Am I a “Runner”?

In 2013, I griped when my then-partner wanted us to run the mile to the gym and back for our workouts rather than drive. In 2014, I participated in my first 5k. I brought my dog, who is not built for running, so I’d have an excuse for stopping frequently as he pooped, sniffed, and played in the kiddie pool. In 2015, I agreed to the four-mile leg of a marathon relay team, chosen because it was the shortest leg and largely downhill. Then I signed up for the Bolder Boulder 10k in 2016. I walked parts of it because I had mentally convinced myself I couldn’t jog that whole distance. My pace was 12:12. In 2017, I started going to running clubs regularly and increased my Bolder Boulder pace to 10:27. This year, I ran a 9:23 pace in my first half marathon and then an 8:55 pace in the Bolder Boulder a month later.

Me, bottom center, actually enjoying running six miles.

Running has been a long road (pun intended) for me even though my whole life everyone has thought I was built for it. Both the track coach and cross-country coach in high school approached me several times about joining their respective teams. The suggestion that I would be a good addition seemed to be based on nothing other than my naturally slender body type. Several housemates I’ve had have tried to get me to run with them, especially when I was living overseas where gyms and other forms of exercise weren’t an option. All of these requests were met with a clear and decisive N-O.

Yet a week and a half ago, there I was on a full-sun, five-mile trail run in the 88 degree heat. By myself, willingly training for my second half marathon in six months. And a few days ago, I was jogging, instead of walking, down from the 14,433 ft peak of Mt. Elbert, wishing I had my trail running shoes and wanting to go much faster than I could with my darling old pup in tow. The day immediately after that hike, I was out running the Boulder Creek path.

Who am I? How is it that I now own trail running shoes, as well as a slim hydration backpack? How did I become picky about my running shorts? What happened?

My friends happened. My circle consists of self-confident, intelligent women who value physical fitness and being active and healthy. We work out alone and text each other about our results. We work out together, finding new gyms and fitness trends to check out for fun. We go on epic Colorado hikes together. We sign up for races together.

When I was little, my parents warned me against hanging out with certain people by explaining what “guilt by association” meant, scaring me into thinking I could end up in jail for the rest of my life just for standing near someone who smoked pot. But they never focused on the importance of the reverse of that lesson: that spending time with the right people can influence you positive ways. While I have some immutable personality traits and passions, other of my interests have varied wildly over my life, depending on the people around me most often. If being around these women has turned me into a runner, well, then I couldn’t ask for better friends.

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Me with some of the best people I know, atop Mt. Elbert, the second highest point in continental United States, July 28, 2018.

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