I love reading about running. Honestly, I don’t know why. It’s like this special bond I share with millions of other people. Therefore, I follow a lot of running blogs, and one thing I’ve seen a lot in the last week are running recaps for the year 2013. And I thought, what a wonderful idea! I should do that too.
I remember exactly when I committed to becoming a runner. I remember wanting to run, signing up for the first race, buying new running shoes, all that stuff. But I didn’t actually become a runner until Easter 2013. The date was March 31st. I’d been dabbling with it already – running on the elliptical at H’s apartment complex every once and a while, or riding a stationary bike. But I don’t think I had been outside to run yet. It was a long winter, and that was scary to me.
But then it was Easter, and I was home with my family. My sister (whom shall be called Seester, from this post forward), because she has so much of our mother in her, decided that we should take a million selfies while sitting together in an oversized chair in the living room. Looking at those selfies, I felt only one thing.
To me, this is all relative. It is a matter of personal opinion. My jeans were no longer fitting comfortably. My shirts were stretched out over my middle, straining. I wasn’t overweight, per se, but I was carrying more weight than I wanted to be. So I finally committed myself to actually running.
Running is so hard when you first start. Everyone needs to know that. It’s not one of those things that you love right away. But the end justifies the means, as they say, and in this case, it’s true. And I knew that, in order for me to make myself keep running, I needed a goal. I needed a race. So I registered for the Apple Blossom 5K in the middle of May. That was my goal. I had never run three miles without stopping before. I wasn’t entirely sure that I even could. But I knew I had to try.
H, being the wonderful boyfriend that he is, was bragging about my progress and the fact that I was sticking to my plan to his mom. Who then invited us to join them over Mother’s Day weekend for the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. I was feeling good. I was in.
And I was a runner.
Avera Race Against Breast Cancer 5K – May 11, 2013 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
My first race ever. I had only one goal for this race, since it was my first one: finish in under 30 minutes. I had been averaging ten minute miles during my training, so I thought I would be okay.
The course was hillier than I thought it would be. Did you know that South Dakota is hilly? But what goes up must come down, right? Also, it was just above freezing on this particular morning. It was May! I was hoping I’d be wearing shorts! Nope. Even with leggings and a jacket on, I was chilled to the bone. I remember sprinting across the finish line. My lungs were burning, since I had never sprinted in training. My legs felt like they might collapse, my muscles still new, not fully formed. But I did it.
Chip Time: 28:36; Pace: 9:13/mile; Overall Finish: 559/1851; Gender & Age Group Finish: 252/1238
Apple Blossom Races 5K – May 19, 2013 – Hastings, Minnesota
It was interesting to run two races in back to back weekends when I had just started running. This course was super hilly, ups and downs for the entire way. H and I drove from Minneapolis to Hastings in a downpour, meeting up with my parents at the starting line. Everything was soggy – that’s what I truly remember. Since it was early in my running, I didn’t have all the technical shirts that I do now. My cotton long sleeve tee was stuck to me for most of the run. But I felt great afterwards, and even with a sprint to the finish, I didn’t feel weak like the weekend before. Improvement is a motivational thing, a powerful thing.
Chip Time: 28:58; Pace: 9:21/mile; Overall Finish: 52/140; Gender & Age Group Finish: 3/17
Warrior Dash Minnesota – June 29, 2013 – Afton, Minnesota
This was an adventure, let me tell you. At this point in time, I was already signed up for the Color Run, but a high school friend wanted to do something fun. She suggested the Warrior Dash, a 5K obstacle race. I agreed. I couldn’t believe it, after I signed up and was trying to train. I was going to be muddy. I needed upper body strength. It was the challenge that I am probably most proud of myself for completing.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Minnesota, Afton Alps is a ski place.[i] So the first thing we had to do was run up one of the ski slopes. Yes, that was painful. And honestly, my friend and I walked for most of it. But we didn’t skip a single obstacle, we joked through the whole thing, and we crossed the finish line together. I’d do it again, in a heartbeat. I’d jump over that fire again. I’d swim through the mud pit again. I would. And I hope to.
Chip Time: 49:48; Pace: 15:46/mile; Overall Finish: 4669/8311; Gender & Age Group Finish: 624/1343[ii]
Color Run Minnesota – July 14, 2013 – Saint Paul, Minnesota
This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. My mom and I ran this one together, signing up five months in advance to get a morning time. By the time we were finished running through the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, we were covered with color, which was awesome. I love color!
But the best part about this race, in my opinion? It wasn’t timed! So we walked most of it, jogging through when they threw colored chalk at us. This is another one that I hope to do again.
Wingman Triathlon Relay – August 11, 2013 – Red Wing, Minnesota
I loved running this in my hometown. And it was fun, how we ended up doing it. H’s younger cousin swam for us, H biked, and I ran.[iii] And we were competing against H’s uncle and other cousin, who were on another relay team, and H’s aunt did the tri by herself, in preparation for her Olympic Distance triathlon challenge in October. What a fun day of family and competition!
