Monday, June 14, 2010

The Journey Back to Running, Part 1

I am a runner....reallly I feel like that should say "I WAS a runner" because right now I'm not so sure I can claim that title....and the journey back to running is a hard one.

When I first started running in 2006, it was a new experience for me. While I had run a little in high school, I was really never much of an athlete. There was one race I won simply because no other school had anyone to enter into the mile event. They put their best sprinters in, but they didn't know how to keep plodding along for an entire mile. That race looked like a real live "Tortoise and Hares" kind of race. I was thrilled, but even I knew I wasn't really much of a runner....they were just unprepared.

Fast forward 30 years (yes, it took that many years before I started running again.) We had just come through Hurricane Katrina and I was discovering a new lifestyle of fitness that I really enjoyed. I had gotten used to the heat, thanks to no electricity for two weeks, and I was losing weight, thanks to reduced food being readily available....did I mention we'd had a hurricane? I even was getting used to exercise thanks to having to haul limbs and trees from my front yard, wet clothes from my destroyed closet, and construction debris from my house while we tried to repair the rooms. In the midst of all this, I discovered the program "Biggest Loser", thanks in part to only having one station that would come in clearly after the storm. That show became my inspiration and motivation to hit the gym.

After about 7 months of exercising on a regular basis, I  decided to enter a race to celebrate my 48th birthday. It was a 5K and it seemed like such a HUGE distance, but I was determined to give it a try. I signed up and then started increasing my time on the treadmill in hopes of not being too embarassed at the race. Truthfully, I still had no thoughts of myself as an athlete. I was just having fun.

Race day came and I not only ran part of the course, I actually won my age division....thanks once again to no one else in my age bracket showing up for the race. Still, I didn't care. I was hooked. I was so proud of my first place medal that day. I still, however, didn't really consider myself a runner.

For the next few weeks, I continued going to the gym to run/walk on the treadmills. Then on my way home one day, I saw a woman at our school track setting up cones so I decided to ask what she was doing. She was from the local runners club and they were beginning a 12 week training course for 5K's. She encouraged me to come. I gave her the old, "I'll try", and went home. It had been a particularly tough day and I just wanted to collapse on my couch and feel sorry for myself. Somehow, her encouragement kept ringing in my head and before I knew it I was lacing up my shoes and heading back out the door.

I came to the training pretty faithfully. To be honest, I remember being amazed at myself. I had never been that consistent with any form of exercise in my life! Each week I could see a bit of improvement in my abilities...but I still didn't see myself as a runner, especially not since I was out there with people who were running 5K's so much faster than me. Looking back, I realize that during those beginning days at the track, I was surrounded by some of the most encouraging people I had ever known in my life. Each runner was working on becoming better, and eager to help others do the same. They kept me coming back. The most encouraging person of all was our "coach." She was a few years older than me, but able to run faster and longer than women half her age. She saw in me what I could not see in myself.

I distinctly remember the race when I signed my name as Donna "the runner" Sumrall. I did it as a joke, but also as a motivator to myself. Coach had been telling me for weeks I had to start seeing myself as a runner; on that day, as an act of will, I decided to do just that. I don't remember if I even placed in that race, but I do remember how I felt when I crossed the finish line. I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to.

With each week, I continued to run, even setting my sights on a half marathon. I ran that half marathon and had a blast....and then I quit running. No, I didn't quit running as much. I quit running. One week turned into one month that turned into one year that turned into two. I'd make sporadic attempts at getting back into a routine, but something was different; something was missing.

Over the next two years, I continued to run, but not with the joy or success I once knew; and I miss that. So now what do I do? Well, like most people who somehow get off course, I've decided to go back to the beginning and start again. For me, that means hitting the gym on an almost daily basis and then joining others training for a 5K. Tomorrow night is the first meeting of the 12 weeks, and I plan to be there. Will I be able to find my way back to the joy of running? Good question. I guess I'll find out, and you'll be able to read about the answer in the coming weeks. Hopefully the answer lies ahead and it won't take 30 years to find it this time.


For those in the Hattiesburg area, the Pinebelt Pacers will begin their 12 week training this Tuesday, June 15th at the Thames track. Come join in what some of us call "fun".
Hebrews 12:1, GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)

"Since we are surrounded by so many examples [of faith], we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up."

1 comment:

Mary said...

Great column, Donna. You've really captured that new runner phase, the identity thing (I'm a runner, I'm not a runner, etc), and how hard it can be to get started again.

Hope to see you at 5k's for many years to come.

Mary