MY YEAR AS A RUNNER: How I made friends, learned confidence, and remembered joy

“You don’t stand in front of a mirror before a run, and wonder what the road will think of your outfit. You don’t have to listen to its jokes and pretend they’re funny. It would not be easier to run if you dressed sexier. The road doesn’t notice if you’re not wearing lipstick. It does not care how old you are. You do not feel uncomfortable because you make more money than the road. And you can call on the road whenever you feel like it, whether it’s been a day, or a couple of hours since your last date.

The only thing the road cares about, is that you pay it a visit once in awhile.”

-What Women Want

A year ago, I never would have called myself a runner. In fact, I probably would have joked around and said something like, “Don’t put me down for cardio” (If you’ve seen Pitch Perfect, you know exactly what I mean).

I have been an athlete for as long as I can remember- volleyball, basketball, softball, swim, dance, football, soccer- the list goes on, but I was always discouraged from running. I was told I was too slow, that I didn’t have the body type for running, and that I should just stick with what I was good at. And for a long time, I listened to all those voices, plus the one in my head, telling me that running wasn’t for me.

Secretly, I always wanted to do a sprint triathlon, but I was discouraged by that 3.1 miles of running to cap it off. It seemed too daunting, so I decided that the sprint triathlon was a dream that I wouldn’t be chasing anywhere, especially if there was running involved.

Fast forward to February 2016. I was in the middle of a tough time. I got married in September 2014, and although the marriage part of things was great, I had put on a lot of weight in a year and a half. I had just lost two grandpas in a two month span- one to congestive heart failure as a result of being overweight, most of my friends had graduated from college the prior year and moved away- and though my husband is wonderful, girl talk really isn’t his thing, I had a bad case of the winter blues, and in general I was unmotivated and unhealthy. Looking in the mirror one day, I realized that I had lost the athlete I loved, I couldn’t remember the last time I used the word joy to describe my life, and my self-confidence was at an all-time low. Being that on the Tigger vs. Eeyore spectrum, I had always been much more of a Tigger, and here I was looking at a woman who was all Eeyore, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore; I knew immediately that I needed to make a change.

We all have social media friends that are great at doing the things that we wish we could be doing, and during this time, I had a friend who had started doing 5Ks. So I thought, if she could do it, so could I. She was using an app called C25K (couch to 5K), and she made it seem doable, so I downloaded it. After looking at it for a few days and deciding it wasn’t too intimidating, I went to use my gym membership for the first time in months. I completed the 9-week program with my first 5K in early April, the Lake Lowell 5K with Final Kick Events. I didn’t walk even one step of that 3.1 miles, and I was ecstatic as well as proud.

After finishing the Lake Lowell 5K on April 9, 2016

However, in the days after my race, my motivation waned. I could go for another run, but I was getting sick of the treadmill, and running by myself was getting old. Enter my husband’s co-worker and a running group that he joined: Team Run Boise.

That sounded a little terrifying. I still didn’t consider myself a runner, and a team of people who actually like running (and were probably good at it) sounded embarrassing for a slow novice like me, but I went, enjoyed it, and signed up. I also signed up for my next race.

Boy, was I wrong about an intimidating group of runners! I have met some of the sweetest, most encouraging and supportive people I have come across because of this group. As a whole, we consider ourselves the happiest running group on the planet. Every level of athletic ability is welcome; we’re seriously talking tortoises and hares moving in harmony here. We aren’t just people who walk/run together, we’re family. Pretty soon, with a little help (and by help I mean positive peer pressure) from my friends, I had signed up for roughly one race per month, and sometimes more that that! Through it all, I found more friends, more support/encouragement, more of the athlete, and more of person I was before I allowed the realities of life to knock me down.

Team Run Boise before Final Kick's Run 4 Luv

Then I found myself signing up for more training through Fleet Feet. First it was 10K training with their No Boundaries program (with accompanying races of course), and then Half Crazy, a half marathon training program that ran all winter long. We ran in rain, sleet, snow, and freezing temperatures. It was mentally tough, and hard on the body (I’ve been dealing with shin splints for the last couple months), but a few weeks ago, I completed my first half marathon at the Shamrock Shuffle in Eagle, ID. I was able to run most of it, and I finished in less than three hours. The experience exceeded my expectations. I don’t think I have ever done anything more challenging than that experience- physically or mentally. Again, I felt a type of pride in myself that was missing for longer that I care to admit. Since then, I was able to travel to the Zion Half Marathon in Utah, and even though I wasn't used to running hills or slogging through mud, I was strong enough to finish, and I was still happy with my time.

Crossing the finish line at Shamrock ShuffleWith my finisher's medal at Shamrock ShuffleStarting the Zion Half MarathonRunning along the Zion course. This was a downhill road section.Another spot along the Zion course, this one was just mud.Finished!

My year as a runner has had it’s ups and downs. Like I said, I have dealt with injuries, motivation issues, and life (we all know how it can get in the way). I’ve had to battle the elements and my own self-doubt. It definitely hasn’t been a walk in the park, but running has changed my life. It got me through the roughest winter that Idaho has seen in a long time, two unplanned job changes, several financial setbacks, and more. It brought me life-long friendships and a self confidence that I haven’t felt for a long time; a confidence based on what I am capable of doing, rather than what I look like. I found my joy again (seriously, runner’s high is an awesome thing), but it isn’t a joy that ends when I stop running.

This Saturday, I will run the Lake Lowell 5K again, as a celebration of how far I have come in a year. I also signed up for my first sprint triathlon this summer, and even though it’s not strictly running, my team has rallied behind me to support and encourage me through the process of training, and some will even cheer me on at the finish line, even though they aren’t participating. My attitude towards goals that seem out of reach is forever changed, and I will be checking that one off my bucket list soon.

I have learned that it isn’t always about being naturally great at something. It’s also about perseverance, encouraging others, and believing in yourself, as well as being okay with the best that you can do- rather than comparing yourself to others.

A long stretch of empty road in any stage of life can be daunting, especially when it seems like there is no end in sight, but with the right attitude and the right shoes, any road can be conquered- if not today, the road will still be there tomorrow, and every day after that. And it really doesn’t matter what you look like, what you wear, your ability level, how long it’s been since your last workout, or anything else that life throws at you.

What a little belief can accomplish!

Just remember to smile and wave to others who are on the road too; I hope one day, you wave at me. After all, we’re all running this race together.

- Brenna Greenwood

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