My running journey began by not running as a child. In the fifth grade, I joined the track team, but it didn’t qualify me as a runner— not because I was ten-years-old —but because I barely even ran. My specialty was 400-meter walks that took precise movements of heal, toe, heal, toe. When I won my first silver metal I was hooked on “the walk.” My competitive fires had been ignited. I would have to be careful not to elbow the next Catholic grade school girl as us walkers grunted and swung arms as if they were wings. We flew around the track legs straight, never bent. Even if it looked like you were running, you were called out on it and possibly disqualified. I walked my heart out.
Until I quit the team.
In my teens, I began treadmill runs with my best friend and had sporadic health kicks. It wasn’t until last year that I began to take a more holistic bite out my life. One taste and I was hooked on the idea of a healthy body, mind, and spirit. I began to eat clean, practice yoga, and started running. I spent the summer running through Kissena Park in Flushing, Queens twice a day. The summer sun stroked my face and moved down to my bronzed shoulders as I ran under fully leafed trees.
The brilliance of my summer runs faded into my favorite time to run, fall. The leaves would gently tumble as I pass, the air crisp but mildly delicious, like warm apple pie.
It was late fall when I began to take my running more seriously. By this point I had ran 5ks and considered myself a runner, although not the fastest or the greatest. As winter frosted the world outside, my world inside was burning with desires to push myself in my new-found passion. I began reading books on runners, races, and ultra marathons, which sparked my interest in training for my first half-marathon.
And so it began.
Some days I just didn’t want to hit the gym for weight training or go for my scheduled run. Other days I couldn’t stop thinking about running. But even on the days when I slowly began my mileage, eventually something would come over me, engulfing my soul, sending shivers of tingles throughout my body and I was off.
In those moments my mind is empty and blissful. My body is strong and controlled. I feel a connection between my body, mind, and soul. I feel aware of nature and feel everything breathing with each of my exhales. I feel the world beating with my heart. Running is like art to me. It is beautifully painful. It makes me feel perfectly flawed. It humbles me, crushing me and picking me back up—all within the same mile.
When I started training for my first half, I worried a lot about the distance and the time and there was plenty of self-doubt. But my dedication outweighed any doubt. At some point, I had shed all my fears and felt prepared, strong, resilient. Each week I ran further, sometimes faster, but always stronger.
On my first eight mile run, the wintery Staten Island scenery hypnotized me, as I ran on mountainous inclines of smoothly paved road. Cars were neatly parked along the sides, snow compactly filling in the edges between sidewalk and black tar. Maybe it was the act of running itself that was mesmerizing. I conquered steep hills, giving it my all, and ran along somewhat unfamiliarly familiar roads until the Verrazano Bridge appeared in the right distance like fortress surrounded by fog.
The bridge was a beacon of dreams, for in just a few more weeks I would run the NYC Runs Ladies First Half Marathon under it.
But first I would have to work through my hardest run yet.
Two weeks before the race was my 11-mile run. I ran through my neighborhood to Gateway National Park and all along the park, running it almost twice before heading home. My hips throbbed, knees wobbled, my throat parched. My whole body hurt and thoughts of giving up popped into my mind from time to time. However, I never stopped loving the run. I pushed through the pain proudly and was happy I did.
On race day, I would find out that all that training paid off. The hardest part was over and now I can enjoy the ride.
The second part of my journey, “Race Day,” will be published tonight. Come back to read about my experience!