Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On Eleanor Roosevelt and Running

"You must do the things you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Whenever people ask me what my favorite quote is, that's the one that springs to my mind. I first saw it on a page-a-day calendar that I had growing up, and it immediately resonated with me. As a bookworm and an introvert, I realized early on that I needed to intentionally leave my comfort zone to change and grow as a person. And in my adult life, I have done a lot of things that I didn't think I could do, including:

- Go to college far away from home in a place where I knew exactly zero people
- Get hired as a campus tour guide, a job which involved talking loudly to many people at once (and often involved walking around in the rain, sometimes backward)
- Paid off more than half of my student loans a year after graduating
- Moved (with Eric!) to a place where we knew exactly zero people
- Went on a 6-day rafting trip (and actually had an amazing time)

And, of course, the big one: running. Those who knew me before 2011 can probably attest to the fact that exercising wasn't exactly my thing. Sure, I walked a lot, and was down for the occasional yoga class or bike ride, but running? No way. It boggled my mind that people ran for fun. People that I was friends with! When I lived in Chile for months, most of my fellow exchange students would complain about how annoying it was to run outdoors (uh, because the stray dogs would usually try to run with you or chase you). I nodded in sympathy, while all the while thinking, "What is the deal with running?"

Finishing my first 10K in Bellingham!
Well, when I got back to the US, my roommates would often go to the gym together, and I started to go with them, too - we all had busy schedules so I had to get my roommate bonding time in when I could. And when they suggested that maybe I could try running a little, and pointed out that the treadmills had TVs on them that had cable, curiosity got the best of me. I ran 2.1 miles that day, and it wasn't really fun per say, but it wasn't terrible. And I had run 2.1 miles! That was honestly something that I never thought I would do. I was so impressed with myself that I immediately texted 4 or 5 of my running friends to brag about my accomplishment. And then slowly, but surely, I started to become a runner.

I still feel weird saying that - I'm a runner. I spent so many years assuming I would never be a runner, and even after three years I haven't gotten used to it. At first I thought I wouldn't be a runner until I ran my first race. After my first 5K, I thought I would feel like a runner after I ran a 10K. After my first 10K, I decided I'd need to run the Bolder Boulder to call myself a runner. Well, I did that. So what's next?

Right after finishing the Bolder Boulder, SO happy to be sitting in the shade.
Long story short, a few weeks ago I registered for my first half marathon! It's happening in September, two weeks before our wedding, in Santa Fe. Which means it's at an altitude of around 7200 feet. That makes me pretty nervous, and part of me still thinks, "I can't run a half marathon. I'm not a runner." But there's a bigger part of me that knows I can prove that voice wrong.

The thing is, every single time I run, I push myself to do things I think I can't do. When I feel like I can't go any further and I just want to collapse on the ground, I push myself to keep running for one more mile, or five more minutes, or one more block, or until I reach that shady spot on the trail. When I'm running, I'm constantly exceeding and re-evaluating my expectations of what my body is capable of. And I keep running.

After a training run over the weekend
 Turns out that's actually what makes me a runner. Even when I'm slow and tired and sweaty and all I want to do is lay down, I keep running. And the fact that five years ago, I never would have ever guessed that this is what I'd be doing? That makes it all the more gratifying. Thanks for the reminder, Eleanor.