Somewhere around the third week of training, I started running on the levy on Sunday nights. It’s a peaceful kind of run, quiet and breezy with the fall weather just rolling it. The wind is always so intense that close to the river. For me, it’s almost like a propeller pushing me along.
I have a distinct memory from early October of what was probably the first “good run” of my life. Maybe it was watching the sunset on the bank of the river turn into downtown lights reflecting on the water or the crazy winds rolling in, but I finally started to understand why people run. I had a rhythm and didn’t need to stop. I discovered a breathing pattern and everything synced
For the first time, I felt unbelievably powerful - and I loved it.
I’ve got about nine weeks of training under my belt, which is crazy to even think about, and I’m still not sure if I count as a real runner yet. My training consists of running 45 seconds and walking 15 seconds, endlessly and excruciatingly, four days a week. Accurate or not, I don’t think I’ll actually call myself a runner until I’m running a full 5k without stopping
Even though I won’t actually call myself a runner, I feel like I’ve pretty much earned the right to. Sometime around week 7, I was having a lot of problems with shin splints. I was stretching, icing, buying new shoes and googling solutions endlessly. Nothing worked. On a regular after work run, I decided I was probably doing more damage than good and quit with a quarter of the route left to go. I’m proud to say that that is the only time in this journey that I’ve quit. I followed up that quitting with five days off, along with some serious ice time and came back even stronger. I still constantly have to tell myself things like: “You are hurting, you aren’t going to die.” or “Your legs aren’t giving out, you are quitting.”, but at least now I know those things are true.
If I’m not a real runner, at least I might look like one now. Somewhere in all of this I also went from running in old college t-shirts to actually wearing real running gear. I don’t know if any of this actually counts towards me being a real runner, but I ended up with a light up slap bracelet for running in the dark, a sweet sweat band visor, shoes bought more for effect than cuteness and more dri-fit clothing than you can shake a stick at. I think the shoes were a real turning point. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if they came in hot pink, I just needed them to help my legs feel better.
I think I’ve finally got some real runner inspiration, too. During our Team DHH and Team DOA Louisiana Marathon BBQ, I had the privilege of hearing Jenni Peters speak. Jenni Peters started the Baton Rouge running shop and institution Varsity Sports, which is home to some of the most intense, nationally competitive running groups in the area. In my mind, Varsity was started by someone who loved running from day one, which was probably the day they left the womb. As it turns out, Jenni was almost exactly my age when she ran her first 5k. She had never run a day in her life and really only went to hang out with her friends. Now, she’s transformed into a respected running guru, competing in Olympic trials and owning three running stores in Louisiana. Hearing her story had an unbelievable effect on me. All of a sudden, running wasn’t something reserved for the always-athletic. It could be mine too. I wasn’t late to the game, I was right on time - and if she could do it, so could I.
About a week after hearing Jenni’s story, I decided I’ll be running the Louisiana Marathon Half in January 2016. How’s that for a plot twist?
There are ten weeks left until race day with the real runners. All of a sudden I don’t care only about making it through the race, I want a great time too. That’s got to be the best thing about this journey – the mental transformation. Nine weeks ago, I couldn’t run down the block. Now, I feel like the real runners and I aren’t that different at all. With ten weeks to go, all of those real runners better keep up, because I’m not sure anyone wants it as bad as I do now.
Chelsea BennettChelsea is a 22 year-old, taking on the challenge of the 2015 Louisiana Marathon Advocate 5k. A lover of all things southern, she is an LSU grad, completely infatuated with the sweet Louisiana life and everything quintessentially “Baton Rouge.” Find her by the pralines or follow Chelsea on Twitter @GeauxChels
DHH Public Relations Specialist
DHH Public Relations Specialist