To put it kindly, running has never been my strong suit. A month ago, the farthest I had ever run was somewhere around three miles. I just never saw the point, or enjoyment, in a long jog. In fact, I once presented a compelling argument for an allergy to the sport to avoid a run with a boyfriend.
So, when I told my friends and family I’d be participating in Lululemon’s SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver last month, reactions were understandably confused. Some were downright rude: “You don’t run. You can’t do that.”
Even so, the prep was exciting: Buying proper running sneakers, researching beginner training plans, talking to colleagues about their first race experiences, and purchasing cartons of coconut water became hobbies. But while the gear was piling up, I had less to show when it came to actual training.
I knew what training was supposed to look like (you know, a mix of shorter runs, strength training, and long runs, building up mileage slowly), but the weeks leading up to the race actually consisted of a mile or two after work, then heading to bed (in my defense, a two-hour commute meant I usually didn’t even start running until 9 p.m.). I was discouraged by a lack of progress—even the best Real Housewives marathons on the treadmill TV couldn’t push me past my limits.
As a beginner (with only seven weeks to train), I started to grasp the fact that maybe I was in over my head. I decided I wouldn’t try to run the entire thing. My goal: to simply finish.
Ultimately, I reached the six-mile mark (a combination of running three minutes and walking two) on my cursed treadmill—an encouraging milestone, but shy even of a 10K. But despite the date of SeaWheeze looming like my annual pap smear, my busy schedule made it easy to not put in the effort. A week before the race, I threw in the towel goal-wise and decided to leave it up to chance.
Upon touching down in Vancouver, I was excited: for the experience and the gorgeous scenery of Stanley Park—and was hopeful I’d be able to make it through all 13.1 miles without embarrassing or hurting myself. (I had to be taken down the mountain on my first-ever skiing experience at Vail.)
Still, when my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. on race day, I almost backed out. (“Can’t I just not and say I did? Who will really know?”) My fellow runners were marathon veterans with complex strategies to break personal bests—they wrote their mile times to the second on their hands and rubbed Vaseline on their feet. I prepared for the worst.
Then, we started—and something changed. The miles started to accumulate. While I banked on walking half the time, I actually didn’t want to stop. The energy of the fans—everyone from drag queens to paddle boarders out in the Pacific—and the drop-dead gorgeous route made it completely incomparable to any solo run. Somehow, some way, I was actually having—dare I say it—fun.
Because of the lack of mile markers and a watch to tell me how far I had gone, I simply kept going. As I felt close to reaching my limit, I asked a runner next to me if she knew what mile we were on. She told me 9.2. Cue: adrenaline. With only four miles left—one more than I had ever ran just weeks ago—I kept going. It was a struggle. (I somehow ended up with blisters on almost every toe.) And, at times, I had to slow my pace. But running across the finish line (I really was running!) was truly exhilarating—especially for someone who still has painful flashbacks from the first time she was forced to run a mile in gym class.
I’ve always heard runners preach the magic of race day, the course, the spectators, and the energy present at these events. I guess I just never really believed in it. But for the first time, I was actually able to test my boundaries. For the first time, it made sense to me.
My ‘just wing it’ strategy isn’t something I’d endorse. But it worked for me. And since coming home, I’ve found myself taking on even more fitness challenges: Bootcamps? Surf workouts? I’m all ears.
Plus, that girl who was once allergic to running? She’s now signed up for a 5K this weekend.