This month marks the 4th anniversary of my return to running. As I mention in my "profile", I had no long term goal in March 2004. I joined an introductory running group presented by a local running store, the Track Shack.
I showed up to find the two coaches, Bob and Jim, eagerly welcoming the new participants. Several were returning from a previous training session so they knew the system. Surveying the group I saw that it was comprised of all age groups, fitness levels, ethnic groups and about a 4:1 female vs. male ratio.
I had arrived early, that's my nature, always on time. We acknowledged each other as we awaited the start of the session. As we were brought together by the coaches, I met a lady by the name of Lena. I remember two things, she was from New York and she kept telling me she ran like a duck. I can only tell that now because 4 years later Lena and I are still very good friends. We were directed to run around Lake Eola, situated in a beautiful park in downtown Orlando. Someone mentioned it was about one mile around the lake back to our location. The group of about 25 quickly spread out. Lena and I teamed up and made it about one-quarter of the way around the lake. I remember stopping with her and wondering what in hell I was doing out there. I was exhausted after running, no jogging, 400 yards. We walked maybe 100 yards and ran a little more. We finally made it, we finished one complete lap of Lake Eola! That's when the coaches told us to do it again. I don't have a recollection of the second lap, by then I was exhausted. You hear about hitting "the wall" but not in a one mile run.
As the weeks went on, Lena and I became quite proficient. I'm not sure which week it was, but we made one lap without stopping! At this point I had also befriended Winston, a jovial man in his late 60's. He was from New Jersey via London via British Guyana. He and I still run, he is now in his 70's.
What I gained from the 10 weeks of training was the ability to move on to the next level of training. The group was now discussing doing a 5K run on the 4th of July. There was also a whisper of "half-marathon" in the group. What had happened to the group of novice runners who showed up that March evening? We were turning into runners. We had the proper running shoes, we wore "technical" shirts and used Body Glide.
We passed the test on our first 5K. With the help of the Jeff Galloway Training Program, we were slowly becoming distance runners. In December, less than one year into our training, we ran the OUC half-marathon in Orlando. As they say, "the rest is history." Today I am pleased with the progress I have made. I never thought about one marathon in March of 2004, let alone the eight that I have completed.
I cherish that night in March for two reasons, one of course is my improved physical health. Most importantly, I cherish the friendships that have developed from that night. Lena and Winston who were there with me on day one continue to run marathons. So many wonderful people who I have met, who make running not a tedious exercise, but a life experience. You're always afraid of leaving someone out but I must add a few more names. Friends who ran the New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon and miles and miles of practice. Inspiration that keeps me focused and always looking to put forth just a bit more effort. So here goes; Sheri and Renea (Thelma & Louise), Wanda, Sponge Bob, Edna, Sheron & Richard, Tim & Susan aka "Big Dog", Raymond, Lorraine & Dan and more recently Jennifer and Cathy. If you have been a regular to this blog you already know about Donna!
May we all be blessed with many more years of this incredible journey.