Home Exercise 101 Run-tober: How I Became A Runner

Run-tober: How I Became A Runner

by Erika Nicole Kendall

When I first really, really started running, it was just to avoid all the other children in my neighborhood. They’d see my daughter, Kyli, and I on our evening walks every night dancing and singing together and they’d want to tag along. It was a gated community in Miami and, as it were, not a single one of the children spoke adequate English. Fair enough, but when you’re strolling around a lake with 5 kids from ages 2-8, ⁄cuidado! isn’t always enough to let them know why they can’t take off running towards the pond.

Besides, I’m nobody’s free babysitter. Shoot. If you’re trying to stick me with your kids, you’re at least going to pay me.

Whenever we’d see those kids coming, I’d toss Kyli up on my back and take off running. Soon enough, I’d put her down and we’d walk and giggle some more. Give it enough time, I’d pick her back up and we’d be back at it again. It was an unintended form of interval training, I suppose… but that was how it started out.

The view from my jogging path!

As the weight slowly continued to fall off, I realized it was time to invest seriously into running. I put my pennies into both a good pair of running shoes, and a jogging stroller for Kyli. I eventually upgraded, with the help of a neat little infographic that, if I find it, I’ll definitely post it, to the popular program Couch to 5k. I even bought our little family a Husky, Sushi, knowing full well that owning a sled dog would mean I had to do some major running or otherwise she’d tear all the toilet paper in my house to shreds. I picked a path with a gorgeous view, put the leash on the puppy and the baby in the stroller, and off we went.

A few months (and a fiance and a second dog) later, not only was I committing to running regularly… but so were we all. Every morning, at the same time, we all were hitting the path and taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the sea. In fact, I’d take the puppies and Ed would take Kyli and push her in the stroller, and that became their bonding time. That was how they began to connect.

Passed out after a run! Lazy bums!

I was eventually getting down to running a full mile in under 9 minutes, and things were going smoothly. Since you can’t effectively run that fast 7 days a week, I started switching it up a bit. Some days, running, sure… but others? Rollerblading. I was zooming! 8 wheels, two sled dogs? It’s the fastest I’ve ever gone in my life… and I wasn’t even that great at rollerblading! All I needed, truly, was a way to keep active that allowed my knees and my hips to take a break, and rollerblading reduced the impact of my body hitting the Earth. And rollerblading was definitely a win, until…

One afternoon, while rollerblading down the boardwalk with the dogs, some geniuses were throwing firecrackers down from their hotel balconies, and a batch of them landed on Sala and Sushi. Without a doubt, they both panicked and took off running, so quickly that I toppled over and landed in a handstand. Both leashes came free from my hand, and I lost both of my dogs. I was so busy being thankful that I was strong enough to support myself in a handstand – lest I might’ve fallen flat on my face or lost a few teeth – that I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that I still had two legs in the air, and my right rollerblade kicked my left shin, causing me so much pain that I couldn’t walk, let alone skate home.

Once I landed on the ground, I saw that my puppies, still looking back to see if I was okay yet still terrified of what fell on them, had made their way about a tenth of a mile down the boardwalk. A kind stranger who saw what happened caught them and brought them over to me, while I called 911 and waited for my fiance to come carry me home. I reported the pranksters and had my dogs back, but the real problem still remained: the fireworks incident effectively ruined my running career for a while.

Since running was my form of inexpensive weight control, I felt like I was screwed for a while. Ed wouldn’t let me walk around the house, let alone go for a jog. I couldn’t stand to cook, couldn’t stand to brush my teeth, couldn’t stand in the shower – though he had no qualms about running my bath water… felt like something 90s R&B singers used to talk about a lot – and couldn’t really walk around the house to fuss at Kyli. I couldn’t effectively practice yoga… everything felt like my shin was going to explode. It was hard maintaining my weight, but I managed to stay within the same five pound range of my pre-injury weight…

…that is, until we packed up and moved to New York. Everyone wanted us to “come out,” and I still couldn’t run yet. All that “coming out” and no exercise meant that I was enjoying myself, sure… but I knew too much to let it get the best of me. Right?

