Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Running for Purpose - Part 1: A mission

It's been over a month since I have posted a blog. I have actually been trying to write this one particular blog for this whole time. Truth is, the following has been one of the hardest experiences I have had to write about. For so many reasons. Partly due to accomplishing a goal and it's overwhelming, partly due to all the emotions it stirs up. Partly due to the sadness I had to face head on as I prepared for this race. Nonetheless, here's part 1 of my journey. Enjoy :)

I have never been a fan of running. At all. Unless it meant running to the train because I'm late, which I often am. And even then, I power walk. A lot of my apprehension comes from being overweight for most of my life. Pre weight-loss, the idea of this fat girl running was completely inconceivable. Besides the fact that I would instantly start to wheeze for dear life, I would feel all love handles, arm jiggle, and thigh thunder make themselves ever so present. I was a "hot mess," as my lovely friend Mel loves to say (as in, it's her saying, not that she said I was a hot mess).

Ever since the attacks on September 11th occurred, I embraced an instant mission to never ever forget. I'm often asked if I lost someone that day, and I never know how to answer that. While I was blessed enough not to lose an immediate family member or loved one, I can say without a doubt that something was definitely lost. A loss that has yet to be filled, but one that you learn to live with. In my own ways, I try and honor the loss of beautiful life every year. However, for the last eight years, I have always wanted to pay my respects and remember by participating in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers run.

In a nut shell, this run is dedicated to Stephen Siller, a firefighter who was off-duty on September 11th, 2001. Just like a true firefighter, when he got word of the catastrophe that occurred in lower Manhattan, he picked up his gear, packed up his car and headed for the very dark cloud that, not only invaded the skyline we all love, but the very dark cloud 95% of New Yorkers were desperately trying to run away from.

The idea of these firefighters running TO the disaster zone, without flinching, makes me reconsider the adult tantrum I can throw when asked to deal with the designs of a book. I've got nothing to bitch about.

When Siller got to the Brooklyn Battery tunnel, he was greeted by a closed entrance. Nobody was being allowed into the city. So, he put on 50 lbs of gear and ran from Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers. Without flinching, he ran three miles and proceeded to save lives and help his fellow brothers. Sadly, he was one of the 343 firefighters we lost that day.

When I heard his story some 8 years ago, I became immediately moved. Who wouldn't? Besides the amazing heroism and complete selflessness of it all, the concept of running with 50 pounds of gear on a relatively warm and sunny September morning impresses me beyond belief. I knew then and there I was going to run in this race.

My first attempt at training was back in 2008. At the time, some of my colleagues were avid runners, so I asked them for help with training and we made a date to go to Central Park. I was about 195 lbs. and hadn't done cardio since earlier in the week, when the bloody 7 train decided to come a earlier than usual, and I ran for dear life to catch it. It turns out, the stupid train hung out at my station for 4 minutes, the exact time it took me to capture normal human breathing and turn from a blood red to my usual pale-self.

That late afternoon in Central Parl, when we began running, I was completely miserable. I remember wearing sweat pants and my boyfriend at the time's xxl t-shirt (insert: hot mess). Not only that, but I could not talk and run at the same time. It was an awful attempt of running the lower loop of the park (approximately 1.7 miles). After that run, I completely gave up.

Until 2011. While I had been at a normal weight for almost 3 years, it was the first year I felt like I could really run a 5k. I was such an inexperienced runner, that "5k" wouldn't instantly signal the number "5,000" in my brain, said signal being a catalyst that would transmit messages of dread to the pit of my stomach, dreadful messages telling me that I would in fact be running five THOUSAND miles. In my defense, this insane process would occur within seconds. Logically it was 3 miles. However, my brain (and a certain fat girl within) sure loved to play a mind fuck on me.

I decided to train 5 weeks before the race. I was feeling very optimistic, as some lovely friends of mine who are amazing runners and just about the best motivators ever, convinced me that I could do it. 

My first step was purchasing running sneakers, not the usual "What's on sale and will not get dirty easily" mentality that decided what sneakers I'd wear for the year. My friend Pinky took me to an actual running store. I admit completely that I had NO idea those places existed. But they do. And it was there I purchased my first pair of running shoes.

Stay Tuned for: Running for Purpose - Part 2: Orthotics-all the cool kids are using them

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