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5 years ago today…

It was exactly five years ago today that I ran five miles for the very first time. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I started running in June 2005. Running, at that time in my life, consisted of me putting one foot in front of the other, kicking up my feet a bit and repeating until my heart was pounding and my oxygen levels were depleted. It was HARD. And I hated it. But I kept at it. And one mile turned into two miles. And two miles turned into three. And three, on the days I really pushed myself, turned into four. Seven months later, it was February and I had peaked at four miles. Sure, I was making progress, but though I was running slightly faster and I didn’t hate it as much as I used to, there was no real catalyst to ever run more than that.

And then I signed up for two half marathons occurring Spring 2006. Somehow, through the grace of everything that is holy, I was going to go from barely being able to run 4 miles to running 13.1. Of course I was.

So on February 8th, I met my running friends in Broadripple. We had a tentative running group that ran together throughout the week and on this night it was me, my friend Laura and Coach O. Both were better runners than I, but slowed down to keep pace with me. When we got to the 2-mile turnaround, we didn’t, in fact, turn around. We kept going because that night, for the first time ever, I was going to run five miles. I remember the night clearly. It was thirty degrees and snowing massive, gorgeous flakes that were large enough to actually hydrate you if they landed on your tongue. The Monon Trail was clear. It was a perfect night. Laura told stories (she always has good stories) and Coach O (who is quite possibly the funniest man alive) kept the laughter going. Before I knew it, we were back at our cars and I had done it. Five miles. I was elated.

Laura & I

What I hope people take from this story is that sometimes, it’s just that easy. It’s making the decision not to stay in your comfort zone. It’s running the mile you have never run. It’s pushing yourself to go just a bit further. When people ask me how on earth I can run 26.2 miles, this is what I tell them. If you can run 4 miles, you can run 5. And if you can run 5, you’ll get to 6. And if you can run 13.1, you can run 15. And after you run 18 miles, 20 won’t seem that bad. And by then, you are ready for a marathon. I’m not saying it doesn’t require a lot of hard work and a lot of time. And focus. Strategy. Knowledge. Commitment. Drive. But what I am saying is that you can do it. Whether it’s the 5k you never thought you’d be able to run, or the Mini Marathon you always dreamed about, or the marathon you never thought possible. They are all entirely doable.

Let’s hear it beginning runners. What’s your most exciting running moment to date? Was it the first time you ran an 11 minute mile? (I’m looking at you, Ashley!) Was it when you crossed the finish line during your first race? Or the time you got on the scale and realized you hit your goal weight? Was it the first time a run felt so easy, that you were certain you could keep going forever?

I want to hear all about them. Every single one.

30 Comments Post a comment
  1. Justine #

    I’m hoping that when I cross the finish line in May I can revise this story… But for right now it was the first time I ran 3.1 miles straight. I had tried and failed to start running several times. I finally downloaded the couch to 5k app and followed it faithfully. Lo and behold… I finally ran those 3 miles without stopping. Now I’m up to 5 and keeping my fingers crossed for 13.1 in May. Thanks for always being a constant source of running inspiration for me!

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      Justine! You have come so far and I know you are going to rock that half marathon. It will be the most exciting thing to cross the finish line. I hope I am standing there to hug you when you do!!!

      February 8, 2011
  2. Thank you SO much for this post! I needed to hear this today.

    I actually just blogged about my most exciting running moment to date this morning. But it was New Year’s Day this year, I ran a 5K in -11 degrees with 25 mph wind gusts. I’d run this particular race route before, but this time it was covered in sheer ice. I managed to PR by over 2 freaking minutes! My husband captured my reaction to it in a picture right as I crossed the finish line. I was FREEZING, had ice crystals all over my eye lashes and eye brows, my face looked like a wind beaten lobster, and I couldn’t feel my feet or hands. But I didn’t care. I ran when most people would have stayed in their warm beds on a day like that. And I managed to PR by A LOT. It was an amazing moment. While I’ve run a lot faster than that within this past month, it was that sense of accomplishment on that run that keeps me going every single day.

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      Dear gawd. That sounds equally awful and amazing. The fact that it was miserable weather and that you not only finished, but beat your time….by a LOT! And you are right…you did what so few people did that day. What an awesome story and I can see what it motivates you. It does the same for me.

      February 8, 2011
  3. Love this post! Just what I need to get my butt in gear for the Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago in April! THAT WILL be my defining moment. :)

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      Good luck and keep that mantra going! I can’t wait to hear about it in March!

      February 8, 2011
  4. Dan #

    Good stuff! I ran my first 5K in December… the Santa Shuffle, here in Chicago. It was cold, wet and the ground was covered in snow… not the most ideal conditions, but it was fun! I’m doing my first 8K and 10K in April. Maybe a half marathon next summer!

