For the love of endorphins…

First, I need to confess something to you. I struggle with follow-through, especially with big commitments.  I have grandiose ideas, but then, the reality/implementation of such ideas hits and I get discouraged. Or lazy. Sometimes, I just get lazy.

A little backstory…in early 2010, something (don’t ask me what… or why….) inspired me to start running. The city we lived near was going to host their first marathon/half-marathon in October, and I thought, “Heck, yeah, I want to run a half-marathon.” Again, don’t ask me why. I don’t know where that inspiration/momentary lapse of good judgement/insanity came from.

I was the girl who, during the Presidential Fitness test in high school, when required to run a mile, walked most of it. I had never run farther than a few blocks, never really wanted to. And here I was, suddenly transfixed by the idea of running 13.1 miles. Yes, yes, I could do it. Me. No problem.

And so, my relationship with running began. Luckily, I found a friend who also had a lapse in sanity, and we started running together, on dark country roads, through rain, and snow, ice, and lightening, avoiding getting hit by bad drivers and tractors. 6:00 a.m. was early, and cold in February in Minnesota. And yet, we ran. Or really, jogged a few steps, then walked, alternating constantly. But we persevered. And on we went.

Let me tell you, it was after a few months (yes, months) of running before I was able to run my first mile without walking. I can still remember the joy I had, the happiness that it brought my soul, to know that I did something, at age 34, that I had NEVER done before. Never.  That was the first experience I had of the fabled “Runner’s High.”  And I liked it. A lot.

And we ran. I ran my first 5K that June in our small town celebration days.  I got a t-shirt for my efforts, coming in second-to-last in a field of 40 or 45.  (But I finished!)  We continued to run through the summer, but with the rising temperatures came a decline in motivation. It became tougher and tougher to motivate myself to leave the air-conditioned comfort of my home to go run 3 or 4 miles in sweltering heat. Yes, I got lazy.

I didn’t follow any type of training plan, just ran and tried to go for a slightly longer distance, but really didn’t build up mileage the way I should have. In September, I became sick, thinking it was a cold, but it turned out to be bronchitis. I stopped running altogether, because it was so difficult to breathe.  October neared, and knowing how I was feeling, I changed my plans from a half-marathon to a 10K.

I ran that 10k. I got the t-shirt. And I felt miserable the whole time running, ill from bronchitis, weak from lack of training, and disappointed in my poor time, but glad that I was able to finish, even poorly.

Skip now to 2013.  After giving birth to our third child, and taking a year off from running, I felt the pull again to train for a half-marathon. I started up again 6 weeks postpartum, and it has been a long, slow process to find my running groove again. I started, stopped, started again, slowed, and re-started a multitude of times since last year, but have tried to maintain the (insane?) goal of running a half. I found a new friend to run with me (since I was 800 miles away from my former running buddy), and we ran (once again, in darkness much of the time, at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.), slowly but consistently.

In January 2014, I registered for a 7 mile race that occurred in late March. I had to have something to train for, to get my butt off the couch and out on a treadmill. During the crazy snows of January and February (crazy for Kentucky, but for a northern girl, it was nothing…), it was especially hard to motivate myself to train, but knowing that I had paid money for the “opportunity” to run, I pushed myself out the door and onto the street.  I began reading more books on training for a half-marathon, and really began to focus on what I needed to do to ready myself.

March 29th came and it was a cold, wet, rainy, miserable day. A day that got colder as the hours went on. I ran the 7 mile race, and this time, unlike my 10k, I relished every goose-bump filled moment. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, my body did.  I am a slow runner, and many of the half-marathoners finished their race before I finished mine, but I finished, and was giddy in my shivering, shriveling skin. And the racing bug bit me. Hard.

I found a half-marathon in a nearby town that was scheduled for mid-June. 13 weeks to train for 13 miles. And by train, I mean run, run, run a little more, and then run a whole-heck-of-a-lot.  Each week, I would increase my mileage, and every Saturday morning I would do a “long run,” which at first qualified as a measly 5 miles, but by the end, I ran over 12+ miles. In one very long, very warm, summer morning. All leading up to that glorious 13.1 mile half-marathon on June 14th.

It was a beautiful day, cool temps (for a June morning), with the sun shining brightly. 7:30 a.m. is a wee bit early for a race to begin…especially when I had to get myself and the rest of the family up, dressed, fed, and out the door by 6:00, for the one hour drive to get to Paris, KY, but we did it and made it with (barely) enough time for me to stand in the port-a-pottie line with 300 of my newest friends.

And 2 hours, 46 minutes, 59 seconds later I crossed the finish line, accompanied by all 3 of my children. They joined me before the last corner, the last .1 of 13.1, and were leaping and running with me. (They were leaping.  And running. I think I was stumbling/walking/crawling by that point.) It was one of those moments I will never forget, my family being there to cheer for me, encourage me, and run with me in my last steps. And I am so grateful that the race photographer caught the moment on film for me.  My poor husband was trying to video it, as he fumbled with the stroller, toys, sign, and all manner of stuff he had to entertain the children for mommy’s LONG run.

The Bourbon Derby

I was so filled with joy and pride that I had finally accomplished a goal I had been clinging to for 4 years. 4 years, a move, a baby, huge changes in our lives, and I finally did it. That medal will always hold a special place in my heart, knowing how long it took me to accomplish this feat.

Of course, now my plan is to have a few more medals. I am already scoping out another half for this fall. In the spring, I plan to do the same race as this spring, but the half, not the 7 miler. And next fall, well…

There is a full marathon in Mankato, Minnesota, I plan on running. All 26.2 hilly, crazy miles of it.  The 5 year anniversary of my 10K. Same race. Much different and longer route.

Just because I’m crazy like that.  And I really, really, like endorphins.

The Bourbon Derby

Photos courtesy of JA Laub Photography and the Bourbon Derby. Copyrighted 2014.