If you knew me growing up, you’d know I wasn’t always a runner. In fact, I thought I was a “bad runner.” When I was 13 or 14 yrs old, my doctor even went so far as to tell me I had “exercise induced asthma” because I was complaining of being winded during running drills at basketball practice when trying to keep up with my teammates. The truth? I didn’t have asthma, I was simply eating the wrong foods and didn’t have a coach who could teach me how to run. I’m not a bad runner. I’m actually an average runner, a fact I didn’t discover until 2007, when I was working at Walt Disney World and made a few friends who were runners. I had one particularly glamorous friend, the amazing Sarah Lee Dobbs, who would sometimes come to work after a race wearing these really cute Disney race t-shirts. They were so cool and I wanted one, so I started asking her about running. I believe our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Sarah Lee, that shirt is so cool. I wish I could get one.”
Sarah Lee: “Well, Laura, why don’t you run a race?”
Me: “Sarah… I can’t run.” Sarah Lee: “What do you mean you can’t run? Of course you can run!”
Me: “No, seriously, Sarah. I’m a terrible runner. I try to run a mile and I can’t do it.”
Sarah Lee: “Well, who says you have to run the whole thing?”
Me: “… Huh?” I was dumbfounded. Running… without running?
Sarah Lee: “Just go out in your neighborhood and run until you can’t, then walk until you can.”
Me: “Seriously? I can do that? No one every told me I could do that.”
Sarah Lee: “Yes. You can do that. Just give it a go. Anybody can run.”
I was blown away. It seemed simple enough. So I decided to try it out.
On day 1, I went out on a 2 mile route in my neighborhood and ran for about 30 seconds… then walked for 5 minutes! But because I didn’t have a coach breathing down my neck telling me to push myself, it wasn’t so bad. I didn’t feel guilty for not running more. I was following instructions! Run until you can’t, walk until you can. That said, I tried to be honest with myself and when I was ready to run a bit more, I did. I followed this program of running and walking every other day.
During the first two weeks, the improvements were not terribly noticeable. I still could only run for about 30-40 seconds at a time, but my walking intervals were down to about 2 minutes. After 4 weeks, I went out one day and was taken by surprise – it was suddenly easy to run. An absolute breeze! I jogged my way through my two mile route and didn’t have to stop! I was so excited!
I signed up for the 2007 Disney Race for the Taste 10K and slowly, week by week, added a tiny bit more distance to each run. After all, I was determined to get one of those fancy t-shirts like Sarah Lee had. My roommate signed up for the race with me, I made it to race day and had so much fun! It was still another year or two until I made running a regular part of my life. After the race, I let my training go until I decided to register for the 2008 10K. Again, a few months after the race my dedication petered out. In 2009 I had a new roommate, the wonderful Meredith Jones, who decided to register for the race with me. In fact, we decided to register for a whole series of fall races being offered by Disney at the time. We did a 5K, 10K and 15K, along with some community races. It was so much fun!
Then, at the start of 2010, yet another roommate dragged me to an info session for Team In Training and told me I was going to run a marathon. I laughed at her. The conversation went something like this:
Julie: “Laura, you run more than I do. I’m going to run this marathon. You can definitely do it, too.”
Me: “Julie. Running 6 miles is really hard. I can’t imagine running 26.2 miles. You’re nuts. I don’t think I can do it.” Julie: “Okay, then sign up for the 1/2 Marathon. But seriously, you should just sign up for the full.”
Me: “I’m not sure. I think my smart running friend, Sarah Lee, told me that I should run a half first before trying a full.”
Julie: “Whatever. Don’t be a bum. Just come to the info session.”
Me: “Okay. But I’m telling you now, I’m only running the 1/2 marathon.”
At the info session, I was expecting to see… well… people who looked like runners. Instead, I saw people who looked like me or, to be honest, people who looked even less like runners than I did. A man got up (Matt Feinman!) and showed us a video about Team In Training. Watching that video, I saw people who were my mom’s age finishing marathons. I was starting to get a crazy idea… maybe I could run this marathon distance! But before committing, I figured it was best to ask one of the running coaches. Surely a coach would talk some sense into me. I approached a tall bald guy with a nametag that said “Coach Rich” and said:
Me: “I’ve heard it’s best to run a 1/2 marathon before tackling a full marathon. But I think I might want to try the full. Do you think I could do it?”
Coach Rich: “How far can you run now?”
Me: “6 miles.”
Coach Rich: “You can definitely run a marathon.”
Me: “Seriously?” Coach Rich: “Oh yeah. You can definitely do it. I wouldn’t even worry about it. Most of the people signing up today can’t run 6 miles yet.”
Me: “Really? Okay… if you say so.”
So much for good sense. I signed my name on the dotted line, still wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into. Then I sat and listened to stories from people who had run more and raised more money than I ever imagined I’d be able to, and on the first day of training, I showed up and started running.
I completed the 2010 San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon with Team In Training, and my roommate, Julie, asked me that day if I was glad she’d told me to sign up for the full. I gave her a resounding, “Yes!”
I was a runner. I was a marathoner. I couldn’t believe what my body was capable of! And, I was indefinitely hooked on running.
The moral of the story is anyone can run. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to just go out your front door and run until you can’t, and walk until you can for a mile or two. Just 30 minutes a day can make a significant impact on your health – and by health, I not only mean physical, but mental as well.
YOU COULD BE A RUNNER! Just put on your sneakers (or don’t! Some people run barefoot!) and head out the front door!