So, the RUNaway Moms running group starts our journey this week.  We are RUNnin' away!  It's a cool time for me - guiding or coaching fellow moms in hopes that they will love this sport as much as I do . . . or at least love that they tried this sport.  This weekend especially, I've been reminded that the nerves for new RUNaway Moms are seeming to boil to the surface before our adventure starts.  And this is totally normal for all of us with a new something on the horizon, right?  Well, I thought to bring some perspective to the group, I'd just spill the beans on my running journey and outline how the gal who lettered in Student Government in high school actually found an athletic bone in her body with the right circumstances.

I've found writing to be pretty easy all of my life, so after I shuffled through the Houston Marathon this past year, I decided to start writing down my journey and the tips that helped me run.  And that idea kind of exploded into a little beginning running guide, entitled The Sophomore Runner.  If you are an "official" trainee in RUNaway Moms, I've got the whole bloomin' guide printed for you to read next week.  But until then (I know you are on pins and needles to dive into it), here's the "forward" - a little bit about me written in hopes that you'll find some humor and some heartfelt accessibility in me as you let me lead you on your own running journey.

One Step “Forward”
~ My 25 Year Warmup ~

I’ve given running a try lots of times - 5 to be exact. 

Morph back in time to Air Supply, Blondie and Loverboy.  It’s  1983 at the end of 5th grade in Illinois when this sports shy girl picked up a running schedule the last week of school to train during the summer in order to try out for cross country that fall.  You had to be able to run 3 miles to join the junior high cross country team, so that was just what I’d do.  On my first run attempt of the summer (no warm up or walking - just bust into running, right?), I shot out at a “running from the devil” pace and developed nausea and a side stitch in just under 2 minutes.  Ummm, yeah.  Maybe running wasn’t my thing.  Training over.  Cross country?  Not gonna happen. 

15 years later, I’m in my 20‘s living in beautiful Savannah, Georgia.  Now running has moved from my 11 year old need to be in a sport to “Hey, why can’t I fit in these college jeans?”  The desire to run is all about efficient caloric burn.  It’s the answer to the question “If I have a margarita with Wendy after work, how many miles do I have to run the next day?”  I actually “trained” myself (and I used that term very loosely) to log quite a few miles.  Through annoying sand gnats and beautiful scenic marshes, believe it or not, I worked up solo to 14 long, boring, grueling miles . . . with horrible breathing and a ridiculously slow pace.  Running was crazy hard.  I even ran a 10K over the Savannah Bridge (called the Bridge Run, imagine that) with some of my husband’s Army friends and almost barfed at the end.  I know it burned calories, but this running stuff was still up for debate.  And then at home on my treadmill one ordinary afternoon, the right side of my right knee starts to stab.  It hurt . . . really hurt.  Run over.

A couple of years later, say 1999 maybe, I give it another go.  Don’t kid yourself - I’m not dying to be a runner.  It’s still an idealistic weight management tool for me and a sport that claims to burn a ton of calories in a shorter amount of time than any other exercise.  And it’s convenient.  Lace up - go run.  We are now living in Sierra Vista, Arizona, a little desert town right outside the Ft. Huachuca (pronouced wachuca with short a’s and a long u) Army post.  I attempt to run a bit again alongside my husband, Ted.  It’s hot.  I’m running on a concrete sidewalk right by the southern Arizona desert.  I do have company, so that helps, but yet again, after 10 minutes of this work they call a sport, I feel crappy and my knee starts stabbing.  (Yes, that same knee that caught my attention a few years earlier.)  What the . . . ?  This sucks.

And again like a broken record . . . . 2007 living in Oneonta, Alabama (an Andy Griffith sweet little town north of Birmingham), I give running another go.  Ready with a training schedule that I printed off online and a will of success.  But that online training schedule didn’t explain how to maneuver a jogging stroller with 2 needy babies/toddlers or how to run the foothills of the Appalachians without keeling over from a side stitch.

Geez Louise!  Why oh why couldn’t I just run.  I mean it’s not that freaking hard.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Run for 10 minutes.  Burn 100 calories.  Just run.

5th Try.  You are thinking I’m crazy, right.  Really?  Again?  We’ve moved to a beautiful community northwest of Houston, Texas, called The Woodlands - in the heat of July, no less.  Here we go though.  Fifth time’s a charm.  The initial “desire” to run is still that same initial pull - I needed to take off those same unwanted pounds - this time from eating fried chicken 2 times a week in Alabama over that wonderful culinary summer.  Another schedule - a 12 week running program designed to go from couch to 5 miles.  But this time, running sticks!  The difference this time as opposed to the other times? . . . . Shhhhh, here’s the secret . . . . I got help - lots and lots and lots of help. 

