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Always A Runner

Always A Runner


I started running when I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade. My first run ever I got lost in a cornfield, chased by a dog and cried the entire way back to where practice started. For some reason, I thought, “YES!!! Let’s do this for another 10 years!!!!” I ended up running through high school and college. My training at Bowling Green State University was some of the hardest training I have ever done and I loved and hated it at the same time and I met some of the best people I’ll ever know through running. Then I graduated and went back to grad school because I wasn’t ready for the real world yet. Then I graduated again and finally decided I was ready to be an adult. Cue the identity crisis.

“My first run ever I got lost in a cornfield, chased by a dog
and cried the entire way back to where practice started.”

I struggled at being on my own for the first time. I was so used to having a coach always telling me what to do, how far to run, paces, everything. What do you mean I can just stop running and walk if I want to??? No one is going to get mad if skip running today??? I took FULL advantage of my new found freedom, no one could tell me what to do. I ran when I wanted and where I wanted and enjoyed running without a cause for about a year.

After that, I decided I was going to train for my first marathon. I was always injury prone, I had a total of 7 stress fractures throughout high school and college. But, I finally got in the groove of things and had a training program all set and things were going great, I was running the same paces I was in college with ease and I was staying very far away from cornfields.

“After that, I decided I was going to train for my first marathon.”

Then, a year and a half ago, someone lovingly decided to rear-end me on the highway at 65 MPH. I had whiplash, lower back pain and muscle tightness in places that I didn’t even know could be tight. I took a long time off after my car accident and completely stopped running. If I thought running was hard before, I was sorely mistaken and also, just really sore.

“If I thought running was hard before, I was sorely mistaken
and also, just really sore.”


When I first started running after my accident, I could barely make it a half mile without being doubled over in pain because everything hurt. I have always been the person that could tough out any run, this was something that I have never experienced. It sucked. The one thing I was always good at and I largely centered most of my life around was running and now I sucked at it. It was a hard pill to swallow. I no longer felt like I could call myself a runner. Cue the second identity crisis.

“I no longer felt like I could call myself a runner.”

Today, I look in the mirror and I do not see that same runner. I am 50 pounds heavier and have a bad back. Looking at me today you wouldn’t know that I was a division I collegiate athlete that could run a 5K in 17:01, but I was. I laugh now because even though I’m slower my runs are harder than they ever have been before. There have been many runs much like my first run all those years ago, where I’d be crying on my way back home because I just couldn’t do it. I would’ve much rather been lost in a cornfield than experiencing what I was. I tried and failed many times and a lot of times ended up walking most of my runs.

“I tried and failed many times and a lot of times ended up walking most of my runs.”

It was hard not to compare myself to where I was. I was fast and I felt good when I ran and now I felt slow and sad. It wasn’t until recently that I made it off the struggle bus. I made it my first mile without stopping and I think I cried tears of joy for making it that far. A lot of what I was dealing with was taking more of a mental toll on me and I didn’t realize it until that point. When they say comparisons is thief of joy, they mean it and I felt it.

Two years ago, one mile would be nothing but now it was a milestone. I’ve since been able to make it several miles without pain, albeit slow but nowhere near where I was just a few months before. I am finally getting comfortable with myself and getting used to this new phase in my running career and celebrating the small wins.

“When they say comparisons is thief of joy, they mean it and I felt it.”

I joined the marathon team this past May, right around when we decided to go virtual. When the team decided to also run the AFM virtually, my anxiety went through the roof. My thought process went like this:

“I don’t even want to know what my 5k time is now.
Maybe I’ll just pretend I ran it, they’ll never know.
No I can’t do that.
Yes I can.
NO.
I can do it, I’ll do it.
It’ll be fine. HELP.”

All of this happened in the 30 seconds immediately after it was suggested we run virtually. I finally calmed myself down and have gone on many runs since and have been able to curb my initial anxiety with the thought of racing. Racing feels like a foreign concept to me right now because it’s been few years since I’ve toed the line and mentally I’ve just been taking it easy and enjoying my runs. I haven’t trained for anything in a while and it’s been nice running for something other than myself again.

“I have always been a runner and always will be no matter where this running path takes me.”

This isn’t a comeback story or a redemption story, I am nowhere near where I was before and that’s okay. I realize now that I was wrong in ever thinking I wasn’t a runner just because I was slow or out of shape to my standards. I have always been a runner and always will be no matter where this running path takes me. Running is hard, it always has been and always will be no matter what I look like. It’s just hard in different ways now and that’s the beauty of running.

Written by: Jasmine Redman, Events Manager

 


Related Pages:

2020 Virtual Air Force Marathon
2020 Virtual AFM Registration
Tell Us Your Story
Meet the Team

 

1 Comment

  • George "Geo" Fillgrove

    It isn’t about the time across the finish line even though that becomes a personal milestone, it’s about finishing and setting your sights on the next goal. It’s about the journey that has taken you to this place, and where will be your next milestone.

    We are forged with purpose, perseverance and determination to achieve a better state of mind and body.

    Forging can be painful, frustrating and time consuming. In the end, it our individual destiny.

    I had never been much into running, only doing what was necessary to pass the annual Air Force PT test. As injuries and age took their toll, I was eventually relegated to the ranks of those who walked the test.

    Then came retirement. Decades would pass, life’s obligations and original military-related injuries would intensify. Then one day, I saw the effects of an unhealthy life stile on a family member, and I decided it was time to get back with the program.

    My first Air Force Marathon was in 2018. It took five months of daily training to get here. I remember — still feel — very humbled when the 10K launched that year with the half marathon and I stood in awe, watching athletes — some of them wounded warriors — most in adaptive wheel chairs and one who actually walked with me for about a mile. I had no real excuse now. I was in the company of overcomers — giants — and it was time to learn from their example.

    I was transitioning to my last mile when I heard the announcer refer to all of us as athletes and I was stunned. It was a title I had never heard in reference to “me,” and I knew my journey would not end at the finish line. I had to keep going.

    You, too, are still very much an athlete, despite the injuries and effects of your life’s journey. Thank you for setting an example for me.

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