High school sports was my domain. I was a 1,000 point scorer/1,000 rebound basketball player, state champion in volleyball… those were “my” sports. I ran track and field in the spring, but only to keep me from getting bored in between seasons. Running came easy to me: I was undefeated in the 400 hurdles for four years straight and I still hold the record for most points earned by any track athlete in my school’s history. But because I never really had to try at it, it didn’t give me the same identity that volleyball or basketball did. It was a place holder, something to keep me moving.
Oddly enough, I ran cross country and track at Juniata College, but even then I NEVER felt like a “runner.” Sure I ran, but it didn’t hold value to me like it did the other girls. It kept off the freshman 15, gave me a network of friends and kept me on track (anyone who knows me knows I NEED routine). Never though did I identify myself as a runner. I would tell friends I was, “a retired volleyball player who wanted to stay in shape.”
Even training for a marathon hasn’t made me feel like a runner… until today. Today was my first 18 mile run of my training cycle for the Philadelphia Marathon. I don’t have any pictures from my run, I don’t have any memories of what I thought about during those 2.5 hours on the road. Why? I’m not sure… I just zoned out from my first step to my last. I’d glance at my watch and saw seconds shave off every mile. Then, I’d black out again and keep crankin’. That’s when I knew. Today, Saturday, September 29th I became a runner.
I felt so strong. It was the first time in my life that I felt connected and in touch with my body. The things I used to hate (my “non-runner” thighs, that little pudge of fat at the bottom of my stomach) I appreciated. Those thighs are bigger because I’ve built up muscle in them each and every mile, each and every workout. That bit of fat is there because if I were 5’8″ 120lbs I wouldn’t be able to sustain 2+ hours of running. The body I was given was the body I’d trained to perform, trained to run a confident 18 miles. It was like I finally started to fall in love with the shell I was given.
When I finished I immediately texted my two best friends, Laura & Meghan. They embody my inner runner… the way I always wanted to be but never felt on the same level as. I sat on my front stoop and I cried hearing they texts of support and encouragement. 18 miles in 2:36 minutes (that’s 8:30 minute miles). In that moment, I let myself admit that I could do this marathon. I knew that my body was working with my mind. And, I knew that all the things I used to hate about my body were helping me achieve my goals. It was my most “religious” experience running. I’ll never forget how those 18 miles were kind of like an induction into the “running club” I always wanted to be a part of.