Four years ago, when I was thinking about moving to Washington, D.C., I made a goal to run the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. I had heard about the race’s popularity and thought it would give myself a fitness goal to work toward. Back then, I was an occasional runner – 3 miles a couple times a week for a few months before “getting too busy” and stopping altogether. The idea of running 10 miles at one time seemed far off and slightly unrealistic, but it always kept popping up in my mind. I knew it was something I wanted to achieve.
For three years as a D.C. resident, I kept missing the deadline to register for the lottery that would allow me to secure a spot in the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. This coincided nicely with my inability to break free from the occasional runner label I had given myself. While I was running more frequently since moving to D.C., I would hardly call myself a true runner. I didn’t follow any sort of training plan and still found myself not running for weeks – and sometimes months – at a time.
Back in January 2011, I decided I was done with that mentality. I’ve never given less than 100% to anything before, so why have I always done it with long-distance running? I enjoyed it and wanted to be committed. So, shortly after the new year, I signed up for a popular 10K in Charleston, SC taking place in early April. For 4 months this winter, I trained at the gym on a treadmill (!) with my best friend for the race. When I started out, I could barely maintain a 10-minute mile, but I kept pushing through, finding enjoyment in this new, challenging hobby. A few weeks before the race, Ashley and I took our training outside to the trails. We bundled up to brave D.C.’s chilly spring weather and ran… and ran… and ran. That day, we covered 7 miles – the furthest either of us had ever run before. When we finished, we felt the runner’s high so many speak about.
After finishing the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, I grew a bit obsessed. I read books about running. I subscribed to countless running blogs. I purchased a subscription to Runners World. I began volunteering with Girls on the Run (GOTR), a nonprofit that seeks to instill healthy self-esteem in young girls through running.
Outside of work, my life was all about running. And I loved every minute of it.
While volunteering at the GOTR spring 5K race, something came over me. I watched these young girls crossing the finish line with massive smiles, accomplishment and pride taking over their small faces. I wanted that. Coincidentally, that morning, registration for the Army Ten Miler – the largest 10-mile race in the United States – had opened. The ATM has a reputation for selling out quickly so I made a knee-jerk decision to just do it, using the unreliable Internet connection on my iPhone to sign up in the parking lot.
For a couple of days, I was simply excited. Then, I grew uncertain. Had I really signed up for a 10-mile race? The longest I’d ever run at that point was 7 miles. I’d essentially be tacking on a 5K distance to that… did I really have it in me?
Pushing the self-doubt aside, I devised a training plan. I’ve built them before and followed them half-hardheartedly as a high school cross country
slacker runner. Would I stick with it? Would I still be running in October – 7 months from the day I signed up for the race?
Well, tomorrow is the Army Ten Miler. I’m still running. In fact, throughout my training, I’ve tackled a few things I thought I’d never do:
- I joined a running group that has introduced me to some of my closest friends.
- I ran 9 miles on a Thursday evening after work because I felt… surprisingly great… while running…
- I ran 11.5 miles on a Saturday morning by myself.
- I ran 9 miles without an iPod in a torrential downpour in Florida. (I never thought I’d be able to run without music, and now music-less runs make up the bulk of my training.)
- I ran every single long run on my training plan.
- I ran 12.5 miles.
- I happily gave up going out with friends on Friday nights to ensure I’d feel my best on my Saturday long runs.
- I spent more money on running clothes than actual clothes. (!)
- I began eating whole foods, including lots of different veggies. (Mom, aren’t you proud?!)
- I ran a 5-mile race and netted a 7:50-mile pace. I never thought I’d secure an average pace beginning with a 7!
Each of these achievements is exciting and empowering. As I sit here with a little less than 24-hours until I cross the start line of the Army Ten Miler, a race I’ve been working toward since May, I am filled with nervous anxiety. There are questions and concerns racing around in my head, but the excitement is slowly seeping in and pushing any fears out the window. I’m already flying a bit high on race day adrenaline.
Tomorrow morning, I will pin on a bib (crookedly, I’m sure), lace up my shoes, set my watch, and finally run a 10-mile race (with 30,000 of my closest friends). It won’t be easy, but it’s not supposed to be. If it were an easy feat, it wouldn’t be a goal I’ve had on my mind for four years…