I never really considered myself very athletic. And, actually, to this day I don’t consider myself athletic, but other people do, which I find funny. It’s akin to my belief that I’m secretly a shy person, it’s just that to combat my shyness, I talk a lot, so it only seems like I’m not shy. So, despite the fact that I self-define as not-very-sporty, I have accidentally become a runner, and hence, my friends think I’m athletic.
It all started senior year of high school when I decided to quit marching band (it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore). My parents, wise as they are, told me that they would only let me quit if I found another afterschool activity (you know, so that I didn’t fall into the wrong crowd, start skipping class, and resign myself to a life of petty crime). In my school, there was a rule that if you were a senior, and on a sports team, you had to be on varsity. This was true for every sport except for cross country where the varsity line up changed week to week. With my previously mentioned lack of athletic abilities, I knew there was no way I’d make varsity. So, despite the fact that I had never run a mile, I joined cross country.
It was great. I wasn’t very fast, I think my first race was 28 minutes (for a 5K – just a reference, to be on varsity you had to run it in 21:30), but by the end of the season, my personal record was down to 23 minutes. I think I mostly liked it for the superficial reasons: you got to wear the bright green track suit to school on Fridays before meets and your locker got decorated by the underclassman (two really cool things according to my 17 year-old self). For the first time in my life I had become Claire “the runner”. I never did make varsity, in fact, to this day I still try and “make” the varsity squad by running under that time limit (which I haven’t done in an official race…and only maybe I’ve run it unofficially once or twice), but by joining the cross country team in high school, I found a new hobby.
I ran in college only for fun and to stay in shape, and then senior year I was peer pressured into running an ultra marathon (yes, peer pressured – “All my friends were doing it”.) When I told my family over Christmas that I had planned to run an ultra in February, when the longest run I had ever run was probably 9 or 10 miles, they laughed, didn’t believe me, and it became a “running” joke in the family.
I did one training run for the event. A group of us decided, at midnight, in a snow storm, to run to the next town over and back. It was about 13 miles round trip, and when I got home there was 4 inches of fresh snow on the ground. It was 2 am and I had forgotten the key to my building and had to sleep in the airlock entrance, using my Nalgene as a pillow. That was a pretty low moment in my running career and all I remember thinking was that I was so hungry, and my granola bars were inside and that the next day I planned to eat two bacon cheeseburgers at the dining hall (this was pre-vegetarian Claire).
When February came around, I finished the 50++K (in about 6 hours) and I had trouble walking up or down hills for about a week, but despite my lack of training, I walked (ran?) away unharmed—oh to be 21 again.
Since then, for the last (almost) decade, I’ve been running off and on; usually “on” when I deign it time to sign up for a race (I need that to motivate me). My last race was a marathon in June, and I haven’t been able to get back into a good running schedule since (see? I’m not really athletic), and so, I decided to sign up for a half in May.
I’m pretty excited for this upcoming race 1) because half marathons are a great distance and 2) there is a beer festival in the same town as the race just a few hours later and I got tickets at half price (which somehow helps justify the price of this particular race which is pricy because it’s considered a “destination” race).
Peter and I have started to “think” about training again. We had such a good rhythm for the marathon last June (I find it good to have training partners), so I hope to pick that up again. In the meantime, we discovered this new trail near our house.
While we were running on it last Saturday, I felt pretty unathletic (I’ve been getting over a cold and haven’t run in a while), which reminded me of how I’m not actually an athletic person, I just didn’t like marching band, and bend easily to peer pressure.
(And yes. We are very lucky to live someplace where our winter running clothes are the same as our summer ones; I used to have to take a winter “break” from exercising. Someday I’m sure we’ll move, and it will be a hard workout transition, but until that day comes, I’ll keep running outside, and hope to find some more new trails like this one to enjoy!)