Embarking on a new sport is often viewed with trepidation. There is no way of predicting how the body will react, whether this new sport will evoke enjoyment or loathing, or if there is potential to excel. My initial rocky relationship with running evolved over time into one of respect and enjoyment. I hated running. It was hard. It made me sore. And, my water logged body was not prepared for a sport that required coordination, gravity, and heavy breathing.
I imagined, though, beyond the dislike something special was waiting, so I pressed on. I also realized that every year brings new challenges and new novelties. Even though there is only one first run, there is still potential for other “firsts”. Some of my firsts include: when I first realized I enjoyed running, first run off the bike, first marathon, first time falling off the treadmill (I managed this glamorous maneuver in a very crowded gym), first injury, first burnout, first track workout, first run at altitude. The list of firsts is endless and that is what makes running special. Here are two of my most memorable running firsts.
My first run. Ah yes, I remember it well. It was August, 1988 in Austin, TX. I just finished my last event at the Swimming Olympic Trials and a teammate who had run cross country in addition to swimming (what an overachiever) had a bright idea. She suggested that we run from our hotel to the pool. How hard can that be, I mused. I was obviously fit; I had just swum in the Olympic Trials. Bring it on, I replied. We set off in the blazing sun with humidity so high my curly hair looked like a blonde Gilda Radner in her Roseanne Roseannadanna days. Of course we had no water and just an inkling of how to actually get to the pool without utilizing the highway. I donned my fancy white Reebok aerobic shoes and painfully wrong attire (who knew about jog bras?). I was huffing after 5 minutes and my teammate was out of sight in 10. When I eventually dragged myself to the pool 90 minutes later, delirious from the heat and hobbled by muscle spasms, I vowed to never run again.
Five years later I began to run in earnest. Six months into my fledgling running career I decided to tackle my first marathon. The idea for this lunacy emerged after a chance encounter with a runner on the lake front path in Chicago shortly after moving there for graduate school. The marathon was 8 weeks away and my longest run was 7 miles; I made some quick calculations and figured there was plenty of time to ready myself to run 26.2 miles. Oh, how young and foolhardy I was! When marathon morning arrived, snowy and freezing, I had managed one long run of 13 miles. When I passed mile 18, I witnessed competitors hunched over and vomiting. By mile 20 a blister encompassed the entire bottom of my left foot. When I approached mile 22 I wondered how I had made it that far and would it be wrong to hail a taxi to drive me to the finish (I hoped he would accept a soggy PowerBar as payment). The next day, I was given a very quizzical look when I slid down the banister instead of taking the stairs. What is wrong with you, the owner of the look inquired? I explained that I ran the marathon the day before and my legs were much too sore to bother with stairs. It serves you right, he exclaimed unsympathetically.
I am now entering my 17th year of running. The time has elapsed quickly hastened by the endless firsts I have experienced over the years. It’s your turn to make a list of firsts, so stop procrastinating and go for a run.