13 years of running

I have never run the New York City marathon (which happened this past weekend). I don't really think of it or Boston as being on my bucket list, which I know a lot of runners do. I have run a marathon (Big Sur, 2010), and I imagine I will again at some point in my life, but I have been feeling mixed on races of late. They are a lot of hassle. NYC would especially be so, what with hauling oneself to Staten Island early in the morning, waiting for hours, etc. Races happen on certain days — of course! — which means that you have to deal with conditions as they come. During my most recent half marathon, it was 84 degrees at 8 a.m. The next day was 64 degrees at 8 a.m. If I'd just been looking at the week from a rational perspective, figuring out which day to run 13.1 miles, I would have gone with the latter. But since the race happened on a certain day, I ran in the heat, and it was pretty miserable.

One reason people sign up for races is that they provide motivation for training. But I am pretty sure I am already motivated to run. I'm even motivated to run long on my own. I ran 7.5 miles on Sunday shortly after taking my kids on a 2.5 mile hike. I am not saying I won't do races again -- I will! -- but I suspect what will drive it is a friend signing up, and me electing to join the fun.

Anyway, all that said, seeing the coverage of the NYC marathon this last weekend reminded me of something other than my thoughts on races: I have now officially been a runner for 13 years.

I watched Paula Radcliffe's hard-fought NYC marathon victory in 2004, and I was inspired. I had recently gotten married, and running was something my husband and I could do together. We began running along the East River near our apartment. With the new-hubby motivation, I stuck with it (I had tried a few times in the past, but not gotten into it). We ran a half-marathon together in Virginia Beach on our first anniversary in 2005.

Since then, I have covered many many miles, though not so many with my husband — a side effect of having kids. We cover for each other on weekends when we run. I ran through four pregnancies, with my longest time off being about 7 weeks (5 weeks before my daughter was born, then 2 weeks after). I have run in some fabulous places: barefoot on beaches, on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, through the streets of Paris, through all those Spanish moss-covered squares in Savannah. There have also been many many pedestrian runs through my neighborhood. I like doing runs with friends, but I also use the time for being alone with my thoughts. I work out ideas. Indeed, my idea for Off the Clock came to me as I ran through Bar Harbor on one morning in Maine.

When I had to run the mile in gym class in 8th grade, I can't say that I ever pictured it would be a big part of my life. I probably hoped it would not become part of my life. But it has become so. Indeed, it has become a daily part of my life, at least for the past 317 days. We will see what the next 13 years of running will bring!

As an adult, do you participate in any kinds of physical activity you didn't really like as a kid?

Photo: Shoes. Kind of time to replace them.

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15 Responses to 13 years of running


  1. Diana says:

    That’s an impressive amount of time! I’ve had all kinds of foot and ankle problems so I’ve only been running consistently again for 2 years, after many years off for surgeries and problems but I do really enjoy it, kinda. Haha. I almost always run solo, or pushing my son in the stroller, and it’s good thinking time, between answering his questions about animals and Moana. I have no aspirations for a marathon though! I just did my first half this fall and the training was A LOT. I’ll probably do another of those but 13.1 is my max!

    • @Diana – For a while when we had one kid, I’d do runs with the jogging stroller. But now… nope. Although I’ve done a bit of running with my 10-year-old, which is awesome.

      And I totally think