How I Became a Runner…

On a nice September day in 2010 a beautiful young woman stepped out of her apartment to begin an exercise program. The goal was to walk 10,000 steps a day. Those first mornings on the treadmill yielded a 23 minute mile. Today, the same young woman ran 4 miles in 51 minutes.

I’ve never been into running. Growing up and playing sports meant you ran for a reason: to win, to score, to defend, to chase down the opponent. I played sports that didn’t make you run so much like softball, volleyball, and basketball. (I mean, my version of basketball involved a big brown bench.) Anytime you or the team messed up or goofed off, the punishment was running. As a matter of fact the only thing I am actually good at regarding basketball is foul shots. I perfected my foul shot so I wouldn’t have to run as many suicide drills as everyone else.  Hitting home runs was preferable because you could walk the bases.

Basically, running has never been fun or preferred. There better be a good reason for it if I’m asked to do it. So it’s funny that these days I think I might actually consider myself a runner. How did this happen? Since when do I wake up on a weekday and find it normal to go out and get a good 4 miles in before work? Crazy.

I tell you all of this because this just might be you too. Running is the best way to burn calories, and many of us want to do that, but we struggle to actually get into a routine. Lately people have been asking me how I’ve done it… how I’ve turned myself into a runner.

Good question. How the hell did this happen?

This is what I know. First, I wanted a change. The life I was living wasn’t what I wanted or what was best for me. The day finally came when I needed that to change. There were no lofty goals in the beginning. Walk 10,000 steps every day. That was it. I bought a pedometer on Amazon, started tracking my steps, and quickly realized just how little I used my legs at all. Just to reach my 10,000 I had to get up and start walking a little extra.

In the beginning I was frustrated. I mean, the big folks on the Biggest Loser were running, and here I was settling for a walking routine. What was I, 70-years-old? My pride was taking a big hit. That’s where I think step 2 comes in; I decided that I needed to do this for me and the way that was best for me.

Things went slowly. By the new year I was adding some other workout stuff to my routine. I had some good friends that suggested I come to a class they attend regularly. Sounded simple. I mean, I know I probably couldn’t keep up in any class, so I didn’t ask too many questions. Well, that’s the day I met Ava Smith. The lady is so southern and sweet, but when it comes to exercise she’s crazy. Often in her workouts I hear her saying, “It’s been 27 minutes! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 27 MINUTES!”  Really?

But I kept going. My friends Allison and Caroline kept encouraging me and motivating me to press through. I mean after a few classes I couldn’t walk. There were entire weekends spent on the heating pad on my couch. It was easier to go if I knew I didn’t have to do it alone. No matter how rough it was, somebody else understood. Other friends like Casey, Jordan, and Cindy would get up and go to the treadmill with me in the morning. I slowly started trying to do small intervals of running and walking. I did it at my pace; no program or schedule.

The third and maybe most important step for me has been having encouraging partners in crime. I can’t do it alone. There might be people out there who can get up at 6:00 AM and fully motivate themselves to run, but I’m not one of them. There better be somebody standing out in the cold waiting on my lazy butt to get up.

As spring turned into summer, I had a good healthy workout routine. I was keeping up better in my Ava classes and running on the treadmill. I’d brought my pace down from 22 minute miles (walking obviously) to around 16 minutes with intervals.

That’s when it happened. Allison and Caroline finished their first half-marathon. You’d think they would just check that off their list and move on to something new and fresh. Nope. They decided they’d like to do it again and that I should do it with them.

Do you know how long a half-marathon is? I sure didn’t… it’s 13.1 miles. MILES. So you know how everybody runs 5k’s… that’s deceiving because it’s only 3 miles.. 5 kilometers, but 3 miles. This is a race that’s 13.1 miles long. At this point I’ve never run a mile or been in a race. Repeat: Never ran an entire mile without stopping. Any trek longer than 2 miles meant I was hiking or lost in a foreign country.

Basically it sounded impossible. Absolutely impossible. This wasn’t just taking a giant leap forward, this was learning to step off and fly away. That was the next step though.  Step 4 was setting the impossible goal. Without first deciding to make a change, choosing to do it my way and for me, and finding people to really support me along the way, I’d never be able to believe I could reach the impossible goal.

