Sunday, June 23, 2019

I Hate Running.

My First Mini - 05.05.2007
In 2007, I wrote an article about my entry into the world of running.  To my surprise, it was published in the December 2007 issue of Women’s Health.  I know many folks are considering joining Lawrence County’s Stone to Stone running program this summer, and I thought resurrecting this article might give some fire to someone on the fence about joining.

Additionally, I appreciate the full-circle quality of rereading this article today.  I mention my mentors in the “training group,” and now I’m going to be one of those mentors.

If you want to learn more about Stone to Stone, the program that will turn you into a half marathoner, come to an informational call-out meeting at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence County (2009 19th Street, Bedford, IN 47421), on Thursday, June 27 at 6:00 P.M.  See you there!
            I hate running.
            For the first 27 years of my life, this was my mantra.  As a public school student, I loathed lap running in P.E.  As an adult, I watched the local sweat-sodden road runners jogging through town and thought, “Crazy.”  Sure, running could keep a gal fit, but there were other ways to stay healthy, right?  Who on Earth would choose to run?  For fun?
            On purpose?
            My life took an unexpected turn in April 2003 when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.  Amid all the digestive and kidney complications, it occurred to me that to be healthy, I would have to introduce some kind of physical fitness program into my lifestyle.  I began light weight training and walking programs.  No running necessary.
            While watching a news program a few years later, I was drawn to a story about a plucky teenager who ran a marathon for charity.  She said, “If I can do it, anyone can!”  A momentary, “I could do something like that,” flitted through my mind.
            But I hate running.
            Nonetheless, I kept thinking about that teenager and her motivating statement that “anyone” could run a marathon.  I started slipping comments regarding running into conversation with my family and friends, testing the waters of their confidence in me.  Most of them gave me the same furrowed-brow, wrinkled-lip face that asked, “Are you serious?”  A few gave hesitant encouragement after fleeting flickers of the previously mentioned facial expression.  My oldest stepson, however, said, “I hear there’s going to be a training group organized for folks running the Mini.”
            The Mini.  The half-marathon.  The 13.1-mile race that includes a whip around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The kickoff event for the 500 Festival.  The biggest half-marathon in the world with 35,000 participants.
            Sign me up.
            What kind of individual voluntarily enlists to complete a 13.1-mile race when she can’t even run all the way around a quarter-mile track?  Why I took that leap of faith is not easy to explain.  It might have been to prove something to the shocked-faced friends who thought I couldn’t do it.  It might have been to prove something to myself.  Ultimately, I think it was the overwhelming urge to shut up, suck it up, and go for it: to force myself to attain a goal that seemed impossible to reach.
            My first training run fell six months before the 500 Festival Mini Marathon.  Terrified of my commitment, I watched as those crazy road runners whom I’d seen only through confused eyes, began to arrive; they were going to be my mentors.  When I could run only a short two minutes, they didn’t make fun of me.  We walked until I could run again.  This pattern continued for days until I ran my first mile without stopping.  My mentors celebrated with me as if my accomplishment were profound.
            Because it was.
            I didn’t need extrinsic motivation to stick to my training schedule.  Throughout my early runs, I discovered that the Crohn’s pain in my abdomen lessened as I ran.  Long distance runs rendered me pain free.  Running brought more energy, more zest for life, more healthiness, and a more positive attitude.
Getting ready to enter
the corral in 2007
            I ran in the rain.  I ran in the wind.  I ran in the snow.   One morning, my eyelids froze shut from the bitter cold.  Finally, I ran two miles.  Then three.  Five.  Eight.  Ten.  Family and friends did double-takes, then honked and waved in disbelief as I pounded the city’s wintry streets on my quest to accomplish the impossible.
            The morning of the Mini dawned heavy with humidity.  Standing in Corral G, a prime starting spot I’d earned by posting a qualifying pace in a local training series run, it occurred to me that six months of physical and mental preparation culminated to this moment.  The Crohn’s-diseased girl who hated running was about to embark on a 13.1-mile jogging journey with nothing but a prayer, an iPod, and a will of steel.  Nevertheless, I was shaking in my worn running shoes.
            Due to the large volume of runners, my Corral remained motionless when the gun sounded—not the climactic start I’d expected.  I finally reached the start line six minutes after the gun, and took off at my pace.
            For the first few miles, runners flew past me as if I were a rock on the road.  Self-talk helped me focus: “Run your race.  Run your pace.  Don’t stop.”  By Mile Marker 5, I was passing those fleet-footed runners.
            As I wound through Indianapolis’s downtown and residential streets, masses of people stood on the sidewalks cheering on the runners.  Bands playing upbeat tunes lined the streets.  Welcome as water-stations, these encouragers gave me much needed refueling.  My self-talk continued, “Don’t stop.  Don’t stop.”
            I began to weaken after Mile Marker 7, which was on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  My ankles ached from the banked track, and I missed the cheering crowds who weren’t allowed inside the Speedway’s looming walls.  My mantra echoed in my head with each step.  “Don’t.  Stop.  Don’t.  Stop.”
            The sighting of an IndyCar racer at Mile Marker 8 gave me an adrenaline boost, as did the long-awaited exit from the track and the encouragement of a friend who reached out to slap my hand on Mile 9.  At Mile 10, a man in the crowd shouted to me, “You from Indiana?  We don’t stop in Indiana!”  I found another friend at Mile 11.  With twelve miles behind me, I entered the Victory Mile on New York Street.  As I did, the sultry sun burst from behind the clouds.  I summoned all my will as I sped to the finish line.
Finishing the 2007 Mini
            “DON’T!  STOP!  DON’T!  STOP!”
            With the finish line steps away, I saw a pink sign with my name thrust into the air.  It was held by the hands of my mother, who was screaming my name.  My husband’s face was not visible behind the lens of his camera.  My father clapped his hands until they were hot, and he cried a little too, I think.  Also weeping tears of joy, I hit the finish line with my arms raised in triumph.  My husband said I was one of the only runners who finished smiling.
            I hadn’t stopped.  I’d had every opportunity to give up, drop out.  But for two hours, 18 minutes, and 22 seconds, I ran—without stopping.  I crossed the finish line in 13,743rd place.  All around me were men, women, and children staring at each other in stunned disbelief at what we had all just done.  We had just run a half-marathon.
            I ran a half-marathon.
            Back home in southern Indiana, I continue to train through the city’s streets.  Dismayed drivers, in my old position, look in disbelief at this sweat-sodden road runner on a solo mission along Hoosier hills, and think, “Crazy.”  That’s OK, because they don’t know what I know.  I choose to run, for fun, on purpose, because running has shown me that nothing is impossible, and impossible is nothing.
            Because I love running.

Starting my 10th Indy Mini in 2019