I'm not sure when this running thing happened again. I used to run a lot. Back in 1997 when I suddenly stopped smoking (my miracle story), I was afraid of gaining weight, and so I went to the Quitman High School track on Christmas Eve, ran around twice, thought I would die, and kept going back. That April I ran my first race--a 10K, the Tyler Azalea Run. I loved it. I had lost weight, my life was changing. I was committed. I'd run at 5 a.m. without batting an eye.
I'm not sure what happened. My guess is that I moved away from an easy running area. If you have to drive miles and miles just to run one mile, it's harder to be motivated. I took up dancing, too, and then began moving for various teaching jobs. In my heart I always loved running. And honestly, not once, not ever, have I not felt a pang of longing when someone else was running.
I ran the occasional 5K after I stopped running regularly in 2006. But I didn't plan my life around races and running shoes anymore. But I never forgot. And I never ran regularly either. I would simply see Thanksgiving on the calendar and want to go to Fort Worth and do the Turkey Trot (one of the best races ever). So I'd run a bit, long enough to knock out the race. But once you're undisciplined, you feel like a big clunky lump rolling down the road. And it doesn't help when you are actually clunky.
The past few months my life changed a lot, my heart changed a lot, and my body started following. And I wasn't okay with that. I was in a wedding and had to wear a pretty dress that made me want to hide my fat shoulders. Thankfully the dress was flattering and it was a pleasant experience, but I didn't feel pleasant when I looked in the mirror not wearing that dress. The wedding was Nov. 4. On Nov. 10, I waled into Bene-fit Health and Fitness and announced, "I want to sign up for your $10 a month membership." Yes, $10. I mean, really, what excuse was there left? There was a small enrollment fee, but it was $10 a month, no contract, no upselling. Even with the enrollment fee, had I stayed two months, I'd have paid less than most people do monthly.
So I went every day. On my first day I decided to run the Fort Worth Turkey Trot--in 12 days. So I didn't miss a day. The gym was never full so I just played with it all. I found out I loved weight training. The treadmill killed me--plus it was hot. I went to Texas, ran/walked the 5K and wondered why breathing was my nemesis.
My turning point came two days before a second 5K, the Candy Cane Run, on December 13. I was running in my hilly neighborhood. I had just passed a friend walking his dog, huffed a hello, and was on the bring of a hill when I had to stop and walk. I was 6/10 of a mile in. I managed one more 10th before I got home--and coughed all day long. And then I knew: Exercise-induced asthma. I had had it before but it usually went away this far in. Turns out the lack of humidity (I hate humidity, love cold and snow, oh boy) was contributing. Suddenly all I wanted in the whole world was asthma medicine before Saturday.
And I got it. I got a sample from some people (and eventually went to the doctor and got a prescription). That Saturday I showed up in 40-something degree temps at the lake for the run. I'd like to say it was exciting but it was all pressure. Could I even begin to pull this off when two days ago, 6/10ths of a mile wiped me out for the day? Would the medicine help that much?
The race was hilly, but pretty. It was hard. My breathing was labored, but working. There was a substantial elevation on a hill before you could see the finish line. I was crawling along slowly, maybe too slowly, but wanting so much to run it all, even if it was at a speed fast people could walk it. At the top of that hill, I saw the finish line, and I cried. I knew I was going to make it. I had to talk to myself (and since I could breathe that was possible) and tell myself not to cry or do anything until I crossed that finish line. I pushed forward and my feet hit that mat and at that moment I knew I was a runner again.
Previously I had never run a race that gave finisher medals. Usually only half marathons and marathons do that, and my longest was a 15K. But this one did. And that medal is my badge of honor.
I have been running since, and my time is improving (ever-so-slowly). I am just about to cut the asthma medicine in half, on my next run actually. I'm up to two miles a day.
And I registered for my first half marathon in May.
This is the story of a runner girl reprise.
D.S. al Fine