Monday, July 25, 2011

I Am a Runner Because I Run

I ran the Santa Cruz Wharf to Wharf, a 10K distance, yesterday. This is my first time completing a race of this distance and I am really proud of myself. I was really nervous in the beginning because there were so many people crowding around the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk start line. I think the number of people was intimidating as it countered my training experience. My training consists of idyllic, coastal runs on the Bay Trail with a cooling bay breeze on my face and only the sound of the wind and my footsteps to keep me company. Being so nervous, I ended up using the porta-potties twice before the race started. Once it started, the horde slowly moved towards the start line and I heard someone to my left jokingly "moo." Once at the start, I started picking up my feet and ran. Only, we couldn't run so far and so fast because we had to maneuver past all the slower runners and walkers that were in the way. What an interesting way to run, similar to driving a car in traffic under a strong impatient impulse. I kept looking over my shoulder and swerving between people making sure I wasn't going to pummel over anybody. My body temperature rose pretty quickly early on, despite being next to the coast and I pretty much had to force myself to work throughout the entire event. The first 2 miles, I felt energetic, mostly due to the need to maneuver around people. By about mile 4, I could feel my left knee bothering me. I kept running, albeit at a slower pace. I trailed behind Albert by a few yards and he would keep looking back to make sure I was within sight. At mile 5, I picked up my pace and joined alongside Albert. We greeted each other.

"My left knee."
"My right ankle."

And that was the extent of our talk. Once we saw the mile 6 sign, I could feel my energy kicking in again (I wish my runner's high kicked it at the beginning!) and I leaned forward to force my feet to go faster. At the last 100 yards, I raised my hands above my head in a victory sign for the cameras. Then Albert and I held hands and we crossed the finish line together.

A friend asked me, "When did you get into running?" About a year ago, Albert and Jim completed the San Francisco Half Marathon. Going to the SF Marathon convention and seeing both Albert and Jim at the finish line was so inspiring to me. Seeing so many people derive pleasure and joy in something so simple as running was intriguing. Doesn't it hurt? Isn't it a lot of work? Can you really have a good time running? Yes, yes, and yes!

I've been running on and off for about a year. In the beginning, I wasn't so committed. I probably ran consistently for the first month and a half and then stopped for several months. I never ran during the winter except once with Jim and that sucked because Jim has a faster pace than me and he will push you. After that I probably didn't run again until I moved in May. Around that time, I started running once or twice a week and swimming at the local indoor pool on my off days. Sometimes I'd swim more than run, sometimes vice versa. I started running with Albert on the weekends as a way to spend time with him while allowing him to do something physically active. In the beginning I couldn't keep up with Albert; I'd get winded too fast or he'd run on ahead of me, which was somewhat discouraging. Eventually, I realized that running was something to work towards. Albert remarked how energetic I was running up a hill. I started practicing a mid-foot strike, which gave me more energy. And finally, during a solo 4.7 mile run (my longest distance at that time) I felt it. The runner's high! Endorphins rushing through me - my body felt great! I thought to myself, "I could do this forever!" And that was when I became hooked.

Since then, I realize that I have my own style, energy, and personality when I run and I've learned to relish it. I like to run up hills even though it's tiring. Leaning into the downhill portion of a run is a blast as long as your feet can keep up. And when your body gets aches and pains, you take care of it and let it rest while acknowledging the work that is needed on those areas.

The first time I realized I became a runner was when I was looking at my tank top that had the line, "I am a runner because I run." printed on the inside hem. It's so simple, but it is true. So now that I can bask in the glory of finishing a 10K, I'm looking forward to resting my body up and the next run. I'm deciding between the Warrior Dash in Hollister and/or the Gladiator Run in Pasadena.

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