Friday, February 13, 2015

For the Love of Running: Finding my Inner Athlete

Sports have never been my thing. As a young girl, my parents signed me up to play softball in a neighborhood league. I didn't enjoy it at all. I was awkward and uncoordinated. By the time I was in middle school my parents let me quit. I have exactly two memories of softball, I probably blocked the rest of it out.


The first memory is my older sister laughing at me as we walked to a game at a neighborhood field because I forgot to put on my pants. In my defense my jersey was way too big and hung over my little body all the way down to my knees. Oh gosh, how I wish I had a picture to share with you of that one. I think I invented the diva softball dress.

My second memory is of one particular game when I was playing the catcher position. Why would they move me away from my normal, safe out-of-the-way position in left field? A bigger (than me) girl slid into home plate and she landed on top of me. I was so embarrassed. I'm sure I just had no idea what to do, where to stand, what I was supposed to be doing. Not my shining moment.

Sports sucked.

High school gym class was the worst thing ever. We played dodge ball and basketball and worst of all, took co-ed swimming lessons in embarrassing navy blue school-issued bathing suits. Some girls would claim to be on their period to get out of swim class. The male gym teacher would publicly announce it. I guess he knew he couldn't prove they were lying, so he would broadcast it to the whole class. "So and so is not swimming today because she is on her period again" with an emphasis on again to prove a point. These memories of sports were nothing short of humiliating.

I played tennis in high school because some friends were playing. The tennis coach was a weird old man (I say old, but he was probably younger back then than I am today) who would flirt with the girls on the team. Even though I faired better in tennis than most other sports that I attempted, I quit after one season to avoid the creepy tennis coach.

I didn't even know how to dress for sports.
Growing up, sports equaled agony. I eventually gave up. I didn't care. There was nothing worse than sports. I wasn't athletic. I was fine with that, especially when my school days were behind me and physical activity was not something that was forced upon me. I was thin anyway. Who needed physical activity?

Turns out, me.

I never thought that I would be the kind of person that would love a sport. Running is my sport. I am an athlete because I run.

It's not that I didn't like physical activity, it was just that it took me 30 years to find the physical activity that I enjoyed. It took some time, but I just needed to find the sport that was a good match for me.

It was never going to be a team sport. That just doesn't fit well with my introvert personality. The sport that I ended up falling in love with was the one I could do alone. Sometimes one I did with 10,000 other people at the starting line, but alone, or with one friend. Despite the usual difficulty that almost everyone has when they start running for the first time, I immediately knew that running was the sport for me.
At the San Antonio Rock n Roll half marathon
When I first starting running it was just to lose weight. I thought I would run a little, lose the weight, then go back to my "normal" life. I had no idea that running would become a lifestyle, that it would become so much of a part of who I am as a person. As I was nearing the end of my 20s, my unhealthy lifestyle and slowing metabolism started to catch up with me. Up until this point, I was always effortlessly thin. This was the first time in my life that I ever had to even think about my weight...so I started running.

What I didn't know at the time was what a blessing that the weight gain was! If it wasn't for the extra pounds, I never would have had the opportunity to discover the love of running. I never would have figured out that when I am sweating I feel most alive, most like myself.

Over the years running taught me that I was strong. Running taught me how to overcome my mind and negative thoughts. Running taught me that I could push my limits and win. The lessons I learned from running spilled over to all other areas of my life. I am a better person than I used to be because I run.

Who would have thought that the little clumsy girl who couldn't handle the catcher's mitt would find her inner athlete in the sport of running? Not me.

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Keep Running,

Lea

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5 comments :

  1. It's like you and are twins, including the softball playing! Different memories, but similar! I also discovered running late, 45, and I wouldn't say I LOVE it, but I need it! And it led me to rowing, which I do love! Here's to Later in life athletes!

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  2. I had a very similar experience with athletics growing up. Hated gym class throughout school, probably because of the way it was presented. Found running later in life and I'm so glad that I got over the "I can't run" mentality. I wish that there were awesome programs like Girls on the Run around when I was in school. Glad you found running and that it's made your life better!

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  3. I always loved sports growing up but hated running. Strange how a request from my daughter to run a half marathon with her (it was supposed to be one and done) has led me to become a marathoner who is running not only Boston, but NYC this year as a qualifier. I feel like I am living a dream!

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  4. I was a chubby kid who loved to read and do crafts. No athletics for me until well into adulthood.

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  5. I can relate! Gym class was THE worst especially dodge ball lol but in my late 20s I fell in love with running :) and the rest is history. Great post!

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