Once upon a time
I ran a little cross country in the milers club in elementary school. I never really got into it seriously and I wasn’t particularly good at it. When my family moved to a different city in 5th grade, I didn’t pursue running or softball which I had played for many years. Instead my focus turned to dance and eventually digital arts. After high school, I didn’t do much stay active. By 2009, I was overweight and trying to slim down. I tried to run a few times in September of 2009, but quit because of chest pain. (Even though a cardiologist had told me I was fine to run with my slight arrhythmia.) I was finally able to drop the extra weight in 2010 with diet and moderate cardio.
In April of 2011 I moved to New York City. For the first few months of living in the city, I suffered from knee pain because of all the walking that had been added to my life. I was trim, but I wasn’t fit. As Summer started to turn to Fall that year, I started to toy with the idea of running again. My best friend was running and doing some pretty cool races and my knees seemed to have adapted to the walking. So on September 8th of 2011, I headed out for a run.
A vicious cycle
My first run was horrible. I wasn’t even fit enough to run a full block. I did almost 4 miles that day, though, in run/walk intervals. My best friend expressed her concern with my bold inaugural run and lack of proper shoes. So I bought a pair of Brooks Ghosts and started Couch to 5K. I also set a first goal race for December of that year. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t ready for that race. It would take almost 16 months and three more races before I could run a full 5K. It was 16 months of a vicious cycle — slow progress and injury setback. It constantly felt like one step forward and two steps back. I could only run 2x a week, had to run super slow, had to wear a knee brace, and even that didn’t guarantee my knees wouldn’t act up. After the first 5K I was able to run the entire distance in March of 2013, I gave up running. My knees just didn’t seem to want to do it and I would be able to end on a high note. I was heartbroken, but resigned myself to the fact that being able to walk at 60 was more important than a hobby.
A new love and old unite
Around the same time as that last 5K and me quitting running, I took up a new hobby–indoor rock climbing. For the next few months I was at the rock climbing gym several times a week. I was horrible at it, but I loved it. It was mental and physical and social and everything I wanted in a sport. But by mid-Summer, I was missing running. I decided to give it one last very conservative try. I restarted Couch to 5K on July 26th of 2013. I also signed up for a race at the end of September.
I was amazed at the difference this time around. Something had happened. My knees weren’t as angry. Eventually I was able to start running 3x a week albeit at very low mileage (<5mi/week). By September I felt good enough to sign up for a few more races. I wasn’t running fast, but I was running. And I started to put two-and-two together. My climbing had made me strong enough to run.
Finally, a runner
I continued to run through the end of the year, eventually ditching the knee brace. I picked up a Garmin watch and heart rate monitor in December (2013) and planned to do base training through the Winter. By Spring, I was running 3x week up to 2-3 miles at a time. My weekly mileage was still pretty low at 5-6 miles per week, but I wasn’t really training for anything either. So I signed up for a race–The Front Runner’s 5 mile Pride Run on June 28, 2014. The distance seemed out of reach, but I figured I could always run/walk to complete it.
I found a 10 week training plan and passionately focused on my new goal. I supplemented my running with rock climbing a few times a week and 20 minutes of yoga after every run. I had also incorporated some PT exercises for my knees. Again, I wasn’t running fast, but I was running. I was adding miles and staying healthy. I couldn’t believe it. I completed the race and for the first time, I felt like a REAL runner. After I got home from the race, I immediately signed up for a 10 mile race at the end of September.