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      I love that when most people were snuggled under blankets you were doing your first 5k!! That’s impressive. Good luck in all your races. Sounds like you are going to rock them!

      February 8, 2011
  5. Josh #

    I have always stated emphatically that “I am not a runner. ” But last fall I fell back in love with an old flame, and she was training for her first marathon. I was so inspired by her that I thought maybe I could run too! I ran my first road race with her and her family on Thanksgiving day. I beat my personal best 5K time that day, and I made a wonderful memory that I will never forget!

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      That’s the best story ever. You ran to impress a girl. Pretty darn romantic. So you rocked the 5K…but did you get the girl?!

      February 8, 2011
      • Joshua Lewis #

        I did actually. I proposed to my darling Kate this morning on Goose Rocks Beach, in Kennebunkport, Maine. She accepted, and we will be married. Date TBD. :)

        February 11, 2011
        • mdials #

          I am so happy for you both!!! Welcome to the family, Josh! Congratulations.

          February 11, 2011
  6. So far my favorite moment was finishing my 2nd 5k. I beat my first time by about 3 or 4 minutes…for some reason I cannot think of my times right now. I am signed up for (and training for) my first half marathon on April 30. I imagine that will be my proudest moment.

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      There’s nothing quite like kicking your own arse to make you feel proud! Congrats on your 5K PR. I have a feeling that your 13.1 race is going to be a moment you never forget. Good luck!!

      February 8, 2011
  7. Marilyn #

    I just did Day Two of Couch to 5k this afternoon. I did the Couch to 5k program after my first pregnancy, and it was what I needed to get rid of the last few annoying pounds. I did several 5k’s once I completed the program, my favorite which was the Highway 40 Run or “Fun on the Freeway”. A major highway running through the middle of St. Louis was shut down for two years and completely rebuilt. On the day the highway was supposed to open again, they held a 5k, on the highway. I thought it was the coolest thing running down the highway with 5,000 other running buddies. It felt so amazing to be a part of a historical moment in St. Louis that will never be repeated. It was all over the news and the shots from the bridges we ran under were hilarious (http://www.ksdk.com/news/watercooler/story.aspx?storyid=191180&catid=71). That will be a lifelong memory, and I’m so glad I was able to participate in it.

    I got pregnant for the second time shortly after that race, and have just this week returned to running. I know they say it’s okay to keep running while pregnant, but something about it just made me nervous. I did the second day of Couch to 5k today on a treadmill at Club Fitness. I remember the first time I did the first week of Couch to 5k, and I remember my lungs burning, and my legs aching, and basically wanting to die. This time around, I’ve barely broken a sweat so far. I’m not certain why that is, but part of me thinks this time around I don’t have the mental weight of wondering whether or not I can do it. The first time around, I would let the pessimistic thoughts creep in like, “You’re not an athlete” and “This is too hard for you” and “Who are you kidding”. This time I don’t even have those options, because I have done it, and therefore I know I can.

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      What a cool race! And yes, don’t you think the mental game is almost harder than the physical? The fact that you know you can do it…I am sure it’s making it easier. Congrats on getting back to it!

      February 8, 2011
  8. I’ve been consistently running for just over a year now. I tried 2x previously (starting in 2005) but after running each time for about 3-4 months and losting about 20-25 lbs each time, I came up pregnant- both times! :)
    After my 2nd child was born in November 2009- I had already committed to training for the Ragnar Relay race from Logan to Park City, UT. It is a 12 person team, running nonstop from Friday to Saturday over approx 200 miles. I had committed to join this team when I was 7 months pregnant and had just over 6 months to train for the race after my daughter was born. If you’d like to read the recap of the trip- you can see it here: http://livingalolalife.blogspot.com/2010/06/ragnar-relay-wasatch-back-2010-team-wtf.html
    I did several races before that and lots and lots of training. Lots of grumbling and lots of “WTF was I thinking?” But when our team was finished in Park City- I had an amazing pride. By completing that race- I became an extreme sport participant!!
    I still don’t have the “body of a runner”. I’ve lost a ton of weight over the last year- and still have lots to go- but I’ve got runner’s legs and a runner’s passion now. I run 3-4 times a week now – and my big 2011 races will be the Mini Marathon and a 2nd Ragnar- this time from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. The best part of having completed the Ragnar last year is that when I have those off days in training- where the last thing I feel like doing is running- I tell my inner monster to SHUT UP and RUN! Because I CAN!

