Yesterday, I learned to run.

I have never considered myself a runner because I am horrible at it. My feet naturally turn outwards when I walk/run, my kneecaps are higher than usual, and I am short. I learned in 8th grade that I was not destined to be a runner when my track coach put 5’3” me in a competition simply because I could kinda sorta throw discus if I got really lucky and the wind blew the right way, and she wanted me to be in the thrower’s relay (which, for the record, didn’t count as anything and was for pure entertainment). I promise you this is much funnier if you could see how scrawny I was in 8th grade failing to outrun these super bulky meathead guys in a relay. I was basically flat out told that I was not a runner, and I accepted it and moved on. It wasn’t too heartbreaking considering I got winded after the 1/2 mile warm-up.

This is why it baffles me that 1) my dear friend Haley would even ask if I wanted to run a half marathon, 2) that I would consider it for longer than like .2 seconds, and 3) that I would actually agree to it. It makes 0 sense. Why on earth would I dedicate 12 weeks of my life to RUNNING when the last time I ran consistently was 5 years ago?! I’m not only horrible at it, but I found out pretty quick that I absolutely HATE it (that tends to happen when you go from never running to starting out at 13 miles a week). I was pounding my legs running the indoor track because training started January 18, and most days it was a struggle to even get 3 miles done without walking a little bit out of boredom. Looking back, I have no idea how I was ever able to convince myself to keep going; every single day I ran meant that I couldn’t walk, felt claustrophobic, and usually got really stressed about trying to get my run in and would I be able to do it and blah blah blah. Around week 8 I considered quitting the entire thing. I had just run the hardest 5 miles of my life; my legs were flooded with lactic acid, my brain was telling me I’d never be able to do my long run that week, and I hated every single second of that run. I called my mom bawling and concluded that my friends Haley and Ryan were simply going to have to race without me; my mind and my body couldn’t take it anymore. Thanks to my mother, I decided I would attempt the long run, but if I couldn’t do it I was going to quit.

I ran 9 miles easily that week. I was terrified going into it, but I did it, and I knew that I could finish what I started. As soon as I ran 9 miles, I knew I could run 10, and when I ran 10, I knew that I could do 3.1 miles more. But for a couple more weeks, I still dreaded and hated every day I had to strap on my teal Nike shoes.

That is, until yesterday. Yesterday was my last long run before my half marathon, and it was the single greatest run of my life. It’s as if the 11 weeks it took to get me to that point were teaching me how to run, and yesterday was when it finally all clicked. It was 45 degrees, sunny, and warm, and from the moment I started to the moment I ended, I felt alive and free and beautiful and unstoppable. I enjoyed watching the trees pass by me and loved feeling my feet struggle to find a flat piece of trail. That one run was worth every single struggle and stress and ache that lead up to it, because I knew almost immediately that it would change everything for me.

Now I never want to stop. These past 11 weeks have been some of the worst and best weeks of my life because they changed me, and change is almost always painful. Running eventually taught me how to love my body and appreciate it for every remarkable thing it’s able to do. I have not weighed what I do now since middle school. I’m no longer afraid of a bikini or shorts. I walk and carry myself differently. I don’t care if I have a big red zit on the tip of my nose that makes me look like Rudolph because I can just wake up and run 10 miles dangit. Most of all, though, I can look at myself in the mirror and be in awe at the incredible things the human body is capable of. This was one of the hardest things to stick with that I have ever taken on, but it proved to me more than anything else that if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. I never ever thought that these words would come out of my mouth, but I love to run, and I am so looking forward to running 13.1 miles next weekend.

With love, Sydney Ann


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