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Last weekend, I ran my first-ever 5k…in cold, windy rain. Now, I’ve always said I wasn’t a runner (in fact, when I was growing up, I HATED running, and I thought I’d always feel that way). But after a weird wrist injury threw a monkey wrench in my yoga practice a few years ago, I started exploring other ways to stay healthy and find my meditative zone at the same time, and surprisingly, I gravitated toward running. I decided I wanted to run a Color Run, and I started training. Well, I guess “training” is a loose term; I started running inside using the “free run” setting on my Wii, rocking out to music and trying not to worry about the neighbors staring in the windows.

Life and pregnancy intervened, and I backed out of my new habit until this spring, when I started running again. I still loved it, but weight and body image issues kept me running in my living room longer than I’d intended; there’s something incredibly vulnerable about any public sports activity, and running through my neighborhood in tight clothes felt particularly painful. But then I signed up to run my first 5k, and I realized that in order to do this thing, I needed to actually run on the street and learn what it felt like. I downloaded a couch to 5k ap, strapped the baby into her stroller, and started to train in earnest.

For the first few runs, I felt completely self-conscious, but I comforted myself with the thought that the stroller obscured most of my body, so I decided people probably couldn’t see the baby weight I’m still working to lose. But then, after a week or two, a funny thing happened: I stopped worrying about what other people were thinking when they saw me run by, and I started focusing on the sense of accomplishment each day when I finished my run. It felt good, better than I’d expected, and I kept at it.

color runThis weekend, with a hurricane swirling off the coast and a week of near-constant rain, I was afraid the run would be canceled, but despite the rain and cold temps, it was still on. I got ready on Saturday morning, slapping on the temporary tattoos that had come with my race shirt as if I were applying war paint, and then I headed to the course. It was wet, and cold, and my shoes and socks were soaked within seconds, but after a few minutes, I didn’t notice any of that. The longer I ran, the more fun I had, and as volunteers coated me in bright colors, I squished my way through the race with a smile.

I’m still riding the high from my first 5k, and I feel like I can do anything. Sure, it was hard and uncomfortable (both physically and psychically), but I DID IT. I didn’t just say I was going to do it and then back out; I made a commitment to myself, and I found a way to make something challenging also feel fun. The further I get into my writing career, the more my newbie runner experiences seem pertinent; writing is fun, but it’s also hard work, and it’s up to me to show up and put the words on the page, just like it’s up to me to lace up my shoes and keep training.

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