Until last weekend, I didn’t think I would ever be a runner. In high school, I was a sprinter. Trust me. There’s a great distinction between the two. Sprinters run 100 or 200 meters very fast. They run to feel the oxygen sucked out of their lungs and fire fill their quads. They don’t enjoy the feeling of running. They enjoy the feeling of having run. Or having raced. Or winning. They enjoy the starts, the competition, the speed, the .001. For sprinters, a long distance is a trip around the bases. Runners, on the other hand, enjoy running. They run for miles. They run for hours. They run every day. They know the best headphones for running, and the best shoes, and the best tunes. They “do their best thinking” on runs and run “to relieve stress.” Those used to be foreign concepts to me.
When I graduated from college, I decided I was going to become a runner. I started running, a lot, to stay in shape. I entered a few 5K races in Central Park and started training for the NYC Marathon. I didn’t yet enjoy running, but I enjoyed how difficult running was for me. This was one sport that didn’t come easy. It was a challenge. I felt like I didn’t have a slow-twitch muscle fiber in my body, and I had to work for every mile. But I was fiercely competitive and determined and I figured in a year, I’d be in more than good enough running shape to take on 26.2 miles through the five boroughs. I had this thought in October. It was 2001. The marathon takes place in November. I had 13 months to train. Piece of cake.
Then–ironically, on the morning of that year’s NYC Marathon–I stood up and fell over in pain. For the next eight years, debilitating, crippling back pain ruled my life. I was told its cause was bulging and herniated discs, so I had them removed by a neurosurgeon. The pain persisted. Then I was told the cause was a tilted spine with decreased curvature, so I tried chiropractic, acupuncture, kinesiology, cranial-sacral therapy, pain therapy and physical therapy. When I lost the ability to walk in the summer of 2008, my doctors threw up their hands. They were out of explanations. My ability to walk slowly returned. But the pain–10 on a scale of 10, searing pain–also continued to return. Then, last year, at a very low, pain-filled moment, I discovered I have (had!) something called Tension Myositis Syndrome, or TMS. I read a book. Then another. And another. I did research, talked to the few doctors who treat TMS, worked hard to change my brain and in a few months, I rid myself completely of back pain. I have now been pain-free for more than a year.
And, on Sunday, I ran my first half-marathon with a group of friends from ESPN, at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. My goal was to break two hours. I ran it in 1:56. Considering everything–including the hills on this course–I was proud of my time. Lindsay was supposed to run, but she got sick and had to withdraw. But with .75 miles to go, I found her in the crowd and she jumped onto the course and pushed me through the final stretch. My college cheerleading partner, Tom, ran in her place and helped pace me through the first six miles. (How cool!) My friends Sue and Laura ran, as well, and also finished ahead of their desired times. At the finish, cute guys in tuxedos handed us the Tiffany necklace every runner is awarded when she (or he) finishes the NWM. Then Tom, Sue, Lindsay and I met up at the finish and celebrated waking up at 5 a.m. to run 13.1 miles, farther than I’d ever run before. And then I ate a donut.
Now I can officially say I am a runner. In fact, I’m signing up for the Malibu half-marathon in November. After that, who knows. Maybe I’ll finally make it to NYC as a participant some day. Maybe next November. (This year, I’ll be there to cheer on my friends Jenni and Tricia, who inspire me to be a better runner.)
THE NIKE WALL O’ RUNNER NAMES …
WHO ARE YOU, NANETTE ROENIGK? MY NEW FACEBOOK FRIEND, THAT’S WHO!
POST-RACE SMILES. (BECAUSE WE’RE HAPPY IT’S OVER!)
WE ARE FAST LIKE LIGHTNING!
In case you’re planning to run a half-marathon, I thought I’d include the kick-butt mix I made the night before the race. I like to run to songs that make me laugh, smile or want to dancee. This playlist is a little longer than I needed, but it was a good one!
Eye of the Tiger – Survivor (It was a 7 a.m. start. I needed something to get me going!)
Ridin’ Solo – Jason Derulo
Like A G6 – Far East Movement
Baby Boy – Beyonce’
I Wanna – Bob Sinclar, Sahara
Forever – Chris Brown
Shake That – Eminem (Beware: This is R+rated, but has a great base line and hook!)
Love the Way You Lie – Eminem
Low – Flo Rida, featuring T-Pain
Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida, David Guetta
You Make My Dreams – Hall & Oats (Maybe the greatest skipping/running song ever!)
Watcha Say – Jason Derulo
On to the Next One – Jay-Z, featuring Swizz Beatz
California Gurls – Katy Perry
Bulletproof – La Roux
Get Low – Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz
Fire Burning – Sean Kingston (Kick it into another gear!)
Hot-N-Fun – N.E.R.D. (L.O.V.E. this song!)
In My Head – Jason Derulo
B.O.B. – Outkast
So What – Pink
Magic – B.O.B. (Best hook of the bunch … Perfect for getting up the hills!)
Airplanes – B.O.B.
Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z
Umbrella – Rihanna
Take You There – Sean Kingston
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
DJ Got Us Falling in Love – Usher
Dirrty – Christina Aguilera, featuring Redman
Pon De Replay – Rihanna
She Wolf – Shakira
Im in Miami, B**ch – LMFAO (I needed to giggle at this point!)
Just Dance – Lady GaGa & Colby O’Donis
All I do is Win – DJ Khaled, featuring T-Pain
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
We Speak No Americano – Yolanda Be Cool, DCUP