The Running Situation

My senior year of high school, my dad ran a half marathon.

For a lot of people, this is a big deal, but in my family, I now see it as sort of a pivot point – the point at which my parents’ lives went in this new and totally interesting direction. At the time, of course, I did not give it proper credit. I was pretty wrapped up in that whole “I’m 18 and my life and where I’m choosing to go to college is pretty much the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of all mankind, forever” thing. I remember seeing him lying on the couch at home afterwards, wrapped in a blanket, because even though it was April, Ohio had decided it would be an awesome time for some snow.

I said congratulations (I think), but really, I should have celebrated more. Up until I was in high school, my dad had always been moderately overweight. Not horribly, like a Biggest Loser contestant, but I would never have called him skinny, and I didn’t give that a second thought. That was just how my dad was. Then, when I was in high school, my dad started losing a ton of weight. And he started running. It culminated in his running a half-marathon. Again, I gave this very little thought at the time.

A year later, I was in college at BU, and I got to watch my uncle as he passed by my dorm in mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. My uncle had never run a marathon, but a series or circumstances – him being the weatherman on ABC and having the chance to run for a charity close to his heart – allowed him to do it, and he did. He finished the Boston Marathon.

His running Boston and my Dad running his half then inspired my mom to start running. When I went home the next fall, she would be out doing intervals in our neighborhood. When she started, she couldn’t run a mile.

This year, she ran her third marathon.

Again, at the time, I did not give any of this much thought, except that when my mom came up to Boston my Junior year of college to run the Tufts 10K, I felt vaguely guilty and out of shape. A year later, after several visits home during which I would roll out of bed at 10, only to encounter my parents coming in from a ridiculously long run, I finally felt guilty and out-of-shape enough to try to start running myself. I went with the Couch to 5K program, and it went pretty well for about a month. I would go running along the Charles, congratulating myself on how fit and dedicated I looked. I got up to jogging for about 5 minutes. Then the knee pain hit. Debilitating knee pain that made me limp home in shame and made walking up and down stairs for the next week or so extremely difficult. Bye-bye running.

For the next few years, my parents continued to kick-ass at running. When they moved to Delaware, my mom got a job at a gym, which led to her becoming a personal trainer and starting a local running club. My mom began to inspire adults to run, giving them tips, helping them train, and giving them the inspiration to start.

She also started coaching Girls on the Run, a program to help girls in 3rd-5th grade build confidence through training for and running a 5K. My parents ran several half-marathons before they needed a new challenge and decided to take on a full marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon, which my dad used to help run (as in facilitate) during his years as a Marine.

At this milestone for my parents, my guilt kicked in again, and I thought I’d give this running thing another try. Maybe that knee thing was a fluke, and as I’d been using my knee as an excuse to not run anymore, I thought, why don’t I just do it again to see what happens. I got four weeks in for the 2nd time before the knee pain popped back up again. I gave up again, and frankly, I was sort of happy to have an excuse as to why I couldn’t do it to use every time people would say “So are you a runner like your parents?”

I used that excuse until this past Spring, I suddenly, and happily, became extremely close to Christina. Christina is a runner – a logs Daily Miles on facebook daily, has run 3-marathons runner, but she hasn’t always been. She only started three years ago when we started teaching. She ran the SRLA program at her school and ran her first LA marathon. She reminded me of my mom in that way.

Around this time, I also heard that Nicole was training for a half marathon, and I know that Nicole was not a runner before this.

Suddenly, I felt stupid and lazy with my excuse. My knee hurt. So what? My parents had several injuries that they had gotten over. So has ANYONE who has ever run, ever. My excuse felt flimsy, and I was suddenly tired of telling stories of my parents’ awesome running lives to my friends with awesome running lives, instead of having any of my own besides “Oh, I don’t run. You know…knee pain and all.”

So I started the Coach to 5K again, for a third time. I pretty much had the first 5 weeks memorized at this point. And at about a month and a half in, without fail, my knee pain came screaming back, but this time, I wasn’t secretly relieved. I was pissed off. I wanted to join this elusive running club of which I had never been able to gain entry. I wanted to punch this knee pain in the face. So I did.

I finally went to see a sports doctor who diagnosed my injury in 2.5 seconds and gave me a way to fix it. Two weeks later, I was easing back into running, pain free. Four weeks later, I ran for 20 minutes without stopping – the longest I have ever run in my life. And I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her.

This week, on the eve of attempting to run for 25 minutes, I signed up for a 5k and had my mom make me a training plan to work up to running a half-marathon in the Spring. Christina has been cheering me on all week. When I get back, I’ll probably ask Nicole to show me some running trails by our apartment. I finally feel part of the club.

I didn’t write a post this week about what I’m thankful for because it felt like it would be cliche and sound like everyone else’s. I’m of course thankful for my friends and family, but today, I am specifically thankful for having such inspiring, motivating, helpful and encouraging friends and family.

If my dad, my uncle, my mom, Christina, and Nicole hadn’t put on shoes, walked outside and started to run, despite the fact that they had never done it before, despite the fact that it was hard, I never would have done it…three times. I would have given up and been fine with that, but seeing them do it and keep doing it, I realized I wasn’t fine with giving up. I wanted the joy, the frustration, the pain, and the triumph of running too. So, thanks you guys! I wouldn’t be doing this without you.