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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, October 12, 2012

Wanna be a runner?

As part of my mass effort to improve myself, I decided to pick up my feet and start running.

I’ve described myself as a wanna-be-runner for years. In case you want to know what that is, it means as I’m driving downtown and I see people jogging, I think, “I wish I could do that,” and then turn up the AC. Over time, however, I’m chipping away at the wanna-be part.

My first 5K was two years ago. It was the local Angel Run, and I was very proud of my time. An impossibly-thin friend I had not seen since high school saw me after the race and asked me what my time was. I proudly told her (note that I am not writing it here).

“That’s a great run for a 10K,” she said.

“Oh, that was for the 5K,” I said.

Her face said the rest.

Since that time, I’ve entered more races, and I’ve run better times. I set my PR when I was running with my best friend. She had done the couch to 5K training plan. I assumed her 5K time would be like my first 5K time. We stayed together the first two miles. By the third, she was still talking, and I knew I was in trouble.

“Are you OK?” she asked.

“Just. Can’t. Talk,” I managed to get out during breaths. “Go. Ahead. Save. Yourself.”

And off she went to the finish line. She later swears she wasn’t trying to beat me – just the guy who was speed walking ahead of us. It didn’t matter, my pride was too tired to care.

As time passed, I found some other running buddies to race with, including my teenage daughter. Now, if you’ve had a teenager, then you understand that if you find an activity that you can do together, you’d better latch onto it like a snapping turtle. And that’s just what I have done.

Next thing I knew, we were slipping out early Saturday mornings to race against our peers – and ourselves. Though the truth is there’s more cheering for one another than racing.

Runners are kind people, I’ve found. They don’t care how old you are or if you have to stop to walk or if your 5K time is mistaken for a 10K time. They know if you are out there participating, then you get it.

You get that there’s nothing to make you feel more alive than almost dying en route.

If you are a runner, then you know how nice it is to see the sun come up while you feel the crisp air fill your lungs. You know what a thrill it is to hear your quiet daughter give a war whoop as she passes you. You know how cool it is to get a new T-shirt and to have a great playlist and to feel grateful to be alive. You know what it’s like to chip away at your time, sometimes second by second. You know what it’s like to do something you’d never thought you’d be doing. It is running, and it is incredible.

It’s a sport that grows on you, and it has worked its way into me. I no longer loathe it. I look forward to it. I no longer dread the minutes on the treadmill. Instead I push myself to go faster. Somehow, step by step, I have become a runner. There, I finally said it. Doesn’t mean I’ll ever have a great time or even a good time, but I’m out there. I’m doing it. I am running, and this wanna-be finally belongs.

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