January 17, 2010

Why I Run

my first race EVER! The Race Against Prostate Cancer in honor of my father : )
running & crossing the finish line

7/18/09 Run for Central Park

smiling at mile 6 & after finishing the Phily Half on 11/22/09

Just about 2 months after my first half marathon and I'm already training for my next. The NYC Half is just over 2 months away.... let the crazy schedule & constant eating begin!

I've never been much of an athlete. Which is why most of my friends & family were pretty surprised when they first heard I was running. Most were supportive, some indifferent and then others were confused. They couldn't seem to understand why I would spend hours a week participating in an activity that would leave me sore, sometimes limping, and constantly icing different parts of my body. Why do I run? Why did I train for a Half Marathon? And why do I intend to run a full Marathon within the next year? Because I can. And because I needed to prove to myself that I could.

Those closest to me know that the last year or so has been one of the most difficult in my life. Without getting into much detail, my heart was slowly breaking and the pain was so intense, I couldn't seem to find a way to cope with it. Until I started running outside.

When I run outside, my mind is completely clear. Just like the beginning and end of my yoga practice, running is another form of meditation to me. I feel no stress, no pressure. Sometimes I watch others go by or pay attention to the beautiful NYC scenery. Other times I notice nothing and find myself at mile 5 or 6 and am shocked that the miles have slipped by. I listen to music, often singing out loud to The Cure, Phish, Coldplay, Madonna, Matisyahu... I do it for myself, for no one else. I feel alive when I run. And I don't compete against anyone. I run as slow or as fast as my body tells me to. Sometimes I pass other runners. But most of the time, they pass me, and I smile as the go by. There is no judgement from myself and if there is from anyone else, I must be pretty good at ignoring it.

But why a half marathon? Well as I mentioned before, the last year of my life was crap. So much uncertainty, so many scary changes, and too many moments when I didn't think I was strong enough to get through it all but knew I didn't have a choice. So instead of focusing on my chaotic life, I focused on a different challenging goal and put all my energy into accomplishing it. Training for the race took my focus off my difficulties and allowed me to channel it into something I could control. And if I could run 13.1 miles, that would mean I was strong after all.

I ran a few short races leading up to the Phily half for fun & practice, and after one particular 5 mile race, I sent my parents some pictures via email. I remember my mom telling me that they were amazed at how strong I looked. How since I am such a small person, and had health issues (undiagnosed celiac disease) for so long, they'd never really thought of my as a physically strong person. But that is what stood out to them when they saw me running. And the cool part is that I finally felt strong.

The Phily half was probably one of my happiest 2 hours & 16 minutes in a really, really long time. Sure there were hard parts of the race. Like that portion between mile 9 & 10 which was uphill torture. Lots of people around me walked that mile but I closed my eyes, screamed a few words I cannot write, and kept running. I imagined that I was at the north side of the Central Park loop, an uphill portion that many runner's dread, and reminded myself that I was strong enough to make it. I'd run that loop a gazillion times and made it. And I could run this hill and make it. And I did. In fact, I finished the race 4 minutes faster than my goal time. Now I remind myself of the race every time I face something difficult. I know that I am strong and that I can handle the curves balls life throws my way,

After the Phily half, I took some time off. My body just hurt and I injured both my knee & hip during the race. I wasn't sure when I would start again but missed it like crazy. So when I found out I had been accepted to the NYC Half through the lottery I was so excited! I've been working with a personal trainer to strengthen my hips and core so that I could train and I am so ready to get out there again. But now my goals are different because I know what I can accomplish. I run because I love it, I love the way it makes me feel, and I love the smile that is plastered on my face as my feet pound the pavement to the beat of my music :)

To all my fellow runners out there, happy trails! And to those of you reading this and telling themselves they can't even run a mile, trust me when I say you can. A year ago I couldn't run for more than 10 minutes. Now I can run for hours. It just takes one step at a time. And you too are strong enough.

8 comments :

  1. Great post. I to am a runner and just started yoga, I can see the meditative aspects of both. I am sorry you had a hard year. I lost my dad this year and often found myself so greatful that my body was strong (when his was not). Thanks for articulating how you can get so much out of a sport without being overly competitive. Hope 2010 is better.

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  2. I just started Yoga and I try to walk a few times a week.. It really is my therapy and how right you are one step at a time..

    Yes to a better 2010! My Best :)

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  3. Sad and inspiring. I wish you much strength.

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  4. Erica! I absolutely love your posts. You are an incredible inspiration for me. I can't thank you enough for sharing your experiences - you truly make me want to be a better and stronger person. Thank you!

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  5. You are so strong and inspiring. . Which makes me so proud and grateful to be your cousin

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  6. WOW! Thank you all for the love & encouragement. It was a bit scary to put myself out there like this so a true thank you for yours support!
    Hope all of your 2010s are your best year yet!!!
    Much love,
    Erica

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  7. Erica,

    Now that you've run your first marathon, do the feelings expressed in this post still stand? Did the 26.2 change how you view running or yourself more than the half or was it just longer?

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  8. Beautiful post!
    You are a brave woman!

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