One of my goals this year is to become a better runner. I’ve got my work cut out for me, though, since I am probably the worst runner of all time.
If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband how many times I yell, “Alan, wait up!” in the middle of our runs together. He’s usually powering through, full-steam-ahead, playing the Rocky theme song on repeat in his head.
Me, on the other hand? I’m doubled over in the street, winded, legs burning, reminding myself, “Everyone has different strengths, Haileigh, at least you’re okay at weightlifting!”
That was just last week. But my struggle has been going on for a while.
Back in 2013, I had the bright idea to enter the Harrisburg half marathon. At least, I thought it was a half marathon. Only after I was at the event, stretching, proudly toting around my bag of sponsored goodies, did I realize I had signed up for the real deal – 26 miles of pounding pavement through Pennsylvania’s State Capital.
Yikes! That was out of the question.
At the 13 mile mark, Alan and I admitted defeat, dived into the bushes and broke away from the race. I proceeded to call a taxi to take us back to my car. The whole drive home, I felt the deep sting of guilt. All those people shaking cans of pennies and cheering for you, and this is how you repay them?
My struggles continue. In 2016, I finished dead last (not an exaggeration) in a 26-mile trail race through Lockhaven, PA. Sporting a bleeding shin (I fell several times), a sunburn and a headache, I crawled across the finish line, gulped down a cold Tröeg’s beer and hobbled to the car. I don’t think I walked right for a week. I didn’t step foot in the woods for months. I thought to myself, “People do this for fun?”
I realize I’m being a bit theatrical here. I don’t hate running, actually – I think it’s a great way to get in shape and spend time in nature. I love the feeling of a good “runner’s high” when you find your groove and time seems to stand still.
I may not be a naturally-gifted athlete, but I am determined to improve, which certainly counts for something. If this COVID-era has taught me anything, it’s to keep persevering even when your plans get derailed.
With all my newfound free time, I plan to get back into running and see what I can do. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me finishing the Pittsburgh Marathon someday, arms outstretched proudly as I gracefully bolt across the finish line. A girl can dream, right?
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