Chip Time: 25:52; Pace: 8:38/mile
Women Rock 10K – August 31, 2013 – Saint Paul, Minnesota
This was a race I am so glad I experienced. It was women only, so there was cheering when people started coming back the other way on the out and back. We got handed ruby necklaces at the finish line by shirtless men, and we got champagne flutes and technical sweatshirts as race swag. H felt awkward, thinking about being a guy at this event, so my mom came with me. It was ungodly hot outside, but luckily, the race started at 7:30 am, to try to offset the temperatures. The course was an out and back, with one big downhill out, making that a big uphill on the way back. But I felt strong, and am very proud of my finish. It was a pretty sweet start to Labor Day Weekend!
Chip Time: 57:15; Pace: 9:13/mile; Overall Finish: 316/3286; Age Group Finish: 12/151
Dave Ryan’s 10K – September 28, 2013 – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Looking back, it’s funny to remember who was with me at all of these races to watch me cross the finish line. My parents didn’t make it up to this one, but H’s dad happened to be in town,[iv] so H and his dad accompanied me to my race. Fall was here (finally), so the morning was chilly and drizzly. But it was the perfect weather for a run.
Also, this was one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever ran on. It started in Boom Island Park in Minneapolis, and we got to cross the Stone Arch Bridge and run up and down West River Parkway. Basically, the Mississippi River was in view the entire time. It was lovely. There was one big downhill going out and the same big uphill coming back, but it wasn’t too bad. I felt really good, although exhausted, after this one.
Chip Time: 53:02; Pace: 8:32/mile; Finish: 25/191; Gender & Age Group Finish: 5/63
Mankato Half Marathon – October 20, 2013 – Mankato, Minnesota
This is what everything was leading up to. My entire six months of running got me to this point – a half marathon. I chose this one because it was in the town where Seester goes to college, and I thought it would be cool for her to see me run thirteen miles.[v] The weather was perfect – drizzly and in the low 40’s, so a Flash Dry long sleeve and some winter running tights were all I needed.
I was nervous, to say the least. My longest training run had been 11.5 miles, but I figured I could go the extra 1.6. The run took us from the Minnesota State University campus to the arena where the college hockey team plays – Verizon Wireless Arena. So we finished in the downtown area, and got to run to the line with cheering crowds on either side. I was so proud of myself for this. I felt so accomplished.
Chip Time: 1:53:37; Pace: 8:41/mile; Overall Finish: 453/1591; Gender and Age Group Finish: 22/125
Trick or Treat Trail Run – October 26, 2013 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Isn’t it fitting that my year of races ended where it began? H and I were going back to his hometown for his brother’s confirmation, and his mom wanted to run a race. So she, H’s cousin, and I ran a 5K dressed in costumes. I was an ice cream cone, H’s mom was a bee, and his cousin was a cat. It was fun and relaxing, and the times didn’t matter. What a perfect way to end the (running) year.
Chip Time: 32:08; Pace: 10:21/mile; Overall Finish: 185/358; Gender & Age Group Finish: 31/73
And look at me now. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and I’m happy and healthy.[vi] Everything that was bothering me at Easter is no longer valid. I’ve had to buy all new pants, if you’ll believe that – nothing I owned before I started running fits me anymore. It’s all good. I feel good. And truly, I have myself to thank, since I finally got motivated to work for something.
I can’t only thank myself, however. H has been wonderful. His mom is a runner, so he is familiar with the ins and outs of training schedules and being a supportive spectator. One day, I want to see him at the finish line of Boston, cheering for me with the smile he saves for me. But that’s in the distant future – I need to run a single marathon before I can train for something like Boston. One day, though. One day.
I also have to thank my family for supporting me through the whole thing, for traveling to watch me at races, and for encouraging my crazy dreams. My dad even started running, so I have a buddy and a motivator when I go home to run the familiar streets of my hometown. He’s been the only reason I’ve left the house, some mornings. Running is still hard, even after all of these months. And my mom is the best cheerleader. I learned that way back during my tee-ball days.
And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank H’s mom. She’s the reason I started running in the first place. I was frustrated with work, frustrated with my life, frustrated with the feeling that I wasn’t moving forward at all. So I ran. And it got better. It has gotten so much better.
Love to all of you.
[i] I was going to say “ski resort,” but I don’t think you can call it a resort, necessarily. It’s a place you can go to ski in the winter. No places to sleep or anything.
[ii] We were in the very last heat of the day – so everything was pretty beat up by the time we got there. Imagine trying to plan a race to accommodate 8,000+ people! Crazy, right?
[iii] The running distance was a 5K, so I think you’d call this tri distance a Sprint Distance Tri.
[iv] If I remember correctly, we attended the wedding of one of H’s cousins that same evening, which is why his dad was in town. Busy busy, like I’ve said!
[v] Spoiler Alert: She didn’t see me run. Too early in the morning for her, or something. I was disappointed.
[vi] Aside from the fact that I am still recovering from a running injury – that is besides the point.