Because every day is a holiday to me.
The details of those first few steps are so vividly engrained in my brain. I remember waking up, wondering what would ever posess me to set an alarm on a Saturday morning. I remember lacing up my sneakers, the only pair I owned that I had gotten on sale at Kohl’s with my mom. I remember fumbling to tuck my key into my capris as I made my way to the stretch of sidewalk, checking to see if anyone was awake yet to judge me. It was already so sunny and warm. I remember telling myself “just get to that light pole- you can make it that far.”
And then I was off, awkwardly bobbing as I kept my eyes on the nearing light pole. Once I reached it I stopped- gasping for air. Step one: check. I jogged to the next one. Walked for a bit. Jogged to the next one. As I ran I adjusted my capris, rolled up the sleeves of my cotton t-shirt, tried to figure out what to do with my arms. When it seemed like I had gone far enough I turned around and repeated the process back to my car. I wiped the sweat from my face and tried to get my breathing back to a normal pattern. I gave myself a mental high five and promised the beach I would be back the next day. I wasn’t sure how, but this time I was going to stick with it.
I’m still not sure what kept me going day after day that summer on the beach. Those first steps SUCKED. I couldn’t figure out how to breathe and run at the same time. My shins hurt. The sidewalk on the beach had no shade and it was HOT AS BALLS. But somehow, for some unknown reason, I kept going. I downloaded the Couch to 5K App on my phone and dutifly followed the prompts. I did a little victory dance every time I heard “Activity Complete” in my headphones.
As my weight dropped it got a little easier. I figured out what to do with my arms. I learned how to breathe without feeling like someone was jabbing my side with a pitchfork. I made it past 3 light poles, 5 light poles… a full mile.
I signed up for my first 5K. It took three races before I was able to run the full 3 miles without stopping. But I was hooked. As much as I wanted every race to be over half a mile in, there was something addicting about pinning on that paper bib, about linining up with all those other runners, about crossing over that finish line. I was so proud of those bibs that I tacked them up on the fridge after every race. I was enchanted in a way I had never been enchanted before.
I went on to run a 5 Miler, a 10K, a half marathon. I became a triathlete. Each challenge more difficult than the last, but with an even sweeter feeling once I crossed the finish line. I discovered that insatiable thirst for wanting to see if you could push yourself just a little harder and just a little further. I traded in my crappy Kohl’s sneakers for a real pair of running shoes, for spandex pants, for tank tops when I got braver. I got a running hat, a GPS watch, a log book. I started running for so long that I needed to fuel half way through. I actually caught myself saying “what’s 3 more miles?” more than a handful of times.
Today is declared a national day to celebrate running but let’s face it- every day is National Running Day for me. I celebrate it with my overstuffed drawer of race shirts, with my 13.1 sticker on my car, with the bracelets on my arm that remind me where I’ve been and where I’m going. There’s not a person in my circle of friends and family that probably doesn’t think of running after they hear my name, and that’s fine by me. I’m perfectly okay soaking up too much of a good thing for the time being.
I wasn’t born to run. Nor am I naturally talented. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have zero talent when it comes to running. No one will ever look at me and think “That girl’s got speed”. I’m never going to win first place for my age group. I’m never going to have perfect form. But I like to think that what I lack in talent I make up for in heart and determination. As hard as running is for me there’s something about that feeling afterwards. Something that makes me want to get up tomorrow and do it all over again.
My celebration today begins at 5:15am where I get to go to the job I love, and help others use running to move themselves forward in life. And I will end it at the track with the sun setting behind me as I coach a group of women through their first days of running. At some point I will go for my own run, where I will head down to the beach. I will run on the same sidewalk that saw me through those first painful jogs, through my interval training, and is now often a water stop for my long runs. I will celebrate National Running Day all day today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. (And then maybe I’ll take a rest day 😉 )
Happy National Running Day!