November 23, 2012

I'm thankful for you

When my alarm went off yesterday for the Springdale Turkey Trot, my first post-injury 5K, I didn't want to go. Recovering from a stomach bug, busy with family and work, and pretty much dreading what seemed like the worst race course in the world -- out and backs on hills in the middle of cow pastures -- I was ready to hit snooze and forget the whole thing.

But then I thought of Jodi, a far-away cousin who says this little blog inspired her to start Couch to 5k. Like me, she was a self-proclaimed couch potato and running hater, and she's running her first race next weekend. And I thought of Chuck, a local Internet stranger turned friend who has sent me some of the nicest emails I've ever received in my life, telling me how my story gave him the confidence to run a half marathon. And I thought of Craig, my oldest friend, who called me a few weeks ago and said, "I just ran a trail race and it's all your fault. You make running sound all romantic, but this is hard!" And after blame was appropriately assigned, he started talking about his next race and dropping words like "half marathon."

I've said it before, runners are a special kind of people. We wave at each other on the road or give an understanding nod because we know each other's pain -- just like we know each other's joy when we do what we thought was impossible. We compete with each other, but never stop encouraging each other. I can't believe anyone would be inspired by my meager accomplishments and the kind words I've received from fellow runners, especially this year as I've struggled with injury, have inspired me more than you all could know.

So I got up and trotted myself a 5K, dragging along my favorite running buddy, and we crushed it. Trea and I finished in 31:42, only about 1:20 slower than my 5k PR. This is slow to a lot of folks, but I was just glad to finish. It was our longest run all year!

I had dreaded what I thought was an awful course, but the out and backs turned out to be really helpful in pushing through the pain. Even though we were on farm roads with nothing to see but cows, I was continually greeted by runners ahead of me or behind me, making their way to the turnaround. Even though I didn't know anyone, I was inspired to keep going. And at the second turnaround, I saw a tall stranger running toward me yelling, "Go Anna!" accompanied by a big smile and a high five. (My sincerest apologies to the girl who got smacked in the middle of that high five.) It was blog reader Chuck! We had only corresponded via email through the blog, and I knew he would be at the race, but I didn't expect to spot him in the crowd. He finished ahead of me and was at the finish line to cheer us on as we huffed and puffed to the end.

After we were finally formally introduced, he thanked me for writing about my story, and I felt so silly because I should thank HIM. Without accountability and encouraging words from folks like him, I might have given up a long time ago. So thank you, Chuck, Jodi, Craig and all my runner friends who haven't given up on me this year.

I'm humbled to know I've helped spread the running bug, but I can relate. I never thought I could run farther than a 5k until I read That Pink Girl, the Redhead and Chic Runner. Runnerds are an odd bunch, and I'm so thankful to be counted as one of them.

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