I don’t remember how I got interested in running. I think every now and then I’d trudge along behind my far more athletic friends in high school. The first couple years of college, I tried Couch-to-5K, with little success. The first time I really remember enjoying it was the summer after my sophomore year of college. I was working during the day and studying for the MCAT at night. It was a busy, but fun, summer. And after a long day, nothing felt better than going for an evening run around University Circle. I’m still not sure what sparked my interest, but I do know when I became a “runner”.
On setting goals:
At the end of 2013, as everyone was setting resolutions, I was thinking about what my own would be. It happened to be an episode of Modern Family that inspired me. In this episode, Phil Dunphy was powering through the miles on an elliptical. He had set a goal to travel (symbolically) from his home in LA to Canada, via elliptical. Even though his efforts were subject to ridicule in the show, I thought this was a fantastic goal. So keeping in the spirit, I resolved that in 2014, I would run 300 miles: the distance between Cleveland and Toronto. At the time I wouldn’t have dared calling myself as such, but that was when I became a runner.
My first road race was hard. I had only been on a treadmill up till then, and once I got outside, I realized I was using completely different muscles. At mile two, I slowed to a walk. That is, until an older woman passed by me and shouted, “You’re almost done, don’t stop now!” Thank you for the encouragement, complete stranger. I won’t let you down. I picked it back up and finished the race at a run.
From then on, progress was good. I bought winter running clothes! I actually wore them! I got up early most mornings, and ran through the wind and the ice.
At the beginning of the year, my pace was encouraging. According to my RunKeeper stats, if I kept it up, I would finish by September. I thought that maybe I’d picked too easy of a goal! Luckily, Kaitlin and I had set another – to run one race per month, the entire year.
And while we kept up that goal, I let my other one slide. I slowed down in the summer. Maybe the comfortable weather made me lazy. But for one reason or another, I got off track. And by the end of the year, I was immensely off course.
Around November, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off. It was kind of a load off my shoulders, thinking I could take it easy for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, my stupid running partner had to go and ask me how much more I had left. How many more miles per week would I have to put in to finish?
At that point, it was eight. Then ten. Then twelve?
Up until the end, no matter how big that number got, no matter how much I wanted to say “it’s hopeless, I quit”, Kaitlin would tell me no. “That’s hard, but it’s still doable. Do it.” Fine, stupid running partner. I won’t let you down.
I ran an amazing amount (for me) those last few weeks. Nearly 50 miles in the first two weeks of December! But then the next two weeks, almost nothing. For various…reasons? Excuses? I couldn’t keep up the pace.
By New Year’s Eve, I had run 285 miles. I didn’t make it.
It took me until three weeks into 2015 to finish those last 15 miles. The last mile was a little bittersweet; it felt great to hit 300, but it was a bummer that I couldn’t do it in a year. It felt like failing.
And it felt like that until a couple hours later, when I decided that by the end of 2015, I will run 350 miles. Maybe I fell short last year, but I can sure as hell do it this year, and with the stakes raised.
On paper, my goal was 300 miles. But what was I actually trying to achieve?
I was trying to be healthier and more active.
I had succeeded.
I was trying to spend more time with my friends.
I had succeeded.
I was trying to get to know my city, its streets, and the people in it.
I had succeeded. In 2014, I ran 10 5K’s and two 10K’s, in neighborhoods all over Cleveland.
I became a runner when I set my goals. When I followed through. When I fell short. When I set more.
And as of yesterday, I set another. This May, I’m going to be attempting my first half-marathon. I had intended to do another 10K at the Cleveland Marathon, like last year. But… I did that last year. And I’m not quite at the point to be upping my pace (I’ll explain later), so I have to step it up somehow. I mean, what good is a goal if it’s going to be easy? My training is starting a little late, but if I stick with the plan, it should be possible. That’s what K tells me, anyway, and I guess for now I’ll believe her.
Who knows if I’ll make it, but I’ll still be a “runner” just the same.