I love running. This love affair began decades ago. The first time my grandfather took me to run I was 6 years old. I thought it was so great. Later, I joined organized running when I was 12. I was hooked. And although the expectations surrounding running and performance created anxiety in my life, my love for running itself never waned.
I used to compete at the highest level of the sport. I won a silver medal at the world championships. I made two Olympic teams. I spent my summers in Europe racing the very best of the best. I spent 6 months of the year training at altitude camps. I tried with all my might to win the NYC Marathon and literally broke my heart trying to win the Boston Marathon. (I finished 3rd in both). I sacrificed family time, friendships, holidays, vacations - you name it, I was willing to put it second for running. I loved it. I wanted to know how good I could be. I was driven to lay it all out there, no regrets. I loved this time in my life.
Then I started to get older. I started to get injured more often, I couldn’t push the way I had in the past. I (gasp) slowed down. I started doing other things in my life. I traveled to spend more time with family, put real effort into friendships, fell in love with all of the fun things to do around holidays, started volunteering at my son's school, started speaking to others, started to really embrace the running community, and so much more. But my love for running didn’t diminish. Although running fast was no longer a motivation for me to get out the door, I still needed to get out the door every day. I thought about racing here and there but knew that I wasn’t the athlete I once was. I focused on getting healthy. I just enjoyed my running for me.
This fall my son went back to school and I started running more. My 6 mile morning run became 8, and then 10, and then 12. I was staying healthy. I started to run doubles and went out in the afternoon for more miles. I was loving running so much again. The familiar fatigue made me happy. I started to think, “now is the time. It’s time to race again.” And so, I set my sights on the Houston Marathon on January 20th.
At first I thought I could run about 2:32, but after a half marathon a few weeks ago, I realized that 2:35-36 was a more realistic goal. And while the old me would have been embarrassed by this goal, I am not the least bit ashamed of it. Although I have run a LOT of miles in this preparation, not much in my life has been sacrificed for it. I am not the same athlete I was before. But that’s OK, I’m not trying to be. It’s not about the time. It’s about the love of putting in the work and then putting one foot in front of another. I have enjoyed the feeling of pushing myself to discomfort. I have felt emboldened by running to fatigue.
A teammate of mine told me she couldn’t believe that I find joy when running slower than I once did, that she thought it must be so frustrating. And while I understand this thinking I want people to know - just because I can’t run as fast, the love hasn’t faded. I can now sit back and genuinely cheer other athletes on - without any worry about having to face them soon in competition. My life, and running, has evolved. But the desire to have it in my life is as strong as ever. The passion hasn’t faded for me just because I am no longer in the elite of the elite. And that has been so comforting to me. I love running, I need it, and we have grown and evolved together. We are in it for the long haul.
I am so excited for 2019. I finally get to run another marathon, and then I have more adventures up ahead. I hope that people will see that you don’t have to walk away from what you love when you are no longer “the best”. No matter what time I run in Houston, it will be a victory to me if I enjoy it. If I let myself feel the gratitude of being out there. The appreciation of all running has brought and continues to bring me. This is truly for the love of it, a love affair that continues to burn brightly. Life changes, but that doesn’t mean you have to let go of who you are. See you out on the roads and trails.