I have always been a runner. Well, a jogger really.
I love throwing on my headphones, finding a new trail and heading out with nothing much on my mind besides the music on my iPod. There is nothing better than finding that perfect pace where your breathing matches up with your strides and your strides fit perfectly with your tunes. Inside I smile, but I think my face looks more determined and slightly pained.
This is why I say I am a jogger. I am always envious of the runners who look so angelic and peaceful as they all but glide past you.
I mostly run alone and for meditation and fun and exercise; it’s never been a focused attempt to cross the proverbial or actual finish line. But last year, a friend who I would occasionally go running with—let’s call her Alexis—convinced me to train with her for the Denver Half Marathon (now the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, runrocknroll.competitor.com/tour-dates). It just so happened that this half marathon would fall on Oct. 18, my birthday, making it something of a milestone. This could be good for me, I thought.
Alexis is much more diligent and organized than I will ever be. She crafted a schedule that would make Russian Olympians look impulsive, and she filled her calendar with three months of runs, distances, nutrition, routes and more. I, on the other hand, got a subscription for Runner’s World and decided I would run, eh, about four times a week? Yeah, that sounded good. Alexis had a formula for mixing short runs with long runs, interspersed with interval training, all with the specific purpose of reaching her 13.1-mile goal.
I opted for this training program: run as far as you want when you want.
But I worked hard, and I actually did well with my training. I ran a few 10-mile routes and more than two-dozen sixers. My legs toned up, I lost weight (even though all the running made me eat more than I ever have) and I felt free. I splurged on new running shoes, new outfits and I even ended up buying a heart-rate monitor. Although, I put more use into it now than I did then.
When the half marathon was just days away, the two of us grew especially excited, nervous and carb-loaded. We were running a lot together and even more separately. We were ready. The night before our big day, we packed up the car and headed to Denver to stay the night at our friend’s place in LoDo. I packed my energy snacks, water bottle, packet with my racing number and overnight things. Running clothes, check.
We arrived at basecamp—a convenient apartment building in downtown Denver in which our friend Molly lived—we laid out our necessities. It was then I realized I forgot my running shoes. Yes, I forgot the only items I really needed. There were legitimate tears and profanities, and I was genuinely upset. I had put in so much time and energy to train for this day, and I wasn’t being hindered by an injury or lack of training. I was being sabotaged by my own silly forgetfulness.
What was I going to do?
Molly then casually offered me her shoes—like someone offering condolences. Looking down at her worn cross-trainers, I could only do one thing: I put them on and laced them up. I ran my first, and most likely only, half marathon in another girl’s shoes. And, aside from a few blisters, I crossed the finish line in great shape.
Seeing the end of that race brought with it a sense of accomplishment and joy. Alexis and I had a group of friends waiting at the finish to give us bear hugs and congratulatory high fives. The whole experience felt really, really good.
I love thinking back and reminding myself that I did run a complete 13.1-mile race. It really is something to be proud of. And, if I can do it, anyone can. So, run on, make your own rules and don’t forget your shoes.