Today’s beverage: Mich Ultra Spicy Pineapple Seltzer….on the porch!!!! Every drink tastes better on a porch. It’s science. I checked.
I was a running stroller baby. Then I was a “bike ride while my dad runs” child, followed by a “run with my dad” preteen, culminating in a “run while my parents ride their bikes” adult.
It’s the ciiiiiiircle of liiiiiiife!
So yeah, me being a runner was a forgone conclusion, etched in stone since the time of the dinosaurs. In fact, when I’m tired, I even run like a T-rex. It’s a family trait. So I’m a runner. But that’s not to say I didn’t fight it along the way a little bit. In my mind, I was going to be a soccer player, the next Mia Hamm if you will. To be clear, I was the only one who felt that that that was a logical goal. I chose to overlook the fact that my most valuable skills as a soccer player were really just byproducts of me being a runner. Other people, smarter people, saw these things. It’s why every coach made me play midfield. It’s also why a player on another team once slapped me in the face because she got so frustrated that I kept beating her to the ball, thus effectively removing her from the game. There was not a single person in attendance, myself included, who did not know she was a better player than me. But somebody was just faster. *hair flip*
This brings us to high school and adding some running to my summer training to get ready for my first year of JV soccer. Every day my dad would take me on an out-and-back 3 mile run. Except it was more of a out-cry-back 3 mile run. God bless that man.
I quickly learned in that 9th grade soccer season that some of my teammates, and their parents, were not my biggest fans. I wasn’t a bad player, but in a perfect world, I sure as shit should not have been a starter. But your girl’s got wheels! In their minds, my playing time was a threat to their college scholarships. Want to hear a secret? YOUR ENTIRE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM IS NOT GOING TO A DI SCHOOL FOR FREE. And if I’m your barrier to that, you have far bigger problems. Calm down.
Fast forward to the first week of varsity indoor track, and I was sold on cross country. I LOVED my teammates. I still do! I’m in one of their weddings next year!
Added perk: my parents were thrilled. My parents are runner parents, and they like to hang with runner parents. I know this because my dad tells me…all. the. time.
I had done track and field during middle school (to stay in shape for soccer, obvs), and while I was successful, I struggled with living in my older brother’s shadow. I love my brother (now…back then? Meh.) but when you’re trying to prove yourself on your own merits, it hurts to have a coach not bother to learn your name. I was my brother’s sister, and that remained my title for two years. I thought I escaped this in high school when I established myself as my own person, until a coach from an opposing team asked my dad why he would travel to watch me race when my brother was the better athlete. I mean, he wasn’t wrong; my brother ran DI in college whereas I found my happy place in DIII, but like, what the actual fuck.
I won’t bore you with the details of 8 years of racing for my high school and college teams, but I will bore you with some things I learned along the way. Lucky you!!
I love the people that running has brought into my life. I have “friends from college” that graduated before I even knew my alma mater existed, and this is because of the support system our team has created throughout the years.
There’s a bond that forms between runners, between competitors. Watching someone hit a PR or break a record, even if they aren’t on your team, is a winning experience for everyone. Crossing the finish line and knowing that the person right in front or behind you has also completely emptied the tank builds an unspoken level of respect. Comparing blisters, lost toe nails, and sharing ice baths, and exchanging war stories of the first time you had to take a shit in the woods are also crucial bonding experiences.
But there’s also a negative side. Years of being told that you don’t “have a runner’s body” takes its toll. I have more of a soccer player body…I guess that happens when you play the sport for 14 YEARS! I lived in an environment where light means fast, where average is overweight. Teammates and I have discussed many times over the years that our standards for someone being “too thin” are unhealthy and wrong.
When you run competitively, your results are constantly under a microscope. Either you’re the fastest or you’re not. And when you don’t bring in the result that’s expected of you, you are picked apart…sometimes by coaches, sometimes by teammates, sometimes by family, but mostly by yourself. You have to be ready to get comfortable in your own head when you become a runner.
Having a good coach is key.
I loved my college coach. I thrived under his instruction. He’s certainly led to some interesting anecdotes throughout the years, and we definitely did not always see eye to eye, but all in all, he was an excellent coach on and off the course.
This was slightly different than high school.
