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Posted by Erin D.
I just want to preface this, my first blog entry, with the one statement that could preface just about everything in my life:
I blame my sister.
It's true. Throughout most of my life, anything athletic I've ever attempted, or even thought about attempting, was usually because my sister did it first. Whether it was playing softball, field hockey or basket ball, most of the time I only tried it because my sister blazed the trail before me.
When I proudly watched my sister cross the finish line at her first half marathon this past January, I felt that old familiar thought creeping in - "If she did it, then I'm going to do it, too!". I vowed to myself, and to my tired but seriously elated sister, that we would cross that very same finish line together in 2014.
I began my training as soon as I returned from our trip, logging only a mile or two at a time on the treadmill, keeping my sister's huge accomplishment of 13.1 in my head as motivation when my shin splints were pleading with me to stop. As my lungs struggled to find breath and my thighs and arms chafed, I remembered the huge smile on my sister's face and kept chugging along. Slow and somewhat unsteady, I kept moving.
As the weeks went by, I found myself looking forward to my daily run, rather than dreading it. The pain that I felt in my legs at the beginning started to fade, and I started to feel good. Others began noticing a change for the better in my mood, and I did too.
On a weekend visit home to see my family, about three months in to my rediscovered love for running, my sister suggested that we do a race together. It was just a simple neighborhood 5K, but I was excited, nervous, and ready.
As we stood at the starting line together, I felt a knot growing in my stomach. At this point, I'd been running 3 to 5 miles at a time, but I was always by myself and able to pace myself on my treadmill. What if the other runners passed me? What if someone took a picture of me and I didn't look like ridiculously photogenic guy? What if my sister left me in the dust?
The starting gun went off and I had no more time to ask questions. We were off and running - hard! My adrenaline was pumping and I was feeling like Super Woman. Until about 10 minutes in, when I turned to my sister and said, "We're about halfway now, right?". She laughed and said, "Um, not quite!" (I would later find out we had gone a little under a mile.)
I was really feeling it now. The initial rush was wearing off a bit, we were heading for an incline, and I was realizing that I started off WAY too fast. I huffed and puffed my way up the incline, got to the top and watched my sister (with my blessing) run off without me. I took about 30 seconds to walk off the effects of the incline, and started running again, vowing that I wouldn't walk again.
At this point, I started really relying on my surroundings. I listened to the encouragement of the volunteers lining the course, and the spectators cheering on every runner that passed. "You can do it!" and "Keep going! You're almost there!" filled my ears. I was in awe of the complete strangers cheering me on and felt a sudden wave of energy, and that's when it hit me. This is what it's all about! The encouragement, the progress, the complete strangers helping you reach your goal - this is what running is.
As I approached the finish line where my sister(who'd finished nearly two minutes before) and Mom were waiting, my three year old niece saw me coming and ran across the finish line to greet me, and we crossed together, smiling and laughing. It's a feeling I'll never forget, and that I can't wait to experience again.
If someone asked me six months ago if I'd have a 5K under my belt and be running 15-20 miles/week, I probably would have spit out my beer and laughed. But now, as a novice runner with just a small taste of what it is to be a part of the running community, I see no end to where running might take me. And I still blame my sister...
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