Within a year, I ran 3 half marathons.
I never thought I would ever be referred to or refer to myself as a long distance runner. Ever. Before I [officially] started training for my first half marathon , I had never run more than 4 miles in a ‘session’. I don’t think I had ever even run a mile nonstop.
My hope is that with this post, I am able to encourage at least one person who thinks they can never be ‘a runner’ to start running; or even those into running right now but thinking of quitting.
Growing up, I never really ran. I don’t remember running except when playing catcher or something.
In high school, I ran away from running. In fact, all sports really. Idk, call me lazy or what, but I did all I could to get out of having to run. I may have run to the dining hall at meal times occasionally, at the risk of ‘lowering’ my ‘street cred’ I might add (ask me later, it is a Nigerian/African boarding school thing).
I probably ran to ‘escape’ from seniors or teachers brandishing a cane (whip) when students were late for assembly … those days. Smh. Or the occasional running round the track we had to do some evenings a week in boarding school (did we call it P.E?) where I was almost certain I was going to collapse.
But yeah, apart from those, I hardly ran in high school.
was am tall and I think most people, just by looking at me then, assumed I was good at running. My Dad would ask me about running, encouraging me to put my long legs to good use. I wasn’t having it.
Then I started college. And I was fine not running. I don’t think I even gained the freshman 15. So, no incentive really. But one day, towards the end of freshman year, I decided I would start running. I woke up early the next day and told myself I would start small. I had my route planned out- I would run around my building at student housing a few times.
I completed one loop successfully (it wasn’t even a big building) and immediately started breathing heavily and feeling like I would collapse- just like high school. I decided I was done. I went back to my room and continued to sleep. That was it! I didn’t mention running again for a long time.
Some things that probably contributed to that ‘fail’:
- Running too fast
- No warm up
- Wrong shoes
- No energy/fuel. My diet then was pretty much Hot Pockets, cereal, and soda
Then in senior year, I met Julio. He was cute. One day, he asked me if I wanted to go running together one evening after work. I was like “Are you kidding me? I suck at running!”. But he was cute so I agreed; and this time was better. Maybe due to the following reasons:
- I had a running partner
- We actually warmed up
- I had better shoes, but still not ideal
- I didn’t go as fast; I went with comfortable pace
We only did this like once or twice. I’m not exactly sure why. Priorities, life happens, video games are cooler, the snow began to fall, laziness, [insert a million excuses here].
After college, I moved away and started working full time. Technically I had more time on my hands and probably actually needed to start being more active. Good genes help (thank you mama!), but one can’t rely on them fully. haha.
I started going to a fitness class after work. One day I noticed a park right across the street. So whenever I felt like having a little bit extra after the workout, I’d go for a walk. Thanks to the hills in Tennessee, I was basically doing a hill workout, but walking, several times a week. I’d walk for about 10 minutes but because I had no ‘sense’ of miles yet and wasn’t sure where the trails led, I’d just turn right back. A full 20 minutes walk :).
One time, I completed one of the trails and felt so accomplished! It was about 2 miles or so. I even broke a sweat (bonus points for that). But it was about summertime in the Tennessee heat and humidity so …. the sweat was inevitable.
Then I shared my new ‘journey’ with some ladies from Church and they were interested. Some had even been thinking along those lines already but didn’t know how to start. We made a plan. One day, four of us woke up super early and went to this same park. Someone had the couch to 5k app which tells you when to walk and when to start running- basically interval training.
We huffed and puffed our way up the hills in that park and we’d yell at the person with the app “isn’t it up to a minute yet?” or “shouldn’t we be walking by now?”. It was hilarious. It was fun. Again, partnership, accountability. We also had a goal in mind- we were going to run a 5k. But then I moved to a different state. I promised I would keep running and I would sign up for that 5k. I encouraged my friends to keep running too.
