Friday, March 21, 2014

Why Do I Run? To Change the Way I See Myself

Last week Rick asked me if I had blogged about why I run.  I realized this was a deep question requiring some reflection.

The easy and superficial answer is that I run to set a good example for my son Freddy.  I want him to see physical activity as a normal part of our life.

The deeper answer is that I run to change the way I think of myself.  To change the words that play on those mental tapes in my mind.  The ones that say “you are not athletic”, “you can’t do that”, “you will hurt yourself”, and “you should be embarrassed to even try”.

When I was in school, I was definitely not athletic.  I was picked last when teams were being chosen.  I was often the first one out in dodge ball.  I didn’t have the upper body strength to climb the rope or the coordination to do a cartwheel.  In junior high I used to dread report card day, wondering if my physical education grade was going to keep me off the straight-A honor roll as it often did.  I can’t tell you how mad that would make me – I would study and work so hard in school, and yet be unable to work hard enough to get an A in PE.

In 1988, I started running in college at William & Mary with some of my freshman hall mates.  I don’t remember why or how.  But I remember enjoying it, feeling like I was good at it.  It helped me shed the freshman 15 that I put on that first semester and it helped me manage stress.

In 1996, I ran my first race, the Fair Lakes 8k.  I ran it at a 9:57 pace.  I still remember the cotton reebok shirt I wore that day.  I remember how it felt to cross the finish line.

Six weeks later I ran the Seaside 10-miler race with my friend Roy Ahn, at a 9:42 pace.  I learned a lot of lessons in that race – some related to GI-issues, some related to mental barriers (I never would have finished without Roy’s encouragement), and the biggest related to not increasing your mileage too quickly.  My first diagnosis of “Runner’s Knee” and my first experience with physical therapy followed that race.

I ran recreationally for the next five years.  My pace fell: ‘97, ‘98, ‘01 paces for the Fair Lakes 8k were 10:49, 11:49, and 11:47, respectively.  Somewhere in there I had my second diagnosis of Runner’s Knee and a return to physical therapy.  And at some point the mental tapes in my head won out over my running and I stopped.

In late 2011, I started running again.  Rick had returned to running and it was inspiring to see him competing in races.  I wanted to permanently silence those mental tapes in my head.  I wanted to be athletic.  I wanted to set a good example for my son.

My first race was the Red Shoe 5k in March 2012.  I had to walk much of it.  My race pace was 14:08.  My calves hurt badly.  But I persevered.  I kept running, I trained with =PR= to learn how to run properly, I worked to shut off those negative messages in my mind.  In February 2014 I ran the RunYour Heart out 5k at a 10:37 pace.  Next month I will run the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler and the Nike Women’s HalfMarathon.
I am athletic.  I can do that. I will not hurt myself.  I am proud to try.  And I am on the straight-A honor roll.


  1. You are athletic! You have been running races for a while!! But I know what you mean about calling your self an athlete. I felt the same way when I started triathlon. I have to admit it was easier calling myself a runner than a triathlete. I'm very excited to cheer you on on April 6th! I need to map out a plan for this! You will do great!

  2. Thank you for your ongoing encouragement, Gina! I'm so excited to see you during Cherry Blossom. I will email you a picture of what I am wearing and will add you to my Garmin livetrack feed.