I am not adverse to working out. I loved it when I had a trainer and was a gym rat — I was so close to getting my Michelle Obama arms! In college, I played rugby and handed out concussions and broken noses to other players. Before that, I was a goalie for my soccer team. But running? Running is dumb. I’d joke that you’d only find me running if someone was chasing me.
Because runners are so annoying. All they can talk about is running. Their personal bests. The injuries they’ve sustained. How they have to wake up stupid early in the morning but then get to watch the sunrise over the canal. And, of course, how much they love running and why we non-runners should become runners too.
But then I became one.
December 20 marked a year of running. And in that time I ran 446 miles (or 712 kilometers), over 78 hours, and 6 races. This is surreal. Yet, I find this comforting to know where my time has gone on those early mornings and weekends.
Oh, and bonus, I am down a pant size. Which has never ever happened before in my life.
Roadrunner – Meep! Meep!
I am lucky enough to have a friend and mentor in Michelle E. She pushes me to do things I wouldn’t do. Like running. I repeatedly “shooed away,” as my 3-year-old would say, her invites to do trail runs or run a race saying that I was too busy with Orange Theory Fitness or weight lifting or… anything! And then I ran out of excuses and I conceded to running my first race — The San Tan Scramble. A 9K (or 5.5 miles).
So I started training. A few days before Christmas I ran two miles around the block. The next day another two miles. I ran on pavement and I ran on the trails. I followed the plan that Michelle had given me almost to the letter.
Then came race day. We parked the car as the sun rise was spilling rosy pinks and purples. I was nervous and cold. But I was also impressed with the race set up. Aravaipa Running put together the race. The San Tan Mountain trails felt like the place to be. Several hundred runners waited for the chance to run. A DJ booth was set up and fantastic pump-you-up jams were blasting before seven in the morning. For after the run there was a beer garden, a wood-fired pizza, an aide station, and an impressive snack section. There were typical snacks: bananas, orange, bagels, and peanut butter. And the not-so typical: grilled cheese sandwiches, freshly made burritos, M&Ms, pretzels, pickles, gummy worms, potato chips, and more.
The 50K, 26K, and 17K runners were out on the trail and now it was going to be our turn. We were corralled at the starting line and the DJ shared instructions about which colored ribbons to follow, how our bibs matched the colored signs on the trail, which ribbons not to follow … it was more than I could take in. My stomach was in knots. Then he started to count down until it was time for us to go.
And then we started running, Michelle and I together. The faster folks were zipping past us. This was fine with us. She encouraged me to leave her and run at the pace I wanted to do. I protested. We were supposed to run together I thought. Side by side. But then came the hills. My combined rugby and soccer training instilled in me that when you meet a hill you dig in with your toes and sprint.
Michelle shared that I reminded her of the roadrunner as I left little clouds of dust and dirt behind me. Don’t get it twisted. I am not fast. (Proud 12-minute miler over here.) However, feeling the strength of my legs as I blasted past folks up a hill felt good. So did having a new nickname. (My previous rugger names were “Crazy Shorts,” “Pinky,” and “Ladybug.”)
Then, one hour and eleven minutes later, my first race was in the books. We received our trophy which was a freaking adorable cup and I noshed on all the munchy-crunchy foods that I wanted that day.
I couldn’t stop. I wanted to run as many races as I could. I think Michelle may have had a hand in it. Yes, I remember it now. She was keen to make sure I had another race on the roster so I could have something else to work towards.
Like four miles at Coldwater Rumble just two weeks later. And after that a 12K at Elephant Mountain on February 3 which kicked our butts. The Mesquite Canyon 8K on St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t so bad except that it was all up hill. April is too hot for trail running, at least, during the day. So, as a birthday present to myself I ran my first night race. By myself. I left the course blasting Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever?” The last race of 2018 was the Javelina Jagover’s 15K. I felt incredible.
Michelle’s end game was to get me to Ragnar in November. And I wanted it. I was ready to go and spend a few nights with friends. To get barely enough sleep while we waited our turn to run a loop around the McDowell Mountains. But life had other plans. And that’s a story for another day.
Still. What a year!
All You Need Is Shoes & Other Lies Runners Will Tell You
Running is a cheap sport, I was told. All you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re off. Hah, I say! My gear now consists of:
- Pavement Running shoes
- Trail Running shoes (grippy claws on the soles to better grip the ground with)
- Toed socks
- Hydration pack
- Headlamps (2X)
- Heart rate monitor
- Wireless headphones
- Fit belt (to hold phone)
- Winter hat (to cover the ears and slip a pony tail out the back)
- Summer hat (to keep the sun off my face during the day and the bill works to rest the headlamp at night)
- Pepper spray
- Sport bras without wire (because I’m an idiot and should have known better. I still have the scars from my first 10 mile run on my, erm, brain.)
- Actual running pants (because cotton yoga pants are not running pants. I split the crotch wide open but didn’t realize until I started a small brush fire.)
- Body Glide (see previous bullet about the yoga pants debacle.)
- Life-time supply of Oxyclean (because running clothes must be washed immediately after use and, ideally, when no one else is the house.)
And I want more gear.
Runner’s Paradox And The Runner’s Rewards
In college I was brazen. I thought I could try out for the women’s soccer team as one of their goalies. Never mind they already had three goalies and each had scholarships to be there. The women had matching uniforms and I was rocking hot-pink Umbro shorts (with the mesh AND pockets!) from Goodwill.
Our warm up was to do a two mile loop around the field. My lungs were on fire. My memory ends there. I likely blocked it out. Although I do remember the burning and achiness of my lungs and the gratitude to stop moving.
And now I’m here. A trail runner. Two miles is now, indeed, a good warm up. Yet, there is something about running that makes one ponder life choices. Or, I do.
There’s a shirt that says it best (and should anyone want to send me one I’ll take a size medium): “I love running. Just not while I’m doing it.”
First, I start out on the trail or sidewalk and my body and mind work together to barrage me with messages of doubt: Hey! This is dumb. Why are we doing this? We should be asleep! Who is chasing us? This hurts. I’m not having fun. It’s too dark out here.
And if I’m running a race (with the only true intention being to finish), my mind starts to compete against the other racers. This is insanity.
But then something odd happens. Something wonderful. I found my stride. My body doesn’t ache (or I’m not so focused on it) and my body is powerful and strong. Warrior-like. Kick ass b! That’s me, look at this, I’m out here running longer than I ever have before and I don’t feel like death. I actually feel kinda good. I feel great. I am powerful and strong.
This is usually when I’ll trip over a rock or my own foot. I usually recover, but somewhat clumsily.
Other benefits to running include:
- Running does have a euphoric effect.
- The amount of calories burned! All the junk food and wine!
- The medals for each race. Except I have a nice collection of cups.
- That zen-like moment while running when you’re alone with your thoughts – good or bad.
- The knowledge that your body is stronger than you give it credit for.
- Your amazement in your own abilities to go farther distances with each run.
Yes, it’s true. We runners are annoying and long-winded. But we do enjoy it and think you might because there was a time when we thought running was dumb too.