Friday, November 1, 2013

Why I run

Today is my sister Kathie's birthday.

To celebrate her birthday three years ago, she participated in her first-ever 15K race on November 6 - the Hot Chocolate run. And while it wasn't my first-ever race (I'd done an untimed 5K and a 10K mud/obstacle run/ride), it was the first time I was really trying to do well. I was running the Hot Chocolate 5K, and it was the first time I crossed the start line wanting to be a runner.

I will never forget that race. I wasn't wearing the "right" clothes; at this point, I didn't understand wicking fabric or the importance of not wearing cotton. I wore yoga pants and a hoodie, and (bless 'em) my friends Justin and Diane bought me a pair of scientific gloves (they warm up as you sweat) and a hat.

I ran that 5K in the crisp Chicago air in 49 minutes and 56 seconds, mastering a 16:05-minute-mile. It wasn't dead last, and I wasn't dead. I felt like I'd won.

This was in the early days of my runnerhood, and in a lot of ways this is where it all began. But my favorite part of that day was finishing the race and waiting near the finish line to watch my sister cross the line for the 15K.

I had never been to anything like this before, a race so huge, a race so long. I was awestruck by the athletes heading for the finish after running more than nine miles. It seemed otherworldly to me. And when I saw Kathie coming, I was overwhelmed. I remember hot tears in my eyes as I shouted her name.

My sister, the athlete. The runner. In that moment, she became my hero.

I remember calling our dad and barely being able to get the words out. Pride welling up inside me, I couldn't wait to tell him that his daughter not only finished, but she finished smiling.

We'd never been an athletic bunch, my sisters and I, but that all changed the moment my sister finished this race. Because of her accomplishment, I began to see myself differently. I wasn't in very good shape, and I'd never run further than 3.1 miles, but I started to believe I could do it.

And that night, over dinner, I told my sister of my plans to run a half marathon, some 15 months later. I'm pretty sure she thought I was nuts, but in the year+ that followed, she gave me every tip, hint and bit of advice known to man. She encouraged me, believed in me, and propelled me forward. She ran her own half marathon and prepared me for mine.

She gave me my wings.

There are a lot of reasons why I run, but if it hadn't been for Kathie, I don't know if I would have had the confidence in myself to really do it. And yes, 15 months after I made my declaration - that I would run a half marathon - we went to Disney World and completed the Princess Half Marathon.

Happy birthday, Kath. Let's do it all over again!
Five princesses - me, my sister Jenn, the Princess Aurora, my sister Kathie,
and the sister we claim as our own, Carrie.

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