I was not an athletic kid whatsoever. I was very much into dance, drama, and band and was one of a very small handful of kids in my grade who did NOT play soccer. I was kind of spastic and definitely not the type of child you would expect to grow up to be an athlete. I actually wrote a short story in 3rd grade entitled "The Mile of Horrors", where I basically spent 12 pages talking about how much I hated running. It was true, running the mile in gym class was a very traumatic experience for me. I was forced into participating in the school's yearly fundraiser, the McKinley Mile, hating every single step. Running, it seemed, was not for me.
When I started high school I decided I needed to join a sport (besides the dance team, which was basically a given.) Because I have no eye-hand coordination and team sports have never really been my style, I chose track...more specifically, hurdles. Because one time we did "hurdles" (they were made of foam) in middle school gym class, and I didn't suck at it. Well, that decision changed my life. See, I was competitive to begin with - so put me in a race? Well, I want to win. So even as a spastic, clueless freshman, I had girls who I wanted to beat (I still remember their names...I'm talking to you, Stephanie with the pink nail polish from Whitnall) I really wasn't that good, but I had the drive to get better, and my coach noticed this. Since our hurdle team was small to begin with, he started throwing me in varsity meets randomly. I did terribly, usually finishing in the bottom 3, but the fact that I was there at all as a freshman gave me the drive to be better. Sophomore year was OK, but it was junior year when I really started to come into my own as a hurdler. As I continued to improve and started actually scoring in the conference meets, qualifying for sectionals, etc, I knew that in order to really reach the next level that I wanted to be for senior year, I was going to have to do something more. So I joined the cross country team.
Cross country was an entirely new and ridiculous experience. I had run 2 5Ks before joining the team, finishing each in 9+ minute/mile times. I had never run any distance over 3 miles, never trained for distance running, and I thought a 300 meter interval on the track was death incarnate. And yet, I LOVED cross country. I dreaded the mile repeats we would do around a neighborhood church...and yet I adored it when I could beat half the varsity team in the workout. I had some sort of hip injury that left me hobbling around like an old person and I didn't care, because I just wanted to run. But still, XC was a means to an end for me, and when the season was over I left distance running behind to look forward to the main event - track.
Senior year track was for the most part, amazing. I excelled in indoor at the 55 hurdles, making the state honor roll and finally winning a conference championship. Outdoor was more challenging, especially with 2 equally talented girls on my own team, but I started improving at the 300 hurdles, which I had previously hated, and continued to perform well at 100s. As the season drew to a close, all the buzz was that for the first time in a really long time, 3 hurdlers from the same school could make the state championship. And then it was sectionals. One chance for glory. And I, eternally psyched out, cracked under pressure and tripped on my first step out of the blocks. I finished 5th. I needed to finish 3rd to make state. At the time, in my 17 year old mind, this was the WORST THING EVER. Little did I know that this would set events in motion that would change me from a hurdler to a marathoner.
Senior year hurdle crew + our coach, at the meet where I ran my 100 hurdle PR.
As it turned out, my racing career was not, in fact, over. It was actually just getting started. I discovered my beloved Wisconsin Track Club, which began the 4 most indescribably incredible years that I could imagine. I started out as a hurdler/sprinter, even running the 4 x 100 on multiple occasions (with another hurdler, an 800 runner, and a 400 runner...and hilarious results) Sophomore year I kind of got more into cross country. And then I randomly decided to run the 800 during the track season (it, uh, may or may not have been an attempt to impress a boy). And I LOVED it. And then I signed up for a half marathon. And I LOVED it. (See a pattern forming yet?) Whether I liked it or not, I was slowly being sucked into the distance running world. Of course, soon enough I had moved up to the mile/1500...followed by the 3000 meter steeplechase. I became more competitive in cross country and then somehow, like a crazy person, I was a 5K track runner my senior year of college. Many of the race reports/experiences from my college years are in the archives of this blog. I ran some races that I am truly proud of, and many of the PRs, especially at the shorter distances, will probably stand for a long time. But with the structured world of college sports ending, and me moving across the country away from my teammates, what the heck was I supposed to do now?
Why...run a marathon, of course! Actually, it's the BAA's fault I ended up running my first marathon. I was planning on training for the BAA half, but little did I know that BAA races have this strange tendency to close in a very short time frame...so of course, by the time I went to sign up the race was closed. I was sad, and didn't know what to do in the absence of a team/goal to train for, especially when I was going to be moving to a new city. Enter my former club coach, who one day wrote on my facebook wall "why don't you do the Baystate marathon with me?" I saw no reason not to...so I started training in July, with zero idea of what I was doing, and on October 18, 2009, in a downpour, I ran my first marathon in 3:39:15.
The rest, as they say, is history. I've now run 9 marathons with no plans on stopping any time soon. I keep dabbling in the shorter distances and have lowered my PR in everything over 5K since graduating college, but at the end of the day, I love the marathon more than anything. These days, I run for Greater Boston Track Club and have the chance to train (and enjoy beers after) with some seriously speedy and cool guys and gals. I'm always striving to run faster, while having as much fun as possible along the way!