Day one of half marathon training started out rough. It was early and I was tired. Plus, I’d forgotten my headphones and was convinced I couldn’t run without music to distract me. I’ve never been a runner. In high school, I used to get major anxiety when the gym teachers asked us to run a mile. Yet here I was at 7 a.m. in Santa Monica, getting ready to run for 30 minutes with a bunch of strangers.
A month prior a friend asked me to run a 5K with her. I’d recently decided to drop some weight and a 5K seemed somewhat doable so I figured, why not? The finish line was at the Santa Monica pier, and to our delight a bunch of vendors had set up tents with food and giveaways for the runners. One of the tents was for a group called Team Challenge, a fundraising/fitness group that raises money for CCFA (an organization dedicated to finding a cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome) while training for the physical challenge of a half-marathon. Awash with post-race endorphins and blinded by the cute guy at the booth, I signed up.
Thus how I ended up at practice that first morning. As the 14 other runners and I went around and introduced ourselves, my nerves started to dissipate. These people were great. Some were running for friend and relatives with IBS, some had IBS themselves and other were just looking for a challenge. Without even trying I knocked out three miles that first morning, something I’d never done so effortlessly before. As the weeks progressed, I learned that running is almost like meditation. I never listen to music, instead I opt to chat with the other runners or just be alone with my thoughts. The strength I feel from challenging my body to keep going and the mental encouragement I get from everyone around me invariably puts a smile on my face. Losing weight has shifted from the goal to a bonus and the challenge seems less intense. In summation, I love it.
When I first moved to California, I was nervous that my averageness would draw negative attention among all the beautiful, in-shape people. I was afraid of regressing back to my insecure high school self. Instead, I found a group of people dedicated to healthy living. Team Challenge has really helped shape my perspective. Collectively, we’re trying to improve ourselves while supporting a cause that improves the lives of others. I no longer fell pressure to be perfect, instead I feel encouraged to be my best self. Every week, my group meets in a different L.A. location and no matter where I am I feel supported, not judged.
Recently, I even ran from my house to the ocean (an eight mile round trip). It took almost two hours. When I started the run I was reluctant to lose two hours of my Sunday and obsessed with how much time it would take. Having missed the group run that morning, I was heading out solo for the first time in weeks. Yet when I hit the pavement and headed west, with the sun shining on my face and the ocean in front of me, all of that self-inflicted worry just disappeared. It was so freeing that I would have stayed out longer if my muscles could’ve taken it.
Since joining Team Challenge, I feel a much more intimate connection with my own body, the neighborhoods I’ve been exploring and the people training with me. I never thought I’d say this in my entire life, but running is fun! The race may be in July, but I can see myself continuing to run for the rest of my life.
If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising goal for the half marathon, please visit my page here. Any and everything helps. My fundraising deadline is the first week of June. Feel free to e-mail me (email@example.com) with any questions. Thanks so much!