2020 brought lots of weirdness and changes in routine, but they weren’t all bad. This year I’ve gotten a lot more serious about running. Over the years I’ve done the occasional 5k or 10k, training minimally and spending more effort and thought on my finish-line selfie than my pace or rank. But this year, with so many of our usual activities cancelled, I figured I’d have extra time for training and finally signed up for my first-ever half marathon.
The thing about a half marathon is that I can’t just blow off the training and hope for the best like I could with a shorter race. Knowing that I have a deadline looming has kept me consistent about getting out and running regularly. And I don’t want to simply survive the half marathon, limping painfully across the finish line. I want to finish well—uninjured and with a smile (because that post-race victory selfie is still going to happen, believe me).
And it’s been fun to see the progression—I went from barely being able to run a mile several months ago (and certainly not without some rather dramatic lung wheezing) to being able to handle long weekend jogs of 6 or 8 miles (and in a couple more weeks, I’ll attempt my first 10-miler).
I wish I could say that I’m seeing progress in the getting-skinnier department, but alas. The one downside of running is that it makes me ravenously hungry. Within about an hour of two of returning home from a long run, I tend to descend on the kitchen with the zeal of a teenage boy. So it pretty much evens out.
I recently told one of my friends that I have kind of a love/hate relationship with running, but I’ve discovered that it gets better the more I do it. The first few times a newbie like me goes running, it feels awful. Everything hurts; it’s hard to breathe. You wonder why anyone would find it enjoyable. But when you get to the point where you can run a considerable distance with nothing hurting and without gasping for air, it actually feels pretty good.
In spite of all of this, I still don’t really think of myself as a runner. When I’m running on the river trail, I see so many athletes training for their long-distance runs, and they’re clearly out of my league. It can be easy to get discouraged or feel like an imposter. They’re the real runners… I’m just a 30-something mom of two putting one slow foot in front of the other. I doubt my running form is any good. I’m not really clear on what “overpronation” means, but I probably do it. My legs are in a constant state of soreness. And I still have plenty of days when I have to pry my lazy self off the cozy couch when I would rather watch TV and eat cookies.
But here I am, only about two months away from the big race day. I’m getting stronger and building endurance. I’m spending lots of time outdoors and getting plenty of vitamin D and fresh air. I’m enjoying the beauty of running alongside local lakes and rivers. I may not be a “real” runner, but I’m reaping the same benefits.
So thank you, 2020, for the gift of time. I’m pretty sure I would have given up by now if I’d had the option of doing other things (like going on that cruise… still haven’t quite forgiven you for taking that away from me). Here’s to 2021, the year I complete my first half marathon. And maybe—just maybe—it won’t be my last.