About a year ago, I put on some sneakers one day and decided to go for a run, something I hadn't made a conscious effort to do since 1996. I ran 0.7 miles through the woods in 10 minutes and thought I might die. I did it again the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. I put it out on Facebook and Twitter that I would do 20 days in a row and encouraged everyone to yell at me if I failed.
I realize now that maybe wasn't the greatest idea.
As you might guess, I got hurt. I re-aggravated the knee injuries that got me to stop running in 1996.
I used to run a lot when I was younger, dozens and dozens of cross-country races. I have vague memories of times and places and courses. I remember running through a lot of fall foliage, across trails of pine needles, through fields, and once in a downpour in Rhode Island for Regionals. I was faster than I am now, naturally, but I don't think I ever won a race. I ran because my friends ran and then I ran to get in shape for basketball season. I want to say I would run 6 minute something miles when I was 8 or 9, but I can't say for sure. In my Senior Year, my body caught up to my growth spurt and I had a pretty good stretch that had my coach wondering if I could sneak into the top 5 at States.
And then I got hurt.
I ran the last 2 miles of my last race in excruciating pain. Hobbled is probably a better verb. I finished dead last. I haven't run a race since.
So why start again? Simply, because I'm not getting younger and it started to be clear my metabolism wasn't getting it done anymore. I was feeling fat and sluggish and I hated it.
So for those first 7 days, I took the dog out in the woods with me, and we ran. She ran ahead, then lagged behind. She loves the woods. It felt less like running and more like playing with the dog. After the first day, she'd start taking shortcuts and getting ahead of my on the trail, as if she were encouraging me to keep going. She was my coach and she got me over that initial hump where I felt like an idiot.
I transitioned to the roads, where I didn't dare take Echo. Slowly I added miles. I ran through the bike trails in Pittsburgh, along desert roads in Vegas, through parks in Boston, through the snow in Maine. I got my 5K time down to 25:09. The knee injuries flare up regularly. I now have a nice collection of knee braces.
I still haven't run a race. More by scheduling conflicts than design.
And because I respond better with a goal, I talked myself into running a half-marathon in May. I'm nothing if not crazy. I figured I'd put my crowdfunding knowledge to use and raise some money for the Animal Rescue League. I don't think I'd be running without Echo, and while she isn't a rescue dog, she can sympathize. Sometimes, she goes a whole week without a bacon treat. More importantly, there's hundreds of animals who would love nothing more than to help a person over a rough patch like Echo did for me, and organizations like ARL make that possible.
It's a pretty passive campaign with a small goal, but it'll do some good for some animals in need and the lives they can go on to brighten after they've been adopted. Either check out the campaign or, better yet, find an organization near you that does similar things. They could use all the help they can get.
And if you're wondering, I'm hoping to run the half in under 2 hours. But mostly I'm hoping to survive.