by Jamie Logan
I was a music and theater nerd in high school (honestly, I still am). Organized sports just weren’t my thing, especially the ones where balls were constantly flying at my head, but I ran on my own every morning. It cleared my head. But I ran in cheap sneakers on gravel roads, and it took its toll. I spent most of my senior year on crutches. After three knee surgeries and an orthopedic surgeon who believed running was bad for you, I gave it up for years.
At age 38 and 85 pounds overweight, I decided running couldn’t be any harder on my body than all those extra pounds, so I laced up my shoes and headed out with a foolproof plan: run until I felt like I was going to die, then walk until I didn’t feel like I wasn’t going to die. Then repeat that pattern for 30 minutes or until I did, in fact, die, whichever came first.
I’ll never forget that first run. I had purchased spandex leggings for the first time in my life and had my two boys in tow. I was so slow my boys not so graciously pointed out that they could walk faster than I could run. And then I realized that the tandem bike headed towards us was manned by people I knew. Worse yet, one of them was a “real” runner. I knew that if she saw me running, she would try to turn me into a runner, too, but there was nowhere to hide.
As we chatted in the middle of the trail, I explained that no, I wasn’t a runner; I was running. I told her about my strategy, and she suggested the C25K app, implying that my plan was less than foolproof. I finished my thirty-minute cycle of near-death experiences and headed home to research C25Ks. Couch-to-5k plans aren’t for everyone, but they rescued me. I’m a list-checker-offer so having small, achievable weekly goals and checking them off one by one kept me moving.
After finishing the C25K plan, I still had some work to meet my weight goal, so I moved onto the C210K because that system was really working for me. Once I could run six miles without dying, I decided to join my running friends for their Saturday long runs. Pretty soon, I was training for whatever race they were training for. Six months after I started running and 85lbs down, I completed my first half marathon with those strong, encouraging women. And just under a year after that first fateful run, I ran my first full marathon with those same amazing women.
And that’s the story of how I, too, became a “real” runner, not by running a marathon, but by simply running. Those women helped me realize that I was already a runner that first day I headed out. Medals, PRs, and impressive distances don’t make you a “real” runner (and there’s no such thing as a real-er runner). Running makes you a runner.
Whatever distance you’ve decided to tackle in this year’s IMT Des Moines Marathon Race Weekend, find a plan that works for you, find people that will work with you, and then get running!