From French Fries to Finish Lines: Part 1

It all started after a big, beautiful meal (as most of my major life commitments do). It was the morning after Thanksgiving, and I was coming out of my turkey hangover when it dawned on me—I should run a half marathon.

Anyone who has ever run for fun is probably thinking, “Big whoop! You ate a big meal then decided to run a lot. That seems like a normal, uninteresting thing to decide.”

Well it is a big whoop! Because I didn’t learn how to actually run until I was 23.

Yeah, I’m completely serious.

I could get from point A to point B just fine (as long as point A wasn’t more than half a mile from point B), but running for “fun” was never my thing. Running for pizza, however, was my thing (I will reference food a lot, so get used to it).

Let me take a step back and explain how to avoid running for 23 years. As a tall child, most gym teachers assume that you are good at basketball, running, volleyball, and getting the balls down from high places when they’re stuck. I was good at one of those things. (Spoiler alert—it wasn’t sports.)

I was asked by coaches and gym teachers to try out for these teams most likely thinking that I was some undiscovered sports prodigy, until they saw me falling behind girls who were literally a foot shorter than me and sucking wind like I had never put sneakers on in my life. Then they would say, “Good effort, but I don’t think [insert sport here] is for you.” Yeah, coach, I could have told you that before you made me chase everyone around [insert sports arena here].

As a kind-of-tall college student, everyone assumes you’re on the cross country or track team, especially when all of your friends are on the cross country or track team. So no one ever thought to challenge me to an impromptu race, perhaps because they assumed they’d lose to such an incredible athlete like myself, or maybe it was because no one challenges people to impromptu races in college (or ever).

So, I’ve basically skated by my entire life with people assuming that I was in-shape and had a history of athleticism (which we’re all caught up on now).

At 23, I decided it was time to learn how to run. 

I’d gotten a number to run the Falmouth Road Race in 2015 in Massachusetts, and I was amped. The 7 mile run would be good training for my ultimate half marathon goal.

I’m an end-goal type of gal, so knowing that I had 6 months to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other for 7 whole miles felt reasonable. At the time, I was living in New York City— which isn’t an easy place to learn to run when everyone on the streets distracts you with pretzels and gyros. Luckily, I moved back to Massachusetts during my training, and there were decidedly fewer street pretzels to deal with.

You might be thinking, “Okay, any 23-year-old could figure out how to run 7 miles in 6 months.” And I sincerely appreciate your optimism and confidence in my ability!

Technically, yes, I did finish that race. That year was the hottest race on record (unconfirmed fact, but it definitely felt like it) with 100+ degree temperatures. I drank from a lot of kind people’s hoses that day (thank you to the people of Falmouth for keeping me alive). Side note: if anyone reading this ran this exact race, please feel free to contact me to commiserate—unless you didn’t think it was “that bad” because I don’t want to hear it. Anyway, crossing the finish line was easily the most rewarding athletic moment I’d ever had—partially because I’d had zero up until that day—and a high that I continue to chase, but apparently only when influenced by a significant amount of macaroni and cheese on Thanksgiving.

So I’m back at it two years later with the goal of getting it together a lot sooner and also figuring out how to double the longest distance I’ve ever run/crawled in my relatively short life. I’ll chronicle learning how to train without hurting myself (very easy for me to do) and the things I learn along the way. Race day is May 28 here in Boston, so stick with me until then.

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