a runner. You can be a non-athletic, female in her 20′s, or a retired teacher in his 80′s (It’s true! They have passed me on the course!) Anyone with a little ambition and a lot of creativity is sure to succeed. I encourage anyone who has ever thought, “I could never do that,” to fix their eye on the horizon, set their goal, and take off.
It just might change your life.

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