Flashback Friday - Becoming a Runner

Obviously this blog is primarily about food.  New restaurants, repeat restaurants, recipes. It's my journey to expand my culinary experiences.  But I wanted to find a way to expand the blog slightly, while keeping within the general framework.  So I've begun this new weekly post called Flashback Friday.  These posts will be About Me.  Longer, more in-depth than just a quick 1,000 word post on my front page.  That reminds me, I still need to do that shorter one...

I'm currently reading The Chill of the Night by James Hayman, and during a conversation, Sgt. Mike McCabe says to his partner Maggie Savage, "you eat like a 12-year old girl". That's the way I ate throughout elementary and middle school.  I could eat anything without gaining weight.  Even the boys in my class were jealous.  But then I hit 13, and I couldn't eat like that anymore.  I still remained very slender, because I was on the field hockey and basketball teams in school, and on my summer swim team. Then I went to college, and that "freshman 15" piled on with a vengeance.  And ever since then it's been a constant battle.  

I was never a runner growing up.  I always dreaded that one-mile run you had to do each semester in gym class.  Even though I could run a 7 1/2 minute mile, during class I ran slowly with my friends.  Pretty sure a couple times we barely made the cutoff time. And although I ran a lot playing field hockey and basketball, that was about short spurts of speed and quickness.  I always detested long distance runs.  But as I got older, I realized cardio was what kept me in shape.  So I tolerated it and pushed through.

In 2011 I decided to run my first 5K.  I had been running/walking Boomer Lake pretty regularly, and one time around the is a 5K, so I figured might as well do it for real.  Mainly so I could get a tee shirt out of the deal.  I signed up for the Run/Walk for the Thin Blue Line, a race that benefits families of fallen police officers. And it was right on Boomer Lake.  I wasn't able to run the whole way, but I finished it. And in the grand scheme of things, that's all that matters.

In 2012, I took on the 10K challenge.  I registered for the See Spot Run. This race benefits Free to Live animal sanctuary.  My friend Suzanne Cowden-Hirzl and her family coordinate this race in memory of her brother Chris, who was tragically killed in 2008.  I was probably crazy for this being my first 10K, considering the hills on the course were absolutely brutal.  But I did it.  And shockingly I ran almost the entire way.  And it was so fun that I've done it 3 times.  I missed it this year because they moved it to an evening event and it was the same day as Preakness.  And I had already been planning a Preakness party at my house.  So dressing up and a big hat won out.  
After my first See Spot Run, with Suzanne
In 2013 I added another 10K to my resume, with the Redbud Classic. I love this race because we run through Nichols Hills, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Oklahoma City.  I always hope I'm going to find myself a hot, single man who lives in one of those huge houses. But when I'm running a race it's all I can do to concentrate on not tripping on something and falling flat on my face. So I never find any hot men.  And I'm quite sure the men living there are all married.  The neighborhood gets really into it, hosting tailgates on their lawn and even hiring bands to play in their driveways.  I missed it this year, but am already planning to run it again next year.
Betty and I before the race in 2013
My friend Betty and I went to watch the runners at the OKC Memorial Marathon on the last Sunday of April 2012.  I had always said that I would never run a marathon or even a half marathon.  For some reason I was convinced that everyone ran the whole thing, and that they had those runner's bodies that I definitely don't have. And I just knew that there was no way I could do that.  But then I saw people walking. Lots of people walking.  And very overweight people. And I saw firemen in FULL gear. And people old enough to be my dad or grandfather.  And I decided that I had absolutely no excuse NOT to do the half marathon. 
Firemen walking the half marathon in full gear - many of them run the first 1-2 miles!!

Photo op with Abe Lincoln at the 2012 half marathon
The OKC memorial marathon is a run to remember for the 168 victims killed in the bombing of the Murrah Building in 1996. It's really a great race, and over 25,000 people participate.  The first 2-3 miles are pure adrenaline. So I signed up in January of 2013 and started training.  I had no idea how it would go, so my goal was 2.5 hours. Amazingly I not only ran the whole way, I did it in 2:19.  My only goal with each race is to do it faster than the year before.  So in 2014 I was really happy with 2:17.  This year should have been 2:15, but I got sick 3 times during my training.  So I was ecstatic that I finished in 2:25. And even more shocked that I ran the whole way, considering my training fell apart.  I always start way at the back, with the walkers, so as I pass people I feel really good about myself.   
My first half marathon! Post-run photo with my friend Sarah
For some reason I thought it was a good idea to sign up for The Scorcher, a half marathon right here in Stillwater.  It's only 6 weeks after the OKC marathon.  I think I figured that since I would be in shape from OKC, I would just push through and then run another half. Dumb move, because I'm definitely not in shape for it.  It's next weekend, so we'll see.  I might do it...or I might go to Vegas for the weekend with my friends instead.

I did the Color Me Rad in 2013 as well.  But that doesn't really count as a run, because you spend most of the time dodging kids and strollers.  The biggest appeal is getting colored dye dumped on you from every single direction.  We did have a great time though.
AJ & I - the "after"
Will I ever do a full marathon?  Not a chance. I have bad knees and shins already, and have heard horror stories about how long it takes people to recover afterwards.  It takes me a good 2 days to be able to walk completely normally just after a half. More important, I have no clue what I would think about for 5 hours.  So I'll just stick to 10K's and half marathons.

So I guess I'm officially a runner.  When I know I have a long run ahead of me I usually dread it, and often do everything I can to talk myself out of it.  But then I push myself out there, and end up feeling amazing when I'm done.  Every single time.  Really, that euphoria hits with every run, even the short 4-milers.  And let's be honest. I run so that I can eat.  I run so I don't weigh 500lbs from all my food blog adventures. And I run because it keeps me in pretty good shape.  I'll never be a size 0...but I don't want to. I just want to be healthy and happy.