It wasn’t, believe it or not, healing from the injury that made it difficult to get back into running. It was my inability to commit to it again that made it tough. Too much had happened inbetween the last time I’d run and the first time I tried to run again, and too many new habits – in my new city, mind you – had forced their way into my life. My appreciation of running, if it were to be rekindled, would have to be rebuilt from scratch… complete with 17-minute miles, and a few exams.

I could tell, too, that my dogs were itching to get back into their full stride. Sushi would arch her back and reach both paws forward, as if she were prepared to drag me all across Brooklyn, only to find herself limited by the fact that I wasn’t moving anywhere near as fast as she might’ve liked. Sala, generally annoyed by the sounds of the city but still happy to be outside, would keep looking back at me, as if to imply “Okay, so when are we gonna really start moving? Like, this is a joke, right?”

Things were different, by now. Kyli has long since started school, Ed’s new job has him at work more than at home, and it’s just me. Me, my kicks, an empty stroller and two dogs wondering when the real running would begin. What am I going to train for? The view isn’t particularly inspiring, the weather’s too sometimey, the street harassment is beyond frustrating… what is there to run for?

As I was struggling to answer this question – and my weight was doing it’s best to try to creep up a pound here, a pound there – I received a call from the US Army.

Yes, y’all… I’m a soldier now!

Just kidding.

The Army 10-Miler was coming, and they were offering me the opportunity to run it. Come on down to Washington, D.C. and give the race a shot.

That’s the kind of stuff you call… Divine Runtervention. Yes, and I made it up all by myself.

My dog tag that the Army sent me… I haven’t taken it off since I got it!

I have always had a special place in my heart for our soldiers and, even though my father was a (are you ever really a “former”?) Marine, I think he’d approve of my supporting this. The Army is providing me with tons of resources not only for myself, but to write about and share, here, with you guys.

While I’ve been studying for my personal training certificate, I’ve had the pleasure of getting race advice (as well as general training advice as both a trainer and a trainee) from world class athletes to winners of the race to nutritionists to some of the most top tier running coaches in the city (many thanks to Equinox Tribeca!), and I’ll be blogging it all this month during what I’m[sooo not uniquely] dubbing Run-tober! (You know, like October, but much more awesome. And yes, I do fancy myself as being a bit clever… when I bust a rhyme.) Everything I’ve used to help me prepare for my very first race, I’ll be blogging here. All the #Run-tober posts will have the #Runtober tag, so they’ll always be available here for view and review. Follow along through to October 21st, when I run the Army 10-Miler and recap both the race, how I did and what I’d do differently!

Happy trails, y’all! I’ve got 6 miles to do… y’all have fun in the comments: What running questions do you have? What would you like #Runtober to help you with?

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16 comments

Courtney October 1, 2012 - 9:30 AM

I haven’t run consistently in well over a year. A few miles here, a few there, but nowhere near the pace/distance I was running back in 2010 and it shows in the “sneaky” 25lbs that I’ve put on since then (my bad eating habits & poor portion control weren’t pluses either). So, reading your Run-tober post has given me the kick in the pants I needed to suck it up and start back at square one like I did in 2009 and just get it done slowly but surely. In St. Louis there is a run series every winter, the Frostbite Series, and I had a blast running it back in 2010 and committed earlier in the summer to running it with one of my best of friends while she visits for the holidays. Additionally, I’m a sucker for race swag; I want my tech-T. Thank you for the runtervention!

elledub October 1, 2012 - 10:05 AM

great post! I started couch to 5k last month–i’m on week four!–and I’m so excited about becoming a runner myself. so great to hear your story as always.

jasmine October 1, 2012 - 10:07 AM

thats great! i’m doing my first 5k on 10/20. hopefully this will be the first of many on my way to a triathlon in august.

Olivia October 1, 2012 - 10:19 AM

This is right on time for me as I am starting to feel more comfortable running and I really really want to complete my first 5k at the end of this month. I do have a few questions for you:
1. Can you train for a 5k by running on a treadmill? I have issues running in the early morning outside alone so I like doing it on my treadmill but I am scared that that won’t cut it and I will be woefully unprepared for the real thing.
2. What is an ideal (or average) beginner’s 5k time? I ask because I need a goal to work towards and having a set number that is average for other people will be good for me.
3. When you run either alone or for marathons do you listen to music? I have heard some marathons don’t let people use their ipods and stuff and music is a must for me!
Ok-that’s it for now! I can’t wait to read the rest of your articles for this month!

