I’ve always wanted to be “A Runner.”
I’ve lived most of my life in Hunterdon County, a beautiful country setting that boasts over 8,000 acres of park and farmland and whose Chamber of Commerce calls it a “recreational paradise.” Nestled among the proverbial rolling hills and lush green fields, our little cottage is a converted barn situated on a working horse farm.
In short, it’s the perfect setting for a long, healthy run.
I mentally picture myself lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement in the wee morning hours, with only the clop-clopping of hooves and an occasional cock-a-doodle-doo on neighboring farms to drive my rhythmic cadence. There’s just something about the dewy face, lithe body and raw determination of a runner. I want it.
But let’s get real – I don’t have it. I’m 37 years old, descend from solid German stock with broad shoulders and a thick waist, and truly define the stereotype of a lazy Taurus. I can’t break a 12-minute mile, sweat pours off of me by the gallon, and I can only motivate myself to run by blaring the nastiest, angriest rap music out there.
I stepped on the treadmill for the first time last summer, shortly after coming to work at Special Olympics New Jersey and a few months shy of my wedding. Like every other bride-to-be wanting to shed a few, I willed myself to go to our Wawa Fitness Center at least 3 times a week during my lunch hour – after all, only one door separates my desk from the machines.
I downloaded the Couch to 5K app, filled my iPhone with tunes. I subscribed to Runner’s World. I registered for 12 different 5Ks in the area, logged each mile, and of course, spent hundreds of dollars on all sorts of fancy running gear – the shoes, the short-shorts, the arm band to hold my iPhone. I was all in.
Then the shin splints came. Frantically pouring over runner’s blogs, I wondered, “Do I over-pronate? Under-pronate? What does that even mean??” Suddenly, I found myself strangely obsessed with my feet, contorting my body in unnatural positions to get a better look at my arches and researching renowned podiatrists who might take my insurance.
Meanwhile, my poor husband (who was probably wondering what the heck he got himself into) tentatively offered up words of encouragement and finally settled on this gem: “Maybe you’re just not a runner.”
What?! Not a runner?! But I’ve worked so hard! I bought all that stuff! I HAVE APPS!!
Pshhht. I did what any true stubborn Taurus does: dug in my heels and stepped up my game. I ran through the pain, signed up for even more races and invested in a 500-capsule supply of Advil. I even tried running barefoot.
Then one day, under the influence of some extra-strength Ben-Gay, I solemnly peeled the tape from my legs and accepted that I had to do something even more painful: I had to admit that my husband was right. I’m just not a runner.
After pouting for a few weeks, I started paying attention to life around me and that’s when it hit home. Every day, I work with athletes who face all kinds of challenges. So what if I can’t finish a 5K without walking portions of it? So what if I come in the bottom third? Just like the athletes of Special Olympics already know, what matters is that I give it my all!
It was time to stop trying to be “A Runner” and time to just run. I’m going into next weekend’s Lincoln Tunnel Challenge with the words of late Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in mind: “Sometimes what matters is not what dog is in the fight, but how much fight is in the dog.”
Wish me luck and keep an eye out for me. I’ll probably be near the end of the pack…but I’ll be celebrating. I’ll be all in.
To sponsor me in the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge, click here!