I’m Not a Runner

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not a runner

As I rounded the final corner of the track, which had to have been at least 10 miles long based on my lungs and side cramp, I finally saw the finish line. Everyone else finished the race long before I came huffing and puffing into that final stretch. The crowd from our citywide elementary track meet dwindled as they all packed up and headed home. I spotted my family in the stands who were still cheering loudly for me as I crossed the finish line. I clutched my participation ribbon as my dad hugged me and said, “We’re so proud of you for finishing. Even though you were the last one on the track, you pushed through and crossed the finish line and that’s all that matters!”

I was not a runner and I never would be.

Lined up on the sidelines, opposite the other half of our gym class, I prayed my number wouldn’t be called. Please not me, please not me, please not me. Then there it was “NUMBER FOUR.” Shoot that’s me. I took off toward the metaphorical “bacon” which was in fact a bowling pin that mocked me from the center of the gym as my opponent “stole” it long before I ever arrived. There was no way I was going to be able to tag them to get them out. Another failed attempt at running.

I was not a runner and I never would be.

My classmates dressed out and took to the track that circled above the gym floor. Ready to run the mile, they lined up as the P.E. teacher lifted his stopwatch and yelled “READY, SET, GO!”

Physically ill from the anxiety associated with having to run a timed mile in front of my peers, I sat that test out in the nurse’s office. I’d make it up another day when there was no one else around.

I was not a runner and I never would be.

Years of practices, conditioning, and sports, the anxiety surrounding running continued to plague me. I was an athlete, sure, but I was not a runner, and I never would be.

Pulling out my smartphone, I downloaded C25K for the 5th or 15th time. For 5 days I listened to the sweet lady in my headphones repeat “Start Walking, Start Running.” I couldn’t even run for 60 seconds and quit time and time again.

I was not a runner, and I never would be.

Race after race, I continued to click “register”. A sucker for swag and a glutton for punishment, I continued signing up for 5Ks. Looking at my splits afterward to see 15 minutes, 16 minutes, 18 minutes. I walked a majority of those races, but I always made sure to run across the finish line.

I was not a runner and I never would be.

But now I had fun medals in lieu of flimsy participation ribbons and too many t-shirts to count. I still wasn’t a runner, but at least it was getting fun to try.

Three kids and a lifetime later, I was still on this subconscious quest to become a runner. Maybe I just needed to silence the voice inside my head that had always told me “you can’t do this” and just do it.

I got fitted for proper running shoes, cued up my 2000s pop/punk playlist, and took to the streets to find that place within myself where my inner runner lived.

I was miserable, but I was consistent. I pushed myself just beyond my breaking point little by little and eventually that little girl who could barely finish one lap around the track was able to do two. And the girl who avoided running the mile didn’t care about her time but she was finally able to run a mile without stopping. And then 2 and then a full 5k.  

As for the little girl in gym class, she’d finally come to terms with the fact she would never be fast and that was ok. Brought up on fables like “The Tortoise and the Hare” I was finally content with being the tortoise. 

“You CAN do this,” I thought to myself as I submitted my registration for my first half-marathon. It may not be fast and it may not be pretty, but you CAN do this. In the back of my mind, I heard my dad saying “you pushed through and crossed the finish line and that’s all that matters!” I went into that race with that message and goal in mind. Just finish.

And I did.

Looking at my name near the bottom of the leaderboard I was so proud to see my name amongst the runners. My kids and husband hugged me as they told me how proud they were of me. And I sobbed uncontrollably as my son looked at me and said, “today I learned that you are super strong and can run a long way!” 

I hydrated, iced my knees, and was overcome with emotion, pride, and gratitude for all the amazing things my body has proven it can handle. I thought to myself “I was not a runner, but it was always inside me.”

Whether it be running or another hobby, passion, or goal… GO FOR IT!

Don’t spend another second thinking “I am not a(n) ______, and I never will be!” Because speaking from experience, you may not be a “runner”, but you definitely could be!

What is something you are proud of doing?

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Kinzy is a self-proclaimed “cool mom” to 3 spirited kids: Kellan (2012), Harper (2014), and Charlotte (2019). Her husband James is a Des Moines Firefighter whose only real downfall is his wholehearted participation in “Movember.” When she’s not working diligently to answer the ten thousand questions her kids ask in a day, she can be found slamming coffee, adding things to her shopping carts online knowing full well she’ll never actually checkout, and laughing at her own jokes. She spends most of her days reminiscing about when naps were still a thing, avoiding household chores, and striving to perfect the work/life balance.

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