While preparing for my first marathon, I am frequently asked why I would EVER want to even run 26.2 miles. I immediately respond that I am running with Team ALS, to support those who suffer from Lou Gehrig’s disease and to spread awareness of the urgency to find treatments and ultimately cure. With the Chicago Marathon right around the corner, I have been taking the time to dig deep on my long training runs, which has given me the perfect opportunity to reflect on why I am so determined to cross the finish line in Chicago on October 9th. As I finished a (very sweaty) sixteen-mile training run this morning, I concluded that this marathon is more than just an opportunity to raise awareness for ALS, it's also an experience for me to discover how strong I really am. With nine half-marathons under my belt, I know it’s time for me to step outside of my comfort zone and accomplish what I thought could never be done.
I started running in eighth grade when my doctor told me that it was time to start increasing my physical activity. I decided that I would start to jog up and down my street once or twice, which was an extremely difficult task to accomplish at the time. After a few successful jogs up and down the street, I decided I would venture out and run around my block. I remember when I finished my first run around the block, which is less than a mile in distance, I was out of breath and was sure that I could never run any farther than that. I decided to stay at that distance for quite a while, as I felt comfortable at that level of intensity and didn’t see any point in increasing my mileage.
I entered high school and was soon faced with the harsh reality of girl-world. I started to feel uncomfortable and anxious at school, always feeling like the outsider with no one to turn to. Some days, I had a hard time getting up in the morning because I actually dreaded going to school. I continued to hurt inside, but kept my feelings to myself because I felt that no one could truly sympathize with me. I remember getting home from school one afternoon and feeling anxious and worn-out from hearing all the gossip that was taking place behind my back. I decided that maybe I would go for a quick jog around the block, as I hadn’t ran in a while and thought that it might make me feel a little bit better. I laced up my shoes and headed out the door, but as I began my usual route, I decided to take a different turn and venture out farther than normal. When I got home that day, I realized that I had doubled the distance that I was used to. I was in shock that I actually completed an almost two-mile run and I never stopped, not even once! As I unlaced my shoes and looked in the mirror at my sweaty face, I realized how free I felt (runner's-high!) and how I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to.
From that day on, I slowly but surely added more distance to my runs. I eventually ran my first 5K and then my first 10K. I started noticing a difference in my body and began to feel more confident in myself. I treated running as my therapy, and grew to really cherish the time I got to spend with my music and myself. School was no longer a place of pure misery, and I realized that if I had a bad day, running would always make me feel better. During my junior year of high school, I decided it was time to push myself and run a half-marathon (in Disney World!). Running 13.1 miles for the first time was not easy, but I finished and wore my finisher’s medal with pride. Since then, I’ve completed eight more half marathons – two in New York, and six in Boston. Each half marathon is a challenge, but I give everything I have until I finish. I know that in Chicago, I will give everything I have for 26.2 miles until I cross the finish line.
So, during the next few days when people ask me why I would ever want to run a marathon, I’m going to not only think about my charity team and why raising awareness for ALS is so important, but I’m also going to think of why I love to run. I love to run because it makes me feel beautiful, brave, and strong. Running makes me appreciate how lucky I am and how I am loved by so many. When I run, I am fearless, for I know that nothing else matters when I have my favorite playlist blasting through my headphones and sweat is dripping down the sides of my face. This cardio keeps me happy and healthy, all while ensuring that I stay in great shape. Completing my first marathon will not be easy, but I’ll remember the girl who struggled to run up the street, the girl who jogged around the block to heal her pain, and I’ll think of the girl who realized that running makes her a better person.