TRAIN TO RUN
Last spring I decided to run. When training for racing, you are commonly asked what is your “why”? My answer to that question doesn’t have much depth and, truthfully, it doesn’t compare to the other inspirational stories that I’ve encountered along my racing journey. I run for mental clarity and for the time to simply breathe. The reason I race, however, has a different explanation and it starts with the community.
Rewind to a couple of months before my first training season…It was winter and I spent most of my days either working or exercising in a variety of different fitness studios in the area. I loved it. The change of scenery from the corporate world was refreshing and my lifestyle took a complete 180. I enjoyed watching my body transform according to my efforts, and the friendships I created revolved around one common interest, wellness. The more committed I became to my new found lifestyle, the more I sought out challenges and diversity. Spring was approaching and my excitement for sunshine and more time outside grew. I kept my ears open at the gym for outdoor activities that would challenge and motivate me throughout the next season. My racing friends suggested that I join the J&A Racing Fall Training Team.
I always considered myself a runner. I participating in fun runs in Panama starting at the age of five and I played field hockey in high school. After high school, I ran several 5K races and even completed the Shamrock 8K. Running was always a part of my life, but the thought of running a long race wasn’t an idea I had ever entertained. I knew I had to up my training program if I wanted to run longer distances and I never doubted my ability to do it. But did I want to do it? Did I want to run 13.1 miles? Not really. What I did want though, was to be part of the running community.
My desire to be part of the “WolfPack” reminded me of a teenage girl sitting on the sidelines yearning to be part of the “IN” crowd at school. Okay, take out the mean girls, the bullying, and all other negativity associated with the stereotypical cliques and what is left? Confidence. Empowerment. Strength. Camaraderie. I wanted IN.
Overall, I had a great training season! I paid my dues and immediately started reaping the benefits of being a team member. My training plan was sent to me a month in advance and I received daily reminders of the activities I was expected to complete. I attended most of the team runs (twice a week) and community events. My progress reflected my commitment to the program, which surprised me as I never assume the role of the overachiever. Unlike other commitments that had me contemplating my participation, showing up for J&A was easy and I found myself chugging the kool-aid fairly early into the season. I was #hooked!
I’ll never forget the week when I looked at my training plan and the expected run for that Saturday read “10 MILES.” Ugh. The days leading up to that run, I admit, were not fun. I didn’t want to do it and I complained inwardly and curled my upper lip every time I saw “10” displayed on my running app. The only positive was that it was scheduled on a team run day, which was smart because I doubted my motivation to finish on my own. Reluctantly, I showed up, ran the 10 miles and, to my surprise, it was fairly easy! Yes, easy! Finished. Sweet. I did it. Yay me. My skip to fetch water was interrupted with hugs, high fives, smacks on the butt, and a blast of ice cold water over my head.
Team: “Nicole, you just ran your first double digits!”
Me: “Oh, yeah! I did!”
Team: “Nicole, let me grab a photo of you in front of King Neptune! Now hold up ten fingers!”
Me: “But you ran 10 miles, too.”
The Marathoners had run ten miles before they even joined the half marathon training group that morning. Most of them were veterans, so running 10 miles was no biggie to them. It didn’t matter. This was the moment when I realized “why” I raced — the team.
J&A Racing’s influence on our community is no secret. The coaches inspire not because it is their job, but because that is part of their chemical makeup – it’s who they are. Their humble nature is contagious and it spreads throughout the entire team. As a member of the “wolfpack,” you experience extreme loyalty and devotion and the feeling of belonging to a unit that celebrates all victories as team victories. You become part of a family that offers kindness, friendship, encouragement, and sportsmanship. Every staff member, every runner (whether a veteran or a newbie like me), and every fan brings a bit of magic to this community. The wolf pack remains STRONG.
After realizing the power of this community that I ignorantly joined, I was eager to run. My strides became more fluid and stronger. I felt gratitude for my physical ability and motivated to strengthen the relationships around me. I made life-long friends with some of the most incredible humans I have ever encountered and their loyalty to me is indescribable. While that racing season challenged me to test my physical abilities greatly, I benefited more from the emotional growth I experienced. That time was truly special and it will stay with me forever.
I continued my training and completed two half marathons: The Crawling Crab and Norfolk Harbor. I cut close to 40 minutes off of my time from the first race to the second race. Both times I crossed the finish line, I fell into the arms of a fellow J&A team member.
WHY RUN #1: Community! WHY RUN #2: To prove to yourself that you can!
Do you ever notice how children run everywhere they go? We are constantly disciplining them. “Don’t run! Walk!” And then somehow, as we get older, we adopt that model of walking everywhere we go, eventually getting to a point where running is SOOO much effort and it becomes such a chore that even walking at a fast pace is too strenuous and HARD.
Despite being fairly fit in the studio world, I was there. I would really only run if I absolutely had to and even then, I had to dig. Well, folks, not anymore! The other day I found myself running to my car as I left the grocery store and I had to laugh at myself despite what people were thinking. “Why is that girl running so fast to her car? Is she late? Is there an emergency?” No. I just felt like running and that’s just what I did.