Running Forward


For most of my life, I couldn’t run without feeling like I was suffocating. National fitness tests, field days, and laps at practices were a nightmare for me. Even during my marching years, I walked most of our daily required running, envying those who could run easily, even joyfully. I figured it was an ability that you either had or you didn’t, and I didn’t.

Sometime after I moved to my current house, I started trying to run when I went for walks. At first I sprinted maybe fifty yards at a time. Slowly – like over a period of years – I increased to jogging a few minutes at a time. It seemed like such a laughable accomplishment, but I was thrilled. Running was just as difficult for me as before – I still struggled, cramped, and gasped for air. I wasn’t sure why I even wanted to, because I honestly didn’t expect it would ever get easier or better. There was no runner’s high. It was pure work. But I could do it anyway, and somehow the satisfaction of that was enough motivation to put myself through regular torment.

The switch finally flipped about a year ago. I was on the treadmill in the weeks before the True Blue 5K, trying to increase my speed and maybe my running intervals – I figured I’d still be walking most of it. At the point when I normally stopped, I realized I could keep going. So I did. I ran for about fifteen minutes, and I didn’t die. I did it again the next day, and the next week, and ended up running about 75% of the race. I marveled that in my mid-thirties, my body could suddenly and inexplicably do something it had never done before. My dad said it was simple: I was finally conditioned. All that time I’d pushed myself, with no hope that it would amount to anything, had made it possible for me to run the way I’d always wished I could.

This summer I trained to run a whole 5K, and I did it, on my birthday. I knew people who blew through that race in half my time as part of their marathon training. But to me, just running the entire 5K in any time was as good as a marathon. Just a couple of years before, it had seemed about as unlikely. And still, the best part of doing a hard thing was knowing that I could – having that precedent for the future.

I knew I would do the True Blue again this year because it’s my favorite. It’s a night race that winds through the University of Memphis campus. I didn’t stress about it and only did a couple of prep runs. I was hoping for a better time than my birthday race, but I never doubted that I could run the whole thing, which would be a first at the True Blue and therefore still an accomplishment. When I crossed the line last Friday night, I knew right away that it was going to be a good race. I could feel in every step how much stronger I was than the last time I ran that course. I never felt like I was struggling. The further I went, the more joyful and thankful I felt. Thankful to be under a full moon, running confidently on familiar paths I walked during some of the best years of my life with some of my best friends. Thankful to have a strong, healthy body. Thankful in ways I can’t explain. I think I was smiling most of the way.

When I ran through the tiger head at the end (the True Blue is worth doing for this alone), I saw that I’d finished five minutes faster than my birthday race. Later I confirmed I’d beaten my previous record 5K time by .02 seconds. .02 seconds is hardly worth mentioning. But to me, it was everything.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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5 Responses to Running Forward

  1. Caroline says:

    So proud of you – keep it up!

  2. This is so inspiring. I’m the same as you were – can’t run for even a minute and can’t imagine I’d ever want to. But I’ve heard enough stories like these to know that one day, maybe I will…

  3. Milissa says:

    Love this! .02 seconds is .02 seconds. I’d take it. ;)

  4. Carol says:

    I’m so proud of you!! You did a great job. :)

  5. Pingback: What I’m Into: November | Don't Stop Believing

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