It's My Birthday and I'll Run If I Want To

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I have never been a runner.

I first picked up a pair of tennis shoes after my first child was born in 2006. As was expected, the pregnancy had changed my body and I was looking for a way to regain my strength and flexibility. I balked at the price of gym memberships and the distance from my house. I wanted a high-intensity work-out that was free (or super affordable), didn't take much time, and allowed me to bring a baby along. Running fit the bill.

It was with great surprise that I ran across the finish line at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland this past weekend. The clock read 2:13:44 and I teared up (and sped up) as I rounded the corner toward the dazzling finish. Out of 11,490 finishers, I placed 1615. More importantly, I ran the whole way and in under 2:30...the goal that Tim set for me and that I quietly accepted as a challenge on the day of the race.

It's an intensely personal victory and especially meaningful because my three daughters have seen me fight for this. They've seen me lace up my shoes. They've run into my arms, with sweat dripping down my face. They've heard me marvel at each new distance. They know it's possible to pursue a dream, work for it, and have it come true. And I know it too.

People sometimes ask me what training plan I used to get from non-runner to 13.1. I always smile and say, "Tim" - which, in a few words, was you-can-do-this. Just to prove his point, toward the beginning of my training, he said, "I'm going to go run a 1/2 marathon right now." He set his watch, walked out our front door, and did it just like that - untrained. That was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. ;)

Tim always told me I could run my first half in 2:30. I started in the 3:00 corral (in hind sight, I wish I would have started at 2:00) and made it my goal to find the 2:30 pacer. When I found him a little over halfway through the race, I passed him and I flew.

My first 1/2 is in the books. Although I prefer distances that are a little gentler on my left knee (8 miles is my sweet spot), I don't think this will be my last half-marathon. My goal is to stay strong enough so that if a friend invited me to run another one...I could shrug my shoulders and say "sure thing."

Most of the time, I still feel like a fraud. Surely, someone's going to figure out that I'm not a "real runner." Slowly, though, I'm beginning to understand. Being a runner is about taking risks. It's about putting one foot in front of the other, disciplining your mind to tell your body to keep going. It's about having the courage to see something through to the very end.

Happy Birthday to me. A brand new year beckons and I'm running right into it.


* Thanks to Tim for believing in me. Thanks to Eileen for saying "yes" when I called with a crazy idea that involved having her fly across the country from New Jersey to run the Tink Half with me. Thanks to Dayna for being terrific company on our early Sunday morning runs through Saguaro National Park. Thanks to three little blonde girls who have inspired me every step of the way.

©2024 Stephanie Sheaffer - All Rights Reserved
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