Five years ago this month I had a big first.
I packed myself and my running shoes in the car, drove to Fargo, North Dakota, and encountered snow flurries on the way. In the middle of October.
I was worried I hadn’t even brought a hat, but my best friend didn’t let me freeze the next morning. She borrowed me a black Carhartt hat, she got me to the start, and she was at the finish cheering when I completed my first half marathon.
She ran the 5K while I ran the half, but I still maintain she’s faster than me any day. Her free time is also divided between riding horse and driving motorcycle, so I couldn’t fault her for not training for the half. 🙂
I had a lot of thoughts during that cold 13.1 miles, but I don’t think I ever doubted I would finish. I knew I wouldn’t be very fast and the end might not be pretty, but I would get there.
Fast is a strange concept when you’re a middle-of-the-pack girl like me. I know I wasn’t fast when I first started running longer distances. Now that I’ve taken almost 30 minutes (okay, 27 minutes) off my first half marathon time I still don’t think I’m fast. Faster maybe, but I guess fast is an illusive concept that will keep me training and chasing the next goal. I suppose unless you’re an aspiring Olympian we’re all just somewhere in the middle striving to feel healthy, alive, and just a little bit better than we were the day before.
Maybe I have this desire because I was never good at sports as a kid. I’ve always had knobby knees, pointy elbows, and been more thin than thick. I wasn’t built to muscle my way through high contact team sports, and I also lacked the coordination necessary for most of them. In reality, I think I also lacked the confidence. I should have been fast because of my skinny limbs, but I wasn’t that either.
My best friend is also the one who convinced me to try track in seventh grade. That was the push I needed to finally join a team. It wasn’t exactly a success story because I didn’t train or focus well enough to be very competitive, but I did see improvement. I ran hurdles because not too many girls wanted to, and one singular year I qualified for the section meet. I was ecstatic.
I only stuck with track through tenth grade, but I don’t regret the other things (4-H, music, speech, FFA, drama, work, academics, and family & friends) I filled my time with. They shaped me into me and helped develop the skills I needed for college and beyond.
I would never have been a great runner, but for some reason running was waiting for me five years ago. It gave me a renewed chance. I also think it’s a blessing God helped me rediscover once the happy chaos of college was over. After four busy years, I was a newlywed living in a small town with few friends or connections beyond my husband and the farm. I love those things, but that kind of change is still tough.
I had the maturity at this point to train harder, and I found a community of support through other runners that encouraged me to go farther. My readers and this blog are part of that community too!
A year and a half after this October race I drove back to Fargo for my first marathon. Apparently I like flat when I’m tackling a new distance. My friend thought this was certainly more crazy, but she still helped me navigate to the start and was cheering at the finish.
I don’t know what the next five years will bring, but I suspect I will still be chasing.