I’ve managed to build miles, treat injury, and lose a bit of weight (just a little, but more on that later) with advice and counsel from every avenue that taught me how to put one foot in front of the other without killing myself.  And an amazing thing happens when you get this sport right.  Things click.  You reach goals.  You meet friends.  You may even find that idealistic state of a runners high every now and then.  But whatever your successful outcome with this activity, when you get this hobby of a sport right, it’s amazing.  Me?  Well I just plain became joyful. 

Now counting back from that “5 times a charm” successful start, it’s now been over 2 years since I remember hitting that running path solo on a hot day in August.  You see, I had registered for a group training program that was a few weeks away from starting, but before I started the group program, I was ready to burn some calories and in all honesty, I just wanted to see what I could do running wise before embarrassing myself in front of others.  So I took off on a neighborhood trail and found out that I could run for 7 minutes without having to stop to walk.  7 minutes or a little over a half of a mile was my beginning max.  That “beginning” seems like a while ago, but then again, I remember it like it was yesterday. 

This title came to me before my outline or any of the concrete ideas did.  One day it just hit me.  (Yes, on a solo run).  The Sophomore Runner.  I was training for my first marathon and on a long run by myself, I got to thinking about my running journey and where I was on that journey.  I had been running consistently for over a year and a half.  18+ months of running under my belt.  Midway into my 2nd year of regular running, I think that qualified me as a “sophomore” runner.  (And  as the months tick away, I’m still a sophomore runner.)    Don’t misunderstand, I totally understand the meaning of sophomoric.  You know, symbolizing your high school or college sophomore year with a freshman year under your belt and you think that you’ve got it all figured out.  It can be a dangerous knowledge if you get sucked into your narcissistic self, but I think sophomore knowledge can also be fresh and untainted when you are not too close to the forest and can still see the trees.  I am all for reading books and articles written by elite and well seasoned runners (and I have lots to recommend), but I when I started my running days, I really craved a simple “just tell me how to run” book.  So I started thinking . . . and typing.  Really - I know how advice from a relatively rookie runner looks!  But here’s the thing.  You can never say that this info isn’t fresh.  I’ve just lived it and I like to write and I love to share and help folks if I can have any valuable input.  And when it comes to having outlines and goals and crazy ideas pop into your mind, if any sport is going to spur minutes and hours of contemplation and talking to yourself, running is it.  So there you have it.  The Sophomore Runner was born.

So here’s what my personal first 18 months encompassed with regards to running.  It’s not a particularly inspiring story or anything like that.  In fact, my first 18 months could be categorized as so normal with this running thing that, heaven forbid, recapping my journey may even help you.  Call it a “big sis guide” or whatever you want.  I’ve gathered little bits of info thus far, from my own experiences (“Dang, why didn’t I do that? or “Hallelujah, I’m glad that worked!”) to web pages, books and magazines spelling things out for me to friends and coaches knocking advice into me.  I’m positive that I’ll reread this someday and will kick myself for forgetting an important tip or two or three, but who knows; maybe in the months or years to come,  I’ll be typing The Junior Runner?
And on a final intro note, if you are a runner in the Freshman/Sophomore stages, here’s a little background about me as this sophomore runner - 

I still remember sitting in that running group orientation and wondering when I would be able to run for 10 minutes without stopping . . . and once again calculating how many calories that would burn. 

I still remember checking my alarm clock at least 5 times and then not being able to sleep the night before my first race - a 5 mile Thanksgiving race. 

I still remember posting my best time ever (called a PR for personal record) at our running group’s 10 mile run  with my coach announcing my name and the absolute elation I felt that day running up the final hill. 

I still remember that crazy free feeling on mile 11 of a solo training run one morning (running to “Only You” by Yaz for you ‘80s fanatics like me.  Go ahead, laugh if you will.  I love that song) and thinking I could run all day. 

I still remember running and slushing in the May rain in my 1st half marathon through the beautiful trails in Annapolis, Maryland, not even caring about that wet shoe induced blister. 

I still remember running my 2nd half marathon, 6 months later, on a ridiculously hot and humid November day in San Antonio, Texas, and wanting to hang it up at mile 9, but finishing nonetheless and chugging an ice cold beer at the finish line.  (Thank goodness for beer sponsors at races.) 

And I still totally remember most everything about the 26.2 mile trek that I ran, walked, hydrated, “Gu’ed”, stretched, shuffled and even shed a tear through in January 2010 in Houston. 

So if you are up for this short reading journey before your longer running journey, I’m delighted to share with you the both things I’ve learned along the road and paths and the things I wish I would have known.  If you’re a Freshman or Sophomore runner yourself or just plain curious, keep reading.  And you don’t even have to have your running shoes on.