I moved, and you know, life. I didn’t keep running. At least, not as seriously. I had to deal with stuff like unpacking, setting up cable and internet, meeting new people… you know, important stuff. One day, I went to a friend’s apartment and noticed a funny looking chart on her fridge. It just had numbers, words like rest, and cross training. I asked her what it was and she said it was her training plan for a half marathon she was signed up for later that year. She’s the first running hero mentioned in this post.
I was excited to discover another Nigerian female who was into running. I haven’t met many, even till now. So I proudly told her I was training for a 5k. She thought it was hilarious. Now, I can see how easy it would be to think such a thing is hilarious but then, it was one of the most challenging things I could think of. She wasn’t being mean, though.
The half marathon she was running had a 5k category that I thought would be good to participate in. I procrastinated and then chickened out. I didn’t sign up. I watched her cross the finish line and then upped the ante- next year, I was going to run a half marathon.
That Christmas, I went to visit my sister in England. My brother, Templegate, was there as well. My sister had told me how he had started this new craze of running so I packed my running shoes, thinking I might join him on a few days. It was December and it was cold but we ran together. Quality time with the big bro :). He was, of course, much faster and stronger than I was but he never left me behind. Whenever I needed to take a walk break he would stop for me (except for when we were nearly home and he would gun it to the front door).
Having to rack up steps on my pedometer in order to get some cool prizes was also great motivation. A little competition never hurt nobody, right? So I ran a lot that holiday. But then I got back home and stopped running seriously.
New year, new me. The year of my debut half marathon. I still had no plan. When spring rolled around, they started to advertise the half marathon at work. They put up a display with a countdown in the lobby, so every morning I had to look at it. lol.
Then they started sending emails. One email was a reminder about the price going up after a certain date. And me being
cheap frugal, I knew I now had a deadline to signup.
I signed up. The last Saturday in June 2014 was the day I officially began training for my first half marathon. That day, it was a 4 mile run (I did the walk/run version). And it started to rain during the run so in order to get out of the rain, I had to run faster. I managed to complete the route in a little less than an hour. It was a personal record for me; I was ecstatic!
I ran with the race training group (a subset of my city’s running club). Running with a group helps. I had run with single partners on occasion previously, but a group run has it’s own benefits as well.
The race training group also had classes before the run every Saturday. We were taught about nutrition, stretching, resting, hydration, fueling, foam rolling, injury prevention, running gear, race tips and race day etiquette, and tons of other useful stuff that have really helped me become a better runner.
The training schedule scared me, quite frankly. I know my prayer life got a significant bump during this period. I knew I honestly couldn’t do it, unless God helped me. And He did. From orchestrating the weather in my favor so that if it was going to rain at all, it wouldn’t start till after training, making my digesting system cooperate, waking me up on time (I used to have major anxiety about oversleeping on Saturdays and missing the group run), whenever I had to travel during training, there was either a treadmill or trail easily and conveniently accessible, and just other sources of encouragement.
I also read a lot about running on the internet. About the same time, I joined Pinterest and found a lot of articles (and hilarious memes) about running that way. I read blogs, I read comments on forums, I soaked up all I could that I believed would help me do better.
The day I ran 6 miles without stopping (except for a water break), I knew I had become a long distance runner. Yes, I set that arbitrary threshold for myself. Anything above 6 miles is long distance :). You can set yours too.
Some days I didn’t feel like running but I kept at it. I worked hard. I sweated a lot. My body began to change. People thought I was crazy. They asked me why I was doing it. But I did it; I overcame that challenge.
I Became A Long Distance Runner.
So if you are someone who has been thinking about running, just start. If you used to run, but life got in the way and you stopped, just get back in there. A 10 minute run is still a run. Or start with walking. Then walk faster. Then do the walk/run. And if you fall off the bandwagon again, it is still okay. Just get back on.
You are never too old or too weak or too fat or too busy or [insert any other adjective here]. There will never be time till you make the time. I’m also preaching to myself here, actually. So what are you waiting for? Try it and try to avoid the mistakes I made 🙂
Thanks to all those who believed in me and encouraged me. I truly appreciate it! :).
Header photo: A view of the Smoky Mountains- Gatlinburg, TN. May 2015