Had it not been for a conversation with a coworker today about running, I would have completely forgotten this month is special for yet another reason. March marks my ten-year runiversary! To say a lot has happened in ten years is an understatement.
While some people have been running for most of their lives, I didn’t take up the sport until 2009. I was the girl who always said she wouldn’t run unless she was chased, but a few people at work were getting into it. I thought if they could do it, so could I! Plus, I needed something, anything to help with the daily pressure of raising four kids ages 4 and under and a marriage that was less than stellar. My first race was the St. Malachi 2 miler. I don’t remember a ton of details from that day, but there are a few that stick out. I was ridiculously overdressed, wearing layer upon layer of cotton clothing. I had shoes I previously wore when I worked in a testing lab, and I am not entirely sure of what inhabited the material. Music? GPS watch? Didn’t own either. Oh, and cotton socks were the norm. Not going to lie; the race was hard for me. I hadn’t covered that distance yet, and I remember feeling so accomplished as I waited and watched in awe as my friends finished the 5 mile race. Five miles?! It might as well have been 100. That distance seemed so unattainable. Twenty-seven year old Stephanie had no freaking clue what she was getting into.
My next race was a 5K at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. I trained harder, and this race felt surprisingly easy, despite the huge hill up to the aquatics building. Unfortunately, a race route error made the course long, and without a watch (oh, forgot to mention I also didn’t own a smartphone with a running app), I had no clue about my distance or time. After this race, I was a little discouraged but hooked. I signed up for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 10K, what I considered my first real “distance race!” On race day, I couldn’t believe the sea of people there to pound the pavement in the CLE all with one simple goal – cross the finish.
My early years of running were fueled by the desire to get farther. I loved the challenge of hitting mileage I hadn’t previously and distinctly remember the tears that flowed in CLE when I ran my first half marathon. My first marathon? It was equal parts wonderful and awful. The wonderful part – I got to run it in Hawaii for the Honolulu Marathon! How many people can say that, especially ones who live in Ohio?! The awful part – I had to stop at nearly every port-o-potty and by the end of the race, I couldn’t even tell you what was coming out of my body.
Not to be deterred, I signed up to run the CLE Marathon in 2012 as a sort of redemption race when I won a free entry from my friend Jess, who has been an ambassador with me since I was selected in 2013. That race was much like my first marathon, but at least my body decided to wait until after the halfway mark to rebel. It took my third marathon in Columbus to finally run a race I was proud of without any issues. Near the finish, I saw my girls who were there with my mom and brother, grabbed them, and the three of us crossed the finish hand-in-hand. It’s still one of my proudest running moments.
Within the last few years, I decided I wasn’t content just increasing mileage and thought I might as well work on speed. The increased training and newfound motivation brought personal gains that were evident by placing in events. I remember winning my first medal for placing 2nd in my age group in the Downtown Willoughby 5K! My only regret was I didn’t push myself sooner because quite frankly, winning stuff is pretty badass!
There have been many high moments in my running “career.” I ran my first sub-four hour marathon in 2016, which was known as the “Most Cleveland Race Ever!” Rain, hail, snow, wind, thunder, water spouts on the lake. The weather was absolutely awful, but that finish was so sweet. I completed two ultramarathons – the Green Jewel 50K in 2017 and the Bluff Your Way Endurance Run in 2018 where I hit 51 miles. I ran a sub-8:00 half marathon and placed first in my age group. It seemed as though the older I got, the better I ran.
As with anything, the high moments were contrasted by the lows. Early on, I was plagued by knee issues and other injuries and remember having to wear double braces to complete races. Thankfully, I became stronger, found shoes that worked better for me, and trained smarter. I had race heartbreak when I trained my butt off only to have it fall apart during the race. Don’t get me started on the shitshow that was the 2017 CLE Marathon. Then there was the broken back in November 2017 that set me back months. However, the comeback is always greater than the setback and shows true character.
So…here we are. Ten years older. Ten years wiser. Ten years happier. Although life has been ever-changing throughout this period, running has remained constant as my therapy, my outlet, my me time, my salvation. I don’t think I would be where I am today without it, and it’s paid dividends. Cheers to ten years, and I look forward to the next ten.