    February 8, 2011
    • losting?? ugh.. first paragraph…edit…LOSING. :)

      February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      I just heard about the Ragnar in Madison last week. It looks hard. And taxing. And yet amazing. I loved reading the recap. And love your runner’s leg comment. I don’t have super model legs…I’ve got runner’s legs. But I earned them, darnit! :)

      February 8, 2011
  9. Amy #

    Do I still qualify as a beginner? It’s been exactly two years since I got “serious” about running, so I like to think I’m still very early in my career. :)

    My favorite running moment was also one of my most frustrating. It was this year’s Monumental Half Marathon in November. I had a goal of breaking 2 hours — my PR was 2:04:37 in the Mini last May. A little background: I had never been into during-race nutrition… sips of water and Gatorade at the aid stations were always enough for me. No waist pouch to carry Sport Beans or Shot Bloks or Gu. I could always make it to the finish line on whatever fuel I had for breakfast. For me, races of that distance (10 miles or longer) were about “just keep moving.”

    I went out pacing perfectly for the first few miles. I felt good. Through 9 miles, I was on pace to break 2 hours. Then I crashed. I just ran out of energy. My pace jumped up 20-25 seconds/mile for miles 10, 11, and 12. My legs hurt and I just couldn’t move any faster. I knew my goal was slipping away. I somehow managed to push out a quicker pace for the last 1.1 miles, but my finish time was 2:01:03 — about a minute slower than I wanted. I was kicking myself for not incorporating nutrition into my training runs. A handful of Sport Beans in the 8th mile might have been all I needed to keep my goal pace going through to the end. I was bummed. But afterwards, I began to look at it differently. My previous races had been about just making it to the end and feeling good. This was the first one in which I really felt like I was PUSHING the whole time. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have enough fuel on board KEEP pushing. But it was a big deal to have pushed hard enough and run fast enough that I NEEDED nutrition in the first place. I felt like I had joined a new league of runners… ones who run HARD rather than just running.

    I *will* break the 2 hour mark at the Mini this year. With the help of some Sport Beans.

    February 8, 2011
    • mdials #

      Well, you aren’t a beginner but I do love your story.

      February 9, 2011
  10. Adam #

    Best feeling I have had as a “beginning runner” was a moment last summer, after about 6 weeks of getting into the running thing and HATING it, I had a epiphany. It was that one day…that one three mile run, where at the end I found myself not gasping for breath, and being angry at the world. It was then that I realized that I actually enjoyed running. And now I can say that I look forward to spring, so I can get out there and enjoy some early morning runs on the weekend!

    February 9, 2011
    • mdials #

      You were always an angry runner :)

      February 9, 2011
  11. Hmm, I think every new distance was kind of exciting at first. I think the distance I was *most* excited about was 10 miles. Maybe because it was my first run in the double digits. It was a particularly hard run. I had forgotten my garmin at home, and it was super windy. I felt totally badd@ss when I was done with that run, even if I could barely move.

    My 2nd most exciting run was my first half-marathon. I crossed the finish line in 1:57:50, I was so stoked to break 2hrs at my first half!

    Great post! It’s fun “Re-living” those runs!

    February 9, 2011
  12. I just found your blog through a Health and Fitness board that I frequent. I love reading about your progress!

    I started working out just over a year ago. I spent 2 months using the elliptical exclusively because of knee issues. I finally got sick of it and decided to hop on the treadmill just to see how far I could run. I ran a mile without stopping in 13 minutes. I was so excited! I looked around to see if anyone would acknowledge my run- I don’t know why they would have since I was in a room packed full of equipment with tons of people exercising. I guess I was just so ecstatic about completing a mile and not dying.

    I went on to run my first 5k 4 months later. Then I completed a 5k in under 30 minutes just a few weeks after that. I then started training for my first half marathon. I finished it in 2:29:05 with a knee injury just 7 months after I ran my very first mile. I cried throughout that weekend. I cried the Friday night before the race, I cried when I picked up my race pack the day before, and I bawled when I saw the finish line and picked up my medal. I felt like I had made it!

    I have been running for a year now, and I am almost ready to run my second half marathon in March. I love running! It has changed my life.

    February 22, 2011
    • mdials #

      I loved your comment. Especially all the crying. Running is an emotional journey. And trust me, I have shed a lot of tears over the sport. A lot of them for negative, but mostly for positive. Congrats on your half marathon training!

      February 22, 2011
  13. Tim #

    probably my biggest running memory (and I’m not by any means a ‘runner’) was my first ever timed mile run in 7th grade. I ran it right at 7 minutes and was shocked.

    February 22, 2011
    • mdials #

      WOWZERs! That’s fast!

      February 22, 2011

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