I may not be fast a fast runner, and I am may not be able to run a marathon, but I’m definitely a runner. For most of my life I had thought I would never be able to call myself this because I’m asthmatic and never outgrew it.
Growing up with asthma was pretty difficult as you can imagine. Being a bit overweight didn’t help matters since most adults thought my breathing problems were weight related. Even though I was diagnosed at an early age I wasn’t treated until well into my adulthood to get it under control. I can still remember the humiliating experience of coming in dead last my freshman year of high school with one of my PE drills. The dreaded 1 mile run. I remember I came in well over 20 minutes wheezing like crazy, and inhaling the smell of freshly cut grass that I am highly allergic too. Needless to say, I didn’t pass.
After getting it under control I did try to see why people loved running so much and gave it a shot multiple times. I couldn’t understand it. My lungs burned, I was hot and sweating profusely, and my legs were rubber. The day after was even worse! I could barely walk. Still, I kept trying. I biked and ran a leg of the Danskin triathlon, but pretty much walked because my legs were tired and I didn’t train for it. Then I ran my first 5K in May 2010. I felt great finishing, but I still didn’t get why people thought it was so awesome to do. I ran mainly for cardio after that just because I liked being outside and like always…trying to lose weight.
Then my mother passed away and I just didn’t care anymore until the holidays started to approach. By then I gained at least 30 lbs and kept spiraling downhill with depression. With the inspiration of good friend I went to school with, I started to work out. Best antidepressant under the sun! I decided to give running another shot and with the help of my Genki sisters, I was able to complete a couple more 5Ks. Most of them I had to take breaks for one reason or another, but I ran The Jingle Bell 5K last December slow and steady without stopping. I decided at that point my New Year’s resolution was to do at least one race a month, and signed up for Dirt In Your Skirt 13-in-13 challenge.
It was the Super Sunday 5 race this past February that was a turning point for me. You could either run 5K or 5 Miles. It was cold out and snowing, and everyone was freezing their buns off. My plan was to finish the 5K and go home to check off my February goal. As I approached the 5K mark I realized it was just halfway through the course, then you had to sit and wait for a shuttle to take you to back to the start of the race (or finish line of the 5 miler). I stood and paused briefly, then my legs said “GO”, so I did. I kept telling myself I could walk some of it if I needed to, but I never had to. When I crossed the finish line I realized I just learned ‘how‘ to run. I finished 5 Miles and I felt AWESOME. I became a runner and part of the running community.
But what is it that keeps me going back for more? Sure I love the infamous “runner’s high” that I get afterwards, and I love the feeling when I cross the finish line each time. Then it dawned on me… It’s the folks on the sidelines cheering you on that keeps you going. They have hearts of gold. They are volunteering and cheering you on because they want you to succeed. Whether it’s freezing and snowing, or sweltering and disgustingly humid out, they are there for you! It’s an infectious energy booster that I get every time I hear one cheering. They feel good doing it, you feel good hearing it, it’s just awesome all around. And I remember being one of those helpers …
I have only been to the Boston Marathon once, and that was to drum with my Genki sisters to help runners gear up right before they started going up the famous Heartbreak Hill. I loved every minute of it. Some runners stopped to get their pictures taken with us. We had a taiko group from Japan running it, and I also had a couple friends of mine running. It was the stragglers in the back that I felt most connected to, they were the ones that needed our help the most. And seeing just a brief smile from them as they saw the sign I was holding I knew I was doing my job. It felt great, and I always wondered what was going through their minds running this crazy race.
I had already planned on doing Boston’s half marathon this October. My training starts in July. I wince every time I see the training schedule, but I know it’s going to be worth it at the end. Right now I struggle with running 5 miles, and I’ll be running just a little over 6 miles with my first 10K this weekend. I can’t imagine what 26.2 miles is like. These people have been training for at least 4 months, and those straggle behind have probably struggled the most, but are doing it anyway.
My heart sank when I heard about the bombs that went off during the Boston Marathon. Those cheering, the ones with hearts of gold, the ones that kept runners going and encouraging them to finish were injured or killed. Many people have said to me “Thankfully you weren’t ready this year to run it.” I’m not really sure how to respond to something like that. Yes, I am sure all of the runners are thankful for being alive, but if I was running, I would be one among the thousands that weren’t allowed to finish because I am not a fast runner. The thousands of runners that trained so hard, probably being the first and only marathon, and not allowed to finish. So many hearts were broken and dreams shattered. Crushing.
Being in the running community is similar to being in the sisterhood of The Genki Spark. You have an understanding of one another, you help one another, you love and support one another. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you run, you are loved for being you. I’m on two running sites on Facebook, and the love and support that has been coming in for runners and Boston has been so overwhelming. It’s been the only thing keeping me grounded this crazy week. The pessimist in me kept waiting for the hate and negative things to be posted, but there has been absolutely nothing like that on either site. The world is still a good place and people do still love, even after a horrible event like this one.
As I start my training, whether it’s sunrise or sunset, I’ll be repeating a blessing I once heard:
It’s what I run for.