Fired Up for Running

Posted Sep 13, 2012 | Posted in Fitness & Nutrition

In our guest blog, Alison Drain, director of the Johnston Health Foundation, shares her enthusiasm for running and a photo of her (center) and husband, Drew, (left) participating in their first mud run when they lived in West Virginia. She invites everyone to join her in running or walking in the Johnston Health Champions 5K on Oct. 27, 2012 on the campus of Johnston Medical Center in Smithfield. Proceeds will go toward the Foundation’s $1.5 million capital campaign to remodel and expand the hospital’s emergency department. To download a registration form, visit www.JohnstonHealth.org and click on the Foundation’s page.

Running: It wasn’t love at first lap

I started running in high school because it was part of my training as a soccer player. I remember putting on my running shoes and groaning about having to run those two miles around the soccer field. I was much more interested in wearing cleats and chasing a ball. I thought the only other reasons to run were because you were being chased or because you wanted to be first in line to get an ice cream cone.  I went on to college and played varsity soccer, and running became even more important. I enjoyed the speed and agility training because it required short spurts of speed with a soccer ball at my feet. But I dreaded the long two-mile run. I remember feeling the burning in my lungs, the discomfort in my legs, and the desire for it to be over.

My first ‘high’

In my early 30s, I realized that running can be liberating. A friend asked me to run an 8K with her, and so I started training about a year before the event. My lungs still burned, my legs still felt heavy, but I kept moving toward my goal. I wasn’t going to let my friend down.  By race day, I had run a full five miles only once. I was nervous when I stepped up to the starting line.  Would I be able to run all five miles? Would everyone point and laugh at me? Would I go so slow that I would be mistaken for a pedestrian and asked to step on the sidewalk?

I ran the first two miles at a slow, cautious pace. I remember thinking to breathe, breathe, breathe. Was this going to be the dreaded two miles again? Little did I know that my running experience was about to change. At the beginning of the third mile, I started to feel an energy I had never felt before. My feet felt light, my breathing was even, and I was having a good time. I started running faster. For the first time, I was experiencing the runners high. When I crossed the finish line, I was ready for more.

There are good, bad days

In the five years since, I have run in two half-marathons. And I enjoy running several times a week. It has not all been fun. I have had set backs, let downs, good and bad running days. But I keep going because running has become a part of who I am. Just like I love the feel of putting on my soccer cleats, I now enjoy the feeling of tying up my running shoes. I have learned that I should never compare myself to another runner. I’ve learned that cross training, including weight-lifting (ladies), can keep you healthy and strong. And I’ve learned that running can be a time to socialize, contemplate life, or just deal with a busy day. Because I run, I feel stronger physically and mentally, which helps me deal with life in a more thoughtful way.

The dread is gone

Just this year, I ran the fastest two miles in my life. I still remember checking my time, disbelieving that my legs carried me that quickly. Gone is my old dread of the two-mile run. I know now that it took time for my body to adjust and learn to appreciate the run. And when the day comes that my body will not allow me to run anymore, you can bet I will be riding a bike, walking, or swimming laps.

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