Thinking back on the past decade makes my head spin. When I rang in 2000, I was a freshman in high school who cried the night before the mile and faked sick to get out of swimming. Ten years later, I’m a fifth grade teacher, marathon runner, triathlete in training, and married with a house and dog. How’s that for a change?
Instead, I’d like to focus on my running journey in 2009. What a year it’s been!
I pretty much hibernated last winter. Fresh off the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco (October 2008), I took up couch surfing and celebrated finishing my first marathon.
My first race of 2009 was a cold, snowy, wet Shamrock Shuffle. My toes were frozen. I didn’t want to run — not even a little bit. However, true to form, Barb was very persuasive. I have to admit, being one of the few to show up for the race made me feel pretty hardcore.
I started marathon training with gusto. Running for Girls on the Run International gave me purpose. I was running in Chicago again and had something to prove. I started Hal Higdon’s marathon training plan and loved it. I was running every single training run.
At our school’s annual fundraising gala in the spring, I auctioned off “5k with Mrs. K,” where I would accept up to 10 girls to train for and race in the Girls on the Run Chicago 5k in June. To my delight, seven fourth and fifth grade girls signed up! That 5k was one of the most fun races I’ve ever run. We all started together, then I waved good bye to the speedy girls and hung with the back of the pack: Callie, Gabi, and Julia. Callie was especially nervous because she struggled with a two-mile run we did on Thanksgiving. I’m proud to say that those girls rocked the race. I set my watch and showed them the beauty of run/walk. Several memories stick out in my mind from that day, but two will stay with me forever. 1. Callie realizing she could sprint to the finish and taking off, beaming. 2. This exchange with Gabi and Julia. Me: Okay, when we see the finish line we’re going to run. Girls: Okay. Me: See it?! It’s right there! That big pink banner! Girls: I don’t see it. Me: Right up there! See? Girls: No. They finally “saw” it about 20 yards from the finish, and the three of us crossed the finish line holding hands. Then, all of the girls surrounded me to show off their medals. I was so proud of all of them.
I embraced girl power once again at the end of July with the Fleet Feet Women’s 10k. It was even on a similar course to the GOTR5k. Another all-time favorite run. I pushed myself; I could tell my training was paying off. I ran and ran all summer long, until the Inaugural Rock & Roll Chicago Half Marathon in August, where I set a half marathon PR of 2:57:00.
And then, just when I was getting close to tapping into my full potential… I fell off the wagon. I fell hard. Commence half-hearted training some of the time. Somewhere around mid-September, I finally got back on. I had an amazing 20-miler that restored my confidence and was ready to give Chicago my all.
In October, I responded to this blog post on Pace of Chicago, and ended up being named October Athlete of the Month. I ran the Chicago Marathon and finished. I shared the journey with an old friend and a new friend. I even made a friend along the way. I gained a new perspective, learned to consider myself a runner and an athlete. Through this experience, I finally became a runner. I got the gift of seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. At the end of the month, I ran back to back 5ks with new friends, and had the chance to be a cheerleader for other runners.
I finished the year with a festive 5k three seconds away from my PR.
All in all, a great year for running and in life. Here’s to 2009!