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Winter 2010: I’m not a runner. I hate running. I love working out, and I love cardio exercise, but I hate running. Running is boring and time consuming and painful. No one in their right mind would make a conscious decision to go outside in this kind of weather and run on purpose. I see people run and I don’t get it. Roads are for driving… these people need to get off the road so I can drive.

Early March 2010: I’m not a runner, but there’s a St. Patrick’s 4 mile race today to raise money for the Barton Center for Diabetes Education where my daughter goes to camp. I hate running, but I love my daughter. It’s important to her, so I’ll enter the race.

March 19, 2010: It’s pouring out and it’s freezing. Surely the race must be cancelled. Just in case, I show up in my boot cut yoga pants, winter jacket and an old beat up pair of sneakers. It’s not cancelled, and everyone has shorts on, or these things called “running tights.” And no winter coats. And their sneakers are all kinds of funky colors. They keep fiddling with their shoe laces. I’m not quite sure if I’m supposed to fiddle with mine too. I haven’t tied or untied these laces in years. Isn’t that what makes for a great pair of sneakers? Ones that are so broken in that you don’t have to tie or untie them anymore?

One mile into the race and my rain-logged yoga pants must weigh at least ten pounds. My feet keep coming out of the backs of my shoes with each step, and I’ve stepped on the back of my bootcut pants more than a few times. I’ve heard that people use mantras to help them through the tough part of a race, so I start saying “Please don’t let my pants fall down, please don’t let my pants fall down, please don’t let my pants fall down.”

I have no idea what a good pace or a respectable finishing time is, but I do find out that I’ve come in 3rd place for my age division. Unfortunately at a small race like this, they only give out awards through second place in each division.  But it has planted a small seed. I decide that I still hate running, but maybe I like racing. I sign up for more races at increasingly longer distances… including a half marathon.

March 19, 2011: My second year running the Barton four-miler. With about ten races under my belt, including 3 half marathons, I’m a little better prepared. I know the course, I know my projected pace, and I’m wearing sneakers that require tying. Also, I’ve long since burned those yoga pants I still don’t love running, but I do love racing. I love the thrill of competition and I love to push myself. I have one goal and one goal only: to get one of those coveted awards in my age group. It shouldn’t be hard… third place last year with no training or preparation, second place should be in the bag this year!

I beat the previous year’s time by nearly 4 minutes. The field is much larger this year, due the fact that the weather is far better, but the race official comments that I should stick around for the awards ceremony because my time is “pretty good… not sure yet but you might have placed.”

Results are posted, and I was thrilled to find that I’ve placed second in my age group! Cold and sweaty, I hang around the extra hour for the awards ceremony so I can get that coveted medal. But alas…”In an effort to keep registration fees low in this economy, we’ll only be awarding first place for each division.” Drat! Foiled again!

March 2012: The race is approaching yet again. This time I confidently call myself a runner. Not only do I love racing, but I love running. Running is my drug. It’s my addiction and my passion. If I go too many days without a good long run, I get cranky. REALLY cranky. A great day for me includes at least a 10 mile training run. A perfect day would be one where I can head out on foot in the morning and not come back until dusk.

Preparing for this race has included miles of speedwork, faster and faster. I’m running better than I ever thought I could.  Two years ago I hated running; now I’ve completed countless half marathons, 2 full marathons and even a couple of Ultras. I started thinking… history dictates I should come in first in my division this time. Time to get that prize. But in retrospect, that’s not really what it’s about anymore. I’ve improved as a runner tenfold over these past 2 years. I hope the other participants have too. I hope the other runners have fallen in love with running the way I have, and I hope they’ve gotten faster, stronger, better. In 24 months I’ve met tons of people in boot-cut yoga pants and comfy sneaks, and lots of them have already turned into real runners faster than me.

Being a real runner doesn’t have anything to do with placing… it has to do with loving the road and the run just as much as the race. But I do still love that competition, so I hope they deliver. Give me a run for my money the way you have the past two years. THEN if I get that award? Well, that’s okay.

Editor’s Note: Tracy ran the 2012 Barton 4 miler in a personal record time of 30:24, but alas, she still finished second in her age group.

Written by

Tracy is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She’s employed by a major fitness footwear retailer as a Regional Product and Sales Trainer. By working in what she considers to be “as close to a dream job as you can get,” Tracy gets to travel the east coast while educating her co-workers and potential clients on the benefits of embracing a healthy lifestyle.

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