JustMe October 1, 2012 - 10:48 AM

Yeah! I’m doing a half marathon on October 21st so your timing is perfect! I’m definitely interested in learning more about nutrition especially what to eat before running.

Michelle October 1, 2012 - 11:49 AM

I absolutely love this post. I don’t consider myself a runner, but more of a turtle, because my time is super slow as compared to others in my group (I average a 12:30 mile). However, I committed to doing a 5k or race every month in 2012. So far I’ve done 9 races and I have approximately 5 more to do. Since most races are outdoors, I train outside. I feel like the “dreadmill” does not adaquately prepare me for running outside. I run 3 days a week with a long run on Saturday mornings. I really enjoy it!

Paulette October 1, 2012 - 11:55 PM

I call it the “dreadmill” as well. I feel that I don’t get as good of a workout because I don’t feel I can go as fast because I am afraid of falling off. However, something is better than nothing.

Carolyn October 1, 2012 - 1:25 PM

Since I adopted my new lifestyle I’ve included jogging (I wouldn’t dare call it running) into my routine. I completed C25K about 2 months ago. I’m still at the 16min/mile mark. I jogged in a 5K last month but it was so hot outside I had to walk more than a mile. I’m hoping as I loose more weight (268lbs) my time will get better. What can I do to help increase my time? I’ve been doing more leg and core exercises to build strength. Any advice would be helpful.
Thanks!

Paulette October 1, 2012 - 2:12 PM

I am a graduate of the C25k program and ran/walked my first half marathon last year. I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish that without the program.

I have continued running this year by joining a challenge with Black Girls Run to run 1212 miles this year. I am not going to hit that mileage, but am already past the distance that I did last year. Still success for me!

Last week I ran 10 miles for the first time without stopping and I almost cried. Next Sunday I will be doing the Rock n Roll half marathon and plan to run the entire distance. It might be slow, but it will be done. Go turtle power!

ashe_phoenix October 1, 2012 - 5:18 PM

I’ve just started my running journey, and I’m struggling with my form. How do I position myself to run the proper way without injuring my legs? I noticed when I started Couch to 5K last week that when I transitioned from running to walking outdoors, I felt pain from around my arch to my calf. But I don’t think I had the same stride problems on the treadmill because I didn’t feel the pain when I did the second day. Help?

Angel Blanca October 1, 2012 - 7:32 PM

I guess if you can run with a jogging stroller, I can figure out a way to run with my walker, huh? Okay, let’s see what happens 😉

PS, when you come for the Army 10-miler, I’d love the opportunity to say hello to you in person!

Tammie October 1, 2012 - 9:34 PM

I recently join my local BGR (Black Girls Run) group in late August and now I’ve already completed 5K! I would like to get some tips on pre and post meals for runners/joggers….Thanks!

Diana October 1, 2012 - 10:25 PM

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I started c25k in August then injured my back and and quit for a few weeks to heal. Tomorrow will be my 1st trip back to the gym and this weekend back onto the treadmill. Thanks for the motivation. This will be my Run-tober too!

DrNay October 2, 2012 - 10:59 AM

Erika, you go girl! Unfortunately, I had a hysterectomy on 9/20 and can only run in my thoughts until the end of Runtober. I ran my last 5K 3 days before the surgery in 42:00 which is also my age. I’m proud of you for getting back to it. I’m registering for a race in December to give me the motivation to get back to it when I’m cleared to run again. Until then, I will follow your progress. Happy Runtober!

Shani Nicole October 2, 2012 - 3:11 PM

““Okay, so when are we gonna really start moving? Like, this is a joke, right?””

That was too funny!!

I want to get into running as well, my issue is trying to find the time. When I get up it is dark out and I workout 4 nights a week on weekdays and in the mornings on weekends. So my only real time is in the a.m around 4am.

chamika October 26, 2012 - 1:12 PM

i was well on my way to becoming a runner when i was sidelined by a car accident. i was doing the c25k program. i keep trying to return to the program, but my body isnt really responding.

originally, it took me a while to realize that 3 days a week of running was too much, so i went to 2 and had great progress. now it seems that t2 is too much. it is frustrating, but i am still committed to becoming a runner. my ultimate goal is to run a half marathon. hopefully with consistency and time, it will happen

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