Finding My Super Power
I have a love–hate relationship with running.
I can probably date the start of that feeling to high school cross country, a sport in which I only competed so that I could be in shape come winter soccer tryouts. I remember dozens of preseason workouts where our coach would drop us off at the bottom of a giant hill for repeats in the blazing sun, which was brutal even at 6 a.m. in the South Texas late summer. Every race morning, I’d have a stomach full of painful knots leading up to the race, making me question why I ever signed up for this dumb sport.
The post-race high, though, no matter where I fell within our little squad’s finish times, was a thrilling mix of jubilation and relief. Add to that the camaraderie among teammates when we all debriefed about the course, where we’d each experienced pushing ourselves to our limits, and it made all the training pain, 5 a.m. wake-ups and pre-race uneasiness worth it.
In college, I found that I had very little motivation for running—or exercise in general. Outside of intramural soccer, I was too caught up in my studies, friendships, journalism internships and school newspaper commitments to find much time for anything else. I learned that not having a coach pushing me or a team surrounding me left me without much reason to run.
That was until my wedding. While working as an intern for some running and triathlon magazines, I came across a press release for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, taking place the weekend before my wedding. With Ironman athletes and marathoners all around me in my office, I had been toying with the idea of picking up running again, I loved Disney, and the timing meant the training could be a release for my pre-wedding stress. (Plus, I would be practically guaranteed to fit into my wedding dress, right?!)
I was convinced it would be a one-and-done, bucket list–type race for me, but even with the pre-race sleeplessness and painful post-race hobble, a flame was lit. That race opened up a whole new world to me—it gave me a challenge, it got me outside and (best of all) the only pressure on me was the pressure I put on myself.
But after my wedding and as the busyness of life and work kicked in, my running was inconsistent and came in spurts, usually centered around a race—while I couldn’t find time for it year-round, it was what I kept coming back to when I felt like I needed to get my life back in balance or get my health back on track. It helped that my husband took up the sport, but the true test of whether running would be a forever lifestyle was having my first daughter. After I was cleared to exercise, I found myself itching to run—something I’d never experienced before. Running helped me get my body (mostly) back, gave me some much-needed “me” time and helped my life regain some sense of normalcy.
Now, after 11 half marathons (and counting), a few sprint triathlons and giving birth to a second daughter, running has evolved to be so much more than that. My husband and I keep signing up for races and giving up our weekend mornings for long runs so that we can set good examples of a healthy lifestyle for our daughters. We see raising children—especially daughters—in this day and age as a tall order. We want them to be strong, to have a healthy sense of self, to feel secure in who they are and to be confident in their bodies. Living an active, healthy lifestyle is one way to help them achieve those things.
While I still sometimes struggle with getting out the door to squeeze in workouts amid a full-time job, long commute and family time, I find my energy and motivation lie in something much bigger. In one of pro triathlete Jesse Thomas’s “Triathlife” columns in Triathlete magazine, he called becoming a parent “a super power”—whenever he’s struggling in a race, he thinks of his wife and son, knowing they’ll be proud and excited, no matter how his race goes. I do the same—envisioning the faces of my sweet girls waiting for me at the finish line helps me get through the most painful parts of any run. They have given me my forever “why” for running, and this fall, we’ll finally get to start sharing this passion with our older daughter, who will be racing the kids’ race at our annual Thanksgiving Day turkey trot.