FROM BAND GEEK TO RUNNER
[For race history and PRs go here.]
I’ve never been an athlete. Sure, I played Little League baseball in elementary school, but I played right field. No one ever hit balls to me. I was too scared to swing at anything and only got on base when I was walked.
In high school, I earned a varsity letter… for marching band. It wasn’t rigorous exercise, but it was a fun activity that helped me meet my college entrance requirements, make friends and travel. Still, band wasn’t enough to keep me from getting B’s in PE every spring semester because I failed to pass the fitness tests. I couldn’t do a chin up, my body fat percentage was too high and I was too slow to run a 12 minute mile. I passed the mile test once in three years. At least I was flexible.
I continued marching band for my first few years in college. The 4-hour a week practices and games combined with walking around the hilly UCLA campus likely kept me from gaining the freshman fifteen. Despite buffet style dining halls and a lack of regular exercise, I managed to lose some weight by dumb luck. I also jogged at the track a few times and played soccer with friends.
Once I’d graduated from college and started a full-time job, I returned to running and walking at the local high school track. This time, I was trying to be more fit and fit in to a form-fitting red dress in time for my cousin’s quinceañera at the end of the summer. I soon found that the exercise helped me deal with the stress from work. I lost a little bit of weight. I never kept track of anything, so I don’t know how much I was able to run without stopping at my fittest and how long it took. I’m guessing it was about 2-2.5 miles.
I stopped any sort of activity when I started grad school. I gained weight too. In the summer, I started dancing with a Danza Azteca group, but stopped in the fall because practices were at the same time as my research methods class. I didn’t run. Well, I did once in June 2008. I put on my old running shoes and jogged/walked up to the park after watching a horrible Lakers game. I listened to songs about LA in an effort to not feel so horrible that the Lakers had blown a huge lead to the Celtics. That night, I was probably able to jog a quarter mile without stopping.
I returned to running in February 2009 after deciding to lose weight. Running seemed like the natural choice for exercise since it was simple and I had enjoyed it several years before. I was also inspired by Lori who was training for a marathon. She was also a great resource for advice and encouragement.
When I started out, I didn’t adhere to any sort of plan like Couch to 5K, but I was consistent. I followed Lori’s advice and started off with a 15 minute slow jog on the treadmill. Over the next few months, I built up my endurance and continued to lose weight. In the spring, I took my workouts outdoors. In the summer, I got fitted for running shoes and bought a cheap watch. I signed up for my first 5K, the Aztlan Indian Run, that summer. It was tough!
For the next several months, I kept running. It stopped being about losing weight as I got closer to my goal. I admitted to myself in June ’10 that I was a runner.
Later that summer, I joined a running challenge online with friends. The challenge made me step it up, as expected. I set mileage goals each month and stuck to them. I felt confident enough to sign up for the Long Beach Half Marathon. I had a great experience in Long Beach and met my goals. I decreased my mileage but focused on getting quicker and preparing for some upcoming 10Ks that fall. I was ready for more challenges.
After watching the New York City Marathon on the sidelines, I knew I was ready to sign up for 26.2. I chose the LA Marathon since it was local and I’d have plenty of time to train over the winter. I stuck to a free training plan from ActiveTrainer. I did most of my training alone, but did the 16+ mile long runs with Students Run LA groups. I had my ups and downs with training, but thankfully was never injured. By the end of training I was feeling confident, prepared and happy with my effort on 20+ mile long runs.
On Sunday, March 20, I ran the LA Marathon in hellish conditions (pouring rain, cold, strong winds, and ankle deep puddles). Despite this, I met my goals and was very happy with my performance.
More importantly, training for a marathon didn’t make me hate running or see it as a chore. I came to love it even more.
¡Sí se puede!