At some point during the summer of 2007, I finally decided that enough was enough. I was tired of being pudgy and out of shape. After four years of eating garbage in college, and three post-college years of beer and pasta (the only thing I knew how to make), I didn’t look or feel like I thought I should at age 26. My best friend, Lindsey, and I resolved to start exercising together and we started out by taking lots of long walks. The more we walked, the more we realized how long it took to get a decent amount of exercise in by walking. For 26 years I had always been one of those people that said, “I’m just not a natural runner, it’s just not for me” – but to be honest I had never really tried.
I started Googling some beginner running programs and landed on the now-famous Couch to the 5K program. I saw that the training was six weeks long, and coincidentally the local Race for the Cure 5k was exactly 6 weeks away. Right then we resolved to give it our best shot, believing that with the right training anything was possible. We started by alternating walking and running, and my pace was unbelievably slow. But little by little, I got better every week – going a little bit further, or a tiny bit faster. Six weeks later, I ran my very first 5k, and finished in a little over 30 minutes.
Training for and completing the 5k gave me such a sense of pride and accomplishment, plus it was such a fun thing for Lindsey and I to do together! After the 5k, we asked ourselves the same question ever new runner does – what next? Cincinnati’s Thanksgiving Day Race is the oldest 10k run in the country, and was a little over 2 months away. We decided to go for it, and drew up a new training program, this time setting our sights on a 6 mile goal – doubling our distance. Thanksgiving came and we finished strong together once again – now officially bitten by the running bug. We ran a few more 5ks here and there – I even ran one dressed as a bottle of ketchup!
That holiday season was bittersweet, as we all mourned the loss of Lindsey’s dad who had passed from lung cancer in October. I was as supportive of a friend as anyone can be in that situation, but I still felt a sense of helplessness, and wished I could do more. At some point in December, I threw a crazy idea out there – “I think we should run the marathon this year – in memory of your dad.”
I got Lindsey on board with the idea, and to double the fun – Casey agreed to do it too! The day we signed up for the 2008 Flying Pig Marathon, the longest I had ever run was 7 miles. But once again, I believed that with training, anything was possible, and I forced myself to be confident and determined. Our local newspaper was also asking for submissions for “Flying Pig Bloggers” at the time, and I told Lindsey I thought it would be a fun extra element we could do to add to our marathon experience. I submitted an entry and offered to blog together as a duo, and a few short weeks later I heard back – we had been picked!
Getting the opportunity to write about our running and training was an experience that would bring me much more than I would realize at the time. It ended up inspiring me to continue to grow this blog into what it is today! But at the time, it also meant…holy crap, we actually have to run this thing.
Training started in January, and 16 weeks later I found myself standing at the starting line of a marathon, having not even been running for a full year yet. Lindsey and I ran the marathon together from start to finish, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Three proud finishers after our first Flying Pig Marathon!
The minute the Pig was over I was scrolling through Runner’s World trying to find what marathon I would do next. Despite the pain and the soreness, there is something about marathons that makes you want to go for it over and over again. I looked ahead to the fall and signed up for Chicago – one of the world’s largest marathons!
I will spare you the long version of the story (but if you want to read it here is my race recap). It was one of the hottest, and worst days I can remember. Five miserable hours of 90 degree heat, water stations with no water, and what seemed to be a never ending course. Lindsey and I got separated at mile 2, and ended up running the entire race separately. We were so thrilled to all finally reconnect at the finish line!
After the hot meltdown of Chicago, I was determined not to let it break my running spirit. For a few weeks I was sad, and a little bit angry, that I had put SO much work and dedication into training, only to see it all unravel due to bad timing with mother nature. That December, I made the decision to train for the Flying Pig again – I loved the course and I loved running through my neighborhood. The only obstacle? The marathon was six days before my wedding. Everyone said we were crazy, but Casey and I signed up and trained regardless. Training for the marathon while planning and preparing for our wedding turned out to be a perfect stress release, and a fun thing to do together as wedding chaos set in around us. Just six days before we said I-do, we ran the streets of Cincy once again, this time both running personal bests…
Casey finished in a smoking fast 3:11, and I smashed my old marathon PR by over 45 minutes, finishing in 3:50! It was a perfect day, and such a great way to kick off our wedding week! (Full recap found here.)
Shortly after we ran the Flying Pig and got married, life got a lot more complicated for us. We decided to take a big leap and go back to school, picking up our lives and moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. I won’t bore you with the details now, since I’ve written about it all before, but transitioning to life in NC was tough, and running got put on the back burner for a few months. I was supposed to run the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco in the fall, but because of the move and lack of training, there was no way I could do it. Instead, I resolved to run Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon in December, and despite doing almost ZERO training, I ran 26 miles in below freezing temperatures on a frigid December morning.
The run itself was slow and painful, and I finished in 4 hours 40 minutes. But I didn’t care about my time. Conquering Thunder Road helped me find my running legs again, and I knew I had regained my love for the sport, and found a way to finally make it work in Charlotte.
In May 2009, I ran my third Flying Pig Marathon (and fifth marathon!) in the pouring rain and thunderstorms with my husband by my side. My marathon experiences have ranged from freezing cold to sweltering heat, pouring rain, to almost ideal. But I love the sport, and I plan to keep doing races and marathons as long as my body allows me!
At age 26, I started the couch to the 5K program by alternating running one minute and walking one minute, because that was all I could physically do. And at age 29, just 3 short years later, I ran my 5th full marathon. Hundreds of miles later, I am still the same girl that will tell you, “I’m just not a natural runner” because I’m not. I work really hard to do what I do, and I push myself farther than I think I can go. And I still believe the same philosophy that got me to the starting line of my first 5k – if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.