When I first joined Lynn Brick’s gym in my late 40’s, they gave me the options of having a personal trainer and getting a health assessment. I declined the trainer, but took the health assessment – a real eye opener for me. At nearly 190 pounds, barely any sustained exercise and a vegetarian diet badly in need of a complete overhaul, the assessment noted that my health age was five years over my current age at the time.
I was shocked! But I didn’t waste any time. I started going to the gym three times a week, right after my 12 hour shifts at the hospital, and I worked out – always on the treadmill, walking at first – for one hour. I don’t recall exactly when I started running. I’d increase the speed of the treadmill in the middle of my walks for at least five minutes at a time to jog. I recall my feet literally stomping on the treadmill as I picked them up and put them down, carrying all the extra cheese, Doritos, and other unhealthy vegetarian foods that were weighing my body down. Before long I was jogging for five minutes at a time, then 10 minutes, then 20 minutes. I’d streamlined my daily nutrition and I felt lighter on my feet when a fellow gym-goer suggested I enter a 5k.
Race? No way. I didn’t feel anywhere near ready to enter a race and be the last one stumbling over the finish line after everyone was already done. I wasn’t worried that I would finish the 3.1 miles; I just didn’t want to finish last. I kept the idea in the back of my mind and kept running on the treadmill, then outside on trails, around Lake Montebello, and around some of Baltimore’s City streets. I was having so much fun practicing running faster and decreasing the time I would take to run a mile, I didn’t realize I was training to race. Finally after I turned 50, and simultaneously transitioned to a vegan lifestyle, I signed up to participate in the Baltimore Women’s Classic , a running event for women – all ages, shapes and sizes – that takes place in Baltimore, Maryland annually in June.
It turns out that the other runners I’d talked to were right. Once I signed up, there was no turning back, so I trained harder. I entered the race for the first time running an 11-minute mile – meaning that it took me 11 minutes to run one mile. Not exactly Runner’s World Magazine note worthy, but I was happy with it. 🙂 I finished the race in about 33 minutes that year. The next year, I cut my time by a couple of minutes.
The crazy thing was, after I started running the races, I realized there was never any danger that I’d be the last one. The race is for runners and walkers too. I worried for nothing. I also realized that I wasn’t racing against anyone but myself. It was, and still is, all about self-improvement; pushing myself to do better than I did before.
And you can do it too. Just lace ’em up and believe you can. 🙂