I used to be a distance runner.
It was a deal I cut with my parents, actually, that made me a distance runner. I was so very done with piano lessons. I wanted to play jazz, and my fingers couldn't do it. So the bargain was that I could quit piano if I joined a high school sport.
So, it was January. I'm short, which rules out basketball and volleyball anyway. Track it was.
As tiny and thin as I was, they thought I'd make a good sprinter/hurdler.
They learned quickly that I really suck at sports. I became a distance runner. By the end of my junior year in high school, I was a journeyman distance runner. I could make decent time, but I wasn't going to win any races unless the top five runners in my district all caught the flu at the same time.
I quit my senior year because I was tired of sweating and because my coach stupidly put in an ultimatum that I had to choose between speech competition and track. I was good at speech. It was pretty much a no-brainer on my part.
I ran off and on all through college, through the years in New York, and even after child one was born, in a futile attempt to get my tiny body back. I switched to cycling because my knees hurt. Then I was an in-line skater. Then I just stopped exercising altogether after child three was born.
Last year, I was fat (for me). I was tired of things not fitting. Work, while not awful, was stressful. I needed to burn the stress. I needed time for me. Everyone else in my house hates running. Lots of my mommy and college friends on Facebook were running. Heck, I have cousins who run marathons.
So I grabbed a Couch to 5k plan.
That first run, if you can call it that, was humbling. I--who could run 2 miles in just over 13 minutes when I was 17--could not run two blocks without wheezing at 38.
I kept at it. I went even slower than the plan's pace. I didn't want to blow out a knee. I fought injuries, pollen, illness, and a broken toe.
It took me forever to get to a mile. Then two. Then I hit a wall, and trying to run three was torture.
I did a fun 5K obstacle run last December, mostly to see if I could. But my real goal was to run the timed city 5K race my institution holds each year. The entrance fees go to scholarships. People I knew would be seeing me run.
I was terrified I'd embarrass myself.
I was a bundle of nerves that morning. I could barely eat.
At the starting line, I was convinced I had lost my ever-loving mind.
The first mile was tough. The second was better. The third was sadistic: oh, my Alumni friends, backloading all of the hills was an idea straight out of Satan's playbook.
I ran uphill to the finish, pretending that the guy yelling at his girlfriend to finish hard was yelling at me. I rounded the corner and blinked in shock.
If I sprinted, I'd finish under 30 minutes. Ten-minute miles. Holy cr@p.
29:40. One of the top 10 women in my age group.
So I may not have won the race, but I won. I won my health back. I won my competitive edge back (yes, 20-something girls and 40-something guys, I really was gunning for you in that last mile, picking you off one by one). I won me back.
Get off the couch. Exercise. If I can do it, you can too.