Recently, a coffee shop customer asks me, "Did you run today? Do you ever get tired of that question? Can you really talk about running forever? I mean, really??"'
I laughed. My answers:
"Yes, I ran today. I run most mornings. No, I really don't get tired of that question, because yes, I can talk about running all the time. In fact, don't start me on it, or I may never quit!"
I am by no means a running expert, although perhaps one day I will pursue becoming a running coach. But, I am passionate about it. Running has helped me in countless ways, and I have been asked my running story, so here it is:
1998. The house phone rings. I will be entering my Junior year of high school. When I pick up the phone, I hear:
"Is this Rachael?"
"Yes," I reply.
He said, "Well, this is the cross country coach, and we are needing members for the team this year. Would you consider joining?"
I laugh inside. My older sister had run cross country. My older brother had played football. And my younger brother would soon enough become a hard core runner/track participant. Me? Well, I was the band geek and the drama nerd. But, my response was, "I will consider it. Give me a couple of days to try it out."
The next day, I set out to see if cross country was something I could do. With my uncle's farm in sight, not quite a half mile down the country road, I started out. I couldn't even make it 2 houses down (on a country road, mind you) without stopping. There is NO way I am going to run cross country, I said. I am not a runner. And I never will be. This sport is not for me. I stuck strong with the band and drama.
Move forward 10 years. I am 26 years old. I work at Starbucks, and I didn't really have a hobby. I am a mom of 2 children, a wife, and a woman kind of struggling to find my own definitions in the midst of my family responsibilities.
It was Saturday morning, and it was blazing hot. Our Starbucks store was part of the United States Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Oh. We served coffee in the general's tent, which happened to be on the finish line. Between making sure coffee was filled, we got to watch the runners finish. I watched now Air Force Marathon director, Rob Aguiar (he was then Assistant Director) run around like crazy with his walkie talkie, helping hurt but determined participants cross the finish line. I watched him work with the generals, as they passed out finishing medals. I watched Rob cheer on people across the line.We joked that he was running a marathon outside of the lines. I was fascinated.
And then I watched all sizes cross the line. I saw 400 pound guys cross, dripping sweat but tearfilled at finishing. I witnessed 80 + year old men and women finish. I experienced groups of friends crossing, holding hands and cheering as they accomplished a life goal. I saw crazy, record- fast marathoners finish. I was also by the medical tent and witnessed the hurts and even the over heated vomiting runners.
Running and finishing held no discrimination. Sizes, Race, and Ages Of all ranges finished that marathon (or half marathon). As I saw this happen, I said, "I'm going to do this. " I said it out loud.
Whoops! Did I really say that? Me? The very much non runner??
Yes, I did. A few joined me in the excitement (but theirs didn't last).
So, I went home and told my husband I was going to do the Flying Pig Marathon in the spring. He probably thought I was crazy. He knew as much as I did that I didn't run. But, he said ok, and so I began my journey of running. It started in September 2008 and I am still going strong, more in love with the sport than ever. Only to me, I don't think of it as a sport. I think of it as a getaway. I think of it as fun. I think of it as my time to be me. My time to be free. I think of it as a wonderful (even if challenging) experience. When I run, I am simply "me". It has become one of my definitions in the midst of life's chaos and responsibilities.
Soon after I'd begun running, and I couldn't yet complete a full mile, my younger brother- my United States Marine Corps drill instructor brother- came into town. He, mind you, ran for his job most days. Well, he took me out running. And boy, did he run me! But you know what? He taught me some valuable lessons. Tim taught me Some warm up drills. Some post run cool offs. Some lung building exercises. And you know what else? That day I ran with him (or he barked at me while I ran), I completed my first mile without stopping. (He lied to me at one point when I asked him how far we'd gone. He said half a mile, when actually we were almost done with our mile! ) I hated him and loved him for helping me get through that point that I never thought would come.
My training continued through the winter. Not being a seasoned runner, and not liking winter at all, as we moved into winter months, I did my training on a treadmill. Let me tell you that 6 miles on a treadmill is awful! I went to the running store and got the winter running gear and somehow fell in love with running out in the cold-yet another aspect I never thought I'd be doing. On my longer training runs moving into April, just a few weeks from my very first race, a half marathon, my husband would drive along the route and drop me water bottles. I was falling in love with running. And in the process, I was learning many important lessons about myself. I was learning I could be more than I ever thought. I was learning that I could accomplish things I never thought I could do. I was learning I had a lot inside me to offer.
Race day was approaching.
The 2009 Flying Pig Half Marathon. We went into the expo and I became like a kid in a candy store. All the running gear you could imagine. Shirts that had fun sayings on them, like "Running is Cheaper than Therapy" Or "Running is my Happy Hour" or, one I've come to laugh at and love "Does this shirt make my butt look fast" (perhaps you have to be a runner to understand all the humor here...) . There were runners of all sizes inside that expo. There were races advertised. But the most important thing there: My race bib. My very first race bib.
As much as I wanted to say all I wanted to do was finish, I really wanted to finish it under 3 hours. I know, that is s....l....o....w. But for me, it was an accomplishment. My friends had a big pasta dinner for me the night before, along with a big cookie that said "Beat the Pig" . The anticipation was high, and the excitement was almost exploding.
To be continued......