In 1998, I ran my first marathon in the city I lived in and loved – Chicago. Before training for this marathon I had not run for more than 30 minutes at one time. My training partner was my best friend Caryn. As much as we had in common, our feelings on running was not one of them. Caryn could go on a 40 minute run on a whim…with obnoxious enthusiasm too.
At the time, running any minutes past one was mainly dreadful to me and it required a lot of mental preparation. Caryn saw it as a great release. When her and her boyfriend hit a brick wall in their relationship, Caryn laced up her Sauconys and went for a long run.
I can still remember the day we ran six miles. It was a first time for me. We got out early when the air was still crisp. As we started down Ashland Avenue heading north, I remember I was so nervous. I didn’t know then what this jittery tension meant. How could I be so nervous for running? It wasn’t even a race.
I’ve come to realize that being nervous is a really good thing. It means that you care and you want to do well. Running long runs helped me realize this.
In the almost 18 years from that time, I’ve run a lot. I still get nervous for long runs and so far I’ve survived all of them (please note: survived does not necessarily mean completed!), and the running has taught me a lot along the way. To be honest, I don’t love running. In fact, most times I’d rather do anything else. But I’ve learned that running is good for me. And here’s why:
- It forces me out of my comfort zone
- There is a sense of accomplishment no matter how slow, interrupted, short, or more walking than running, the run is
- Social running is the most enjoyable running for me (I dig people) and a good run with a good friend is hard to beat
- It helps my not-intended-to-be-tight jeans from becoming annoying… because, well, they’re snug (the struggle is real)
- Sometimes I fail. It’s okay. I’ll lace ’em up another day. (writing this bullet felt like maybe it could be a chant. Chant this if needed!)
Mostly it helps me clear out the crazy. I’ve run when I’m mad. I’ve run when I’m sad. I’ve run when I don’t know what the heck to do and when the world seems out to get me. Hundreds of times, I’ve laced up my shoes and I’ve put it in the pavement. And programs like Girls on the Run and Together Counts™ have supported me along the way.
I’ve worn out a lot of shoes since that first marathon. And come long run or race day, the nerves still come to visit but the lessons they stay – courage, commitment, strength and grace.
All those years ago, Caryn was on to something. The road can rise and fall but the pavement remains the same… A steady companion willing to receive your happy or heavy sole.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization that teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons that creatively integrate running. During the 10 to 12-week afterschool program, girls sharpen their independent thinking skills, celebrate their unique strengths and realize their power to make a difference in the world. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k run—an experience that unleashes their confidence and establishes a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
For more healthy ideas, check out these other reads from Together Counts!