"this is so hard... my legs hurt so badly, and I don't think it's possible to sweat anymore than I am right now.. I can barely feel my feet hitting the pavement, but I can hear them clomping like I'm a 6'4" man. I can't see straight, and my God this hurts".. - Brewery Exchange 5K '00 36:11 (11:15 pace)
"Just keep moving.. One foot in front of the other.. I won't end up last today, just keep moving forward.. I might break 11:30 pace today, if I can just fight through the burn.". - Tufts 10K '00 1:10:13 (11:18 pace)
These were races done when I was 21 years old, and had no idea what was wrong with me. I couldn't figure out how I was an above average swimmer most of my life, but just plain sucked at running. I can't find the result online, but in the summer of '00, I finished dead last at a 10K race. As in the sweeper; behind EVERYONE. Yes I had the ambulance driving behind me, and they were picking up the cones as I passed. My then boyfriend had won the race; we joked that we were the bookends to the race, but in my mind, I didn't understand how I could be working so damn hard to not see any success. I felt humiliated and defeated .
I had picked up running a couple years before, needing a way to move after I stopped swimming. Running was cheap, and I had just started dating a super fast runner. He made it look so easy, yet I was working so hard every.single.day. Legs and lungs on fire, sweat dripping off of me, pouring my heart and soul into every step. I would be thrilled if I broke a 12 min/mile on any single run. I would run w/ my college roommates or friends, and was always the one holding people back. I was always the one fighting for air, and willing the burn in my legs to stop for just one moment during a run. After almost every run, I would come home and nap. I talked myself into believing it's just what college kids do. In the recesses of my mind, I knew that probably wasn't the case.
After the Tufts 10K in '00, I decided to pop into my primary care to see if there was anything wrong. While my Hematocrit and Hemoglobin were low when they pulled my CBC (complete blood count), it was my low Ferritin count that took my MD by surprise. My number was not only low, it was through the basement. He was shocked I was finishing runs, never-mind at a pace that wasn't a slow walk. We worked together through supplementing, etc to get my iron levels back to normal. It took a solid 6 months, but then on June 23, 2001, something magical happened.
I toed the line at the Marion Village 5K, where I had just a year prior I finished the race in a blistering 32:45. I was deemed healthy again, and thought it would be fun to see what I could do. The gun sounded, and I.... flew... I've never honestly experienced anything like it. My feet felt like then were dancing along the pavement, my breathing rhythmic, and a giant smile plastered across my face. I don't remember the exact split of my first mile, but it was under 7:00. I wish I could put the feeling into words, but it's something I've held onto for the past 11+ years. I crossed that finish line, one year later, with a time of 21:18. A 6:51 min/mile pace. And holy crap, I finished FIRST in my age group. In one year, I had taken over 10 minutes off of my 5K time. I will never, ever forget that day, and just how special it felt.
Its that experience, and those years, that have molded me into the runner I am now; I will NEVER say no to an offer to run, no matter how "slow" someone claims to be. I've been there, and I know what it feels like. It's remembering how hard I fought every day that I ran, not just on race day. And it's remembering that no matter how hard it was, I went back at it every single day. I did it because despite how damn hard running was, and how badly it hurt, I loved it.
And all these years later, that love has only grown..