Staggering your runs so that the slowest people start first and the fastest people start last is not the best way to foster confidence, especially when the fastest are expected to overtake the slowest every single day. Sending an athlete on a five mile run the day after experience heat stroke was also less than ideal, but I guess I’m still here.
I had a boyfriend after college who coached. I asked him to train me for a marathon, and he agreed but he also told me within 30 seconds that my weight would be open to his criticism. Sadly, I wasn’t even really concerned. Now when I need coaching, I turn to my brother. We have similar running styles, and he can’t weigh me from several states away….not that he’d want to, because he’s a normal human being.
Obviously, there are some questionable coaching techniques in any sport. For example, I’m pretty sure that there are other ways to develop my core and reduce fear of the ball than having a teammate stand at my head and repeatedly chuck a soccer ball at my stomach. I’d also say having dance studio attached to a bar was iffy, but it was Irish dance, so actually I think that checks out.
Running, both in school and after, has taken me to a lot of places. I’ve raced in Boston, Disney World, through Churchill Downs, along coast of Maine, and even the exotic destinations of Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana. DIII just LOVES the Midwest.
I love running. I love the stress relief, I love the ability to test my body’s limits, I even love the fun tan lines! Even when there’s no race on the horizon (heyyyy, COVID) I still find joy in the miles. Here’s the deal though. You do something long enough, you’re going to run in to some bad experiences.
I was 16 when I got my first catcall that creeped me out. I was between games for a soccer tournament and went for an 8 mile run (key indicator that soccer was not my sport) and I was running in a sports bra since it was a billion degrees out. Some weird adult man whistled at me and said something gross about my body. I remember getting home and relaying the experience to my mom and being confused what he was commenting on. I mean I was less than 100 pounds, and my boobs hadn’t grown in yet! My mom would likely still argue that I’m a card carrying member of the itty bitty titty committee, but that’s irrelevant.
Over the years I’ve been followed (by cars, other runners, and a group of youths on skateboards). I had a lovely gentlemen pretend to jerk off at me. My favorite is when it’s raining and cars drive through puddles to splash you on purpose. Have you ever had a tween on a razor scooter spit on you? I have! And who doesn’t love to be chased by loose dogs?? Better yet, who doesn’t love getting bit by a dog and having the owner not believe you. Sorry I didn’t remove my pants to show you the bite mark on my thigh, but leash your dog, ya Karen.
Last year I scrapped one of my favorite running routes because a loose dog came out at me, and I crossed the street to attempt to get away. The dog ran in front of a car, AND WAS NOT HIT, because I knew the driver saw the dog and what I was trying to do. But the owner came after me, telling me to go jump off a bridge and die and that he was going to kill me because I almost hurt his dog.
Fortunately for me, the good continues to outweigh the bad.
I love that I can shoot a mean snot rocket (in the winter it’s more of a blood rocket). I love that there’s not a port-a-potty in this land that can scare me. At the same time, I love that runners take no shame in waiting in line to pee in the woods when the potties are full. We are a fit, but gross people. We’re good at testing the limits of how far one can go without a shower. You ever see a runner finish run with only one sock? You can bet money that they had a poopmergency somewhere along the way, but they still had a few miles left.
This took a fun turn for you all, didn’t it??
Don’t worry because here’s your reprieve.
To toot my own horn, something I’m trying to do more often, I’m no slouch when it comes to running. I have a marathon PR of 3:09, and I’ve won my fair share of races. But it’s a hobby, not a profession. I’m what you might call, “middle of the road.” That being said, a couple hundred bucks every now and again is a pretty sweet deal.
But I turned my running into money in other ways too. I was able to work in running stores for several years. The best part here is I got a paycheck and free gear! SCORE! This was clutch, because like most graduate students, I was poor AF.
And this lesson is what connects this topic to the theme of my blog…
Ladies and gentlemen, ya girl got her first paid writing gig!!!!! That’s right people, I’m breaking in to the game. WeeViews is an online running community that posts reviews of gear, races, and other things running. You can find my first post on WeeViews.com in the Rundown, listing tips and tricks for gearing up without going broke. Give them a follow, write some reviews, check it out!!
So until next time…I guess I need a closing catchphrase, but that’s a hurdle (or a steeple) for another beer.