Any exercise is beneficial in gaining overall strength and promoting good health, but running provides a unique challenge for me as I have overcome huge mental boundaries through doing it. When my lovely friend Michele convinced me to run my first 5k, I had not run more than 50 steps since high school and that was not in the near past. Since high school I had not practiced great health, had finally quit smoking after 10ish years, and was honestly afraid of running. But Michele persisted and I signed up for my first 5k, put on my shoes and went outside to try this running thing.
It was not easy. It took me a long time to realize that I didn't have to sprint the whole time I was running and that pacing is a good thing that allows you to run much longer distances. That was hurdle number one that I slowly climbed over with a seemingly endless line of them in front of me to go. I finally "ran" (I use that term loosely because of how slow I was going) my first whole mile. By the time the 5k came around I had run two and a half whole miles without walking but not a whole 3.1, so I set my goal realistically for the 5k and said I just want to run the whole thing without having to walk or stop. Things were going pretty well until about a mile in I was getting fairly winded going up a small hill and two women flew right passed me both pushing jogging strollers! Yep, that's right...went right on by like I was standing still. Needless to say that was a little deflating, but I stuck to my goal and finished my first 5k without walking or stopping. It was an accomplishment and something I was able to be proud of because I overcame my fear of running and tried hard and trained for something that I did accomplish and changed my perspective on running forever. I continued to run off and on, participating in additional races and relays.
More than a few years later, I was training for my second Reno Tahoe Odyssey relay (178 miles with a 12 person team) and was running with my husband Phil. Phil is very athletic and runs much faster than me. On our runs, I would completely fall apart and become an embarrassing, whiny baby when I felt challenged. It took me a long time to realize that when I was running with someone else that my mental strength that I had when I ran alone was not there. From the reading and researching I've done since that time makes me believe that I felt vulnerable with other people and that realization and awareness of my reactions to vulnerability has made it easier for me to overcome my mental blocks when running with others. Phil is thankful that I don't become a lunatic and freak out every time our runs become a little challenging.
Since that first 5k, I have enjoyed running a number of races including numerous 5ks, my favorite being a challenging Foam Fest, two Reno Tahoe Odesseys and part of a team, and two half marathons. I really enjoy races, especially when they are for a good cause. It continues to teach me important lessons about mental limitations, perseverance, and just how far my physical body will take me when my mentality gets out of the way.