The voice inside my head told me I couldn't run. At least not for the sake of running. You know the joke about running only if you're being chased? Yep. That was me. Still somehow it got into my head that I wanted to learn how to run. So I went to the best available source on my contact list – Budd Bailey.
My colleague who authored the running column pointed me in the direction of a short, simple running program. It's a familiar formula for many runners – intervals between walking and running. As the program progresses, the length of the running intervals increases while walking decreases. The goal of this particular program was to be able to run two miles comfortably. In reality I had no idea how far I ran or how fast. I just know that I could run for up to 10 minutes at a time without walking. That in itself was a victory.
I didn't return to running until a few years later when triathlon caught my eye. I started running in order to complete a sprint distance triathlon and rejoiced every time I could run for longer than the length of a Britney Spears song. My first competitive event was the Shamrock Run. Because why start with a low-key 5K when you can jump right into an 8K and one of the most popular races in Western New York?
It was a slightly terrifying experience, but as I ran through South Buffalo at a steady pace I realized that I could, indeed, run. I could on purpose and with intention. And it wasn't so scary after all.
The summer of 2008 found me all over the regional triathlon circuit. By September, I had a pretty good fitness base and decided, at nearly the last minute, to try my hand at a half marathon. Run for the Grapes in St. Catharines, Ont., caught my eye. My training was abbreviated and I had few expectations. I didn't know much about the distance, or pacing, or nutrition. Luckily, a friend ran with me and he was kind enough to point out things, like cars and intersections. I tried to convert the kilometers to miles in my head and realized my ability to do math on the fly was not really good, especially when I was desperately wondering if I would ever be crossing the finish line.
Cross the finish line I did, receiving my first shiny finisher's medal. As we drove home through U.S. Customs, when asked if I had anything to declare, I proudly proclaimed, "just my finisher's medal!" The customs officer was not as enthusiastically amused as I was.
After my first 13.1-mile journey, I was hooked. The next year I ran my first marathon, the Buffalo Marathon, and continued to explore distances and races. I've trained to run faster. I've trained to run longer. I've been one of the last people to cross a finish line and, on a rare occasion, have taken home an age-group medal. I've had great runs. I've had bad runs. I've run alone and with groups. I've met amazing people through running and learned more than a few lessons about myself.
Humbly, I take over this space from Budd Bailey, who covered area running with expertise and enthusiasm. I'm excited for the opportunity to write stories about, and for, the Western New York running community. Please feel free to introduce yourself at a race or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any story suggestions.
See you at the starting line.
- Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish 5K, North Tonawanda, 11 a.m., Sunday, 622-6609
- Jackhammer Trail Series, 3.2 miles, Chestnut Ridge Park, 6:30 p.m., Tuesday
- Run in the Mist, 5K, Old Falls Street,Niagara Falls, 7 p.m., Wednesday
- WNY Running Hall of Fame Presents Tom Donnelly's Hall of Fame 5K, Elmwood & Bidwell, 6:30 p.m., Friday, 875-8427
- Notre Dame Academy Fun Run, 2.2 miles, Cazenovia Park, noon, Saturday, 392-0364
- Dan Feather Memorial 5K, Bergman Park, Jamestown, 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 3, 488-2203 ext. 221
- Chicken Wing 5K, Coca-Cola Field, 11 a.m., Sunday, Sept. 3, 479-6545