Last spring, at a family function, a cousin of mine started recruiting me to do a run with her. Sensing my disinterest, she sweetened the deal: “We can run in Disney World, there are 5Ks that go right through the park.”
Working at the Borough President’s Office, health and wellness is one of the pillars that we work on. So this wasn’t the first time, I’d felt a twinge to get fit. I’d stopped and started many times. Come July, registration began (and closed) for the Disney Princess 5K. I registered. The run would be in February. That gave me plenty of time to train.
Let me explain one thing – I don’t run. I’m one of those people that believe that running is for when you are in serious – read: mortal – danger. I told my cousin I’d run with her because it sounded like an excuse to go to Walt Disney World for a long weekend.
I guess I never thought the day would actually come when I’d have to run. So I did my own version of preparation. I bought the clothes, I bought the sneakers. I even brought the sneakers on another trip prior to the run where I planned to train. It rained almost every day and the sneakers never saw the light of day.
Then I downloaded a few apps- Couch to 5K, 7 Minute Workout, stuff like that. The icons looked nice on my phone.
As Christmas approached, I started a mental countdown to the run. With New Year’s, I made a fleeting resolution to train. Then, just a week before the run, it occurred to me that I was going to humiliate myself in front of thousands of people, two cousins and my sister included.
I packed my stuff. I kissed the husband and the kid goodbye and headed for the airport. I thought there was a very real possibility that I’d suffer a heart attack trying to run and actually die.
That afternoon, we went to pick up our bib numbers and race packets. I was excited. I posed for pictures with my bib and bought a tiara to wear for the race (it is the Princess Race, after all). I thought maybe there would be a storm and the run would be cancelled – that wouldn’t be my fault, so I’d still get credit for it, right?
No such luck. The night before, we went to bed at 10 PM and set the alarm for 3:15 AM. We had to be on a bus by 4:30 AM to be on site for 5 AM for a run that began at 6 AM.
This, I will tell you, was the hardest part of the run – getting up at 3:15 AM. Getting dressed while it’s dark outside and trying to psych yourself up when your body wants to be asleep was by far the biggest challenge of the day.
Once the run started, we got pumped. We ran hard for the first mile. It was great – my calves were seizing up, but it was great. The four of us who were running together kept pace with each other and we felt like rock stars. The run was crowded, so we had to slow down and walk quite a bit, but it was an amazing feeling to be part of something with hundreds of other people. We stopped at each mile marker and snapped a photo- this took time, but no one running this race seemed to be in it for the time – just for the fun of it.
As we crossed the finish line, we ran hard once more and upon being handed a medal for our accomplishments, I felt fantastic. Here I was, out of shape and out of breath – but I had done it. And I had done it in pretty decent time too. And I had not died. I was alive!
I’ve run a few times since this race last month and I intend to stick with it. Not because I feel like I have to, but because I can and I want to, a pretty far cry for a person who thought running was only for emergencies and avoiding imminent danger.
Taking a nod from the health and wellness messages of the office, I don’t think it matters when or how you make a decision to change your fitness level. It’s OK to start small – get a Fitbit, be mindful of your activity or lack thereof, and make changes. In my case, I just went for it - kind of dumb, yes, but it worked for me. Whatever it takes to get you out of your comfort zone and on the road to a more healthy you, I say go for it.