So here we are, a couple months out from the big race. I worked on my distance and pace on the treadmill. Just running a little at first. Then one day it happened… I ran a mile without stopping. I just went far enough and said, I can do it… I can keep going. So I did. Then the official training program for the half-marathon started. I downloaded one from the internet, because let’s face it, I didn’t have a clue.

People wonder how I can stay motivated to get up and run every other day. I mean, it’s obviously hard. I can’t move my legs right now. The key is that I’m not motivated to get up and run every other day. I’m motivated to reach my impossible goal, and I know it will take getting up and running every other day to get there. The day-to-day isn’t motivating at all, it’s the goal that keeps me going.

So I as start my longer runs, I’m seeing just how far I’ve come. That’s the last thing I can figure that is helping me in this journey: being honest about my progress.

Just this morning I was running 4 miles with a bunch of my awesome friends. We started out, and for 2 seconds we all ran together before they started pulling away. I watched them jogging along and chit chatting the whole time. It was easy to get a little discouraged at first. They’ve been out of town and I’ve been running pretty consistently, but there they go out in front. I can’t even talk and run at the same time; they are having casual conversation. But I quickly checked myself. I had to be honest. This is what I know.

I’ve gone from 22 minute miles walking to just under 13 minute miles running/walking. I am already up to 5 miles in one run! In just 9 days I took my 4 mile time from an hour and 18 minutes, to 51 minutes. That’s 27 minutes faster in 9 days. While my friends are awesome runners, and I still can’t quite keep up, I’ve made HUGE strides. So I settled in and ran my race this morning. They had to wait on me, but no biggie.

It’s funny how this happened. There was no big plan or program that got me here. It was all my choices and what I decided to believe was true of me. I just started to believe that I already was who I wanted to be.

And you know what… I am a runner.

So the question is, who or what do you want to be?

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30 thoughts on “How I Became a Runner…

  1. #1. i am crying. #2. i am so proud of you i could bust. literally. #3. there is NO ONE else i want to do this crazy life with. Ash – you are the picture of determination and dedication. The way that you have whole-heartedly attacked this thing is so encouraging to me. You inspire me and make me want to be better. I love you so much and think the absolute world of you.

  2. Girl you are a runner!! When is this race you’re running?? Can’t wait to cheer for you as you finish, whenever it is!

    • Roomy! PS – I’m training for a half-marathon on October 2nd. I’m doing the 13.1 in downtown Atlanta. You can totally cheer me on… I’m going to seriously need it.

  3. Ashley! I don’t even really have words, but it is such a blessing to know you. Seriously it is so exciting to see what God is doing in and through you through this whole process. I love this blog. You really are inspiring!

  4. Pingback: Exercise with a purpose! « Body Elated

  5. Thanks for sharing Ashley , I am so proud of you and this really hits home for me as I need to get off my lazy behind and at least do the 10,000 steps ! You inspire me ! Love ya, Robin

  6. Ash! Reading this made me want to cry. I am so sooo proud of you. You are such an inspiration and what a blessing and huge support your beautiful friends have been. I’m so encouraged – you are ALL TOP NOTCH! =)

  7. seriously. you are amazing. absolutely amazing. you could have settled for something less. you could have quit when it started getting hard. you could have thrown in the towel. but, you didn’t. you’re a runner, lady… in more races than just this one. LOVES you.

  8. Holy COW!!!! That is awesome! I am so proud of you! Keep on trucking sister and show those legs whose boss!

  9. Pingback: 5 things I wish I knew about running, before I started running « breathlessrunner

  10. You are an inspiration to me…You are such a strong woman, I always knew it, but here you live it out everyday so that it’s undeniable to everyone who knows you. I’m so proud of you Ashley. So proud.

  11. I clicked over here from Jeff Goin’s site … and love this post.
    Love your points and you are so right …. you need to do it in a way that works best for YOU!

    When is your half-marathon?

    I started running twice … the first time after giving birth to 3 boys in less than 5 years … it became my therapy and anti-depressant. Ran for 10 years, then was severely hurt in an accident in 2004. Docs didn’t know if I would even walk again, but four years later I began running for the second time. Over the past few years, I’ve slowly built up my endurance and strength again and have done three half-marathons in the past year. Love that distance!

    I’m slow … my pace is somewhere between a turtle and a snail and I do the Jeff Galloway run/walk method … right now I’m running 4 minutes and walking 1. Doing that makes running doable, enjoyable and isn’t as hard on my beat up body.

    Happy running! One step at a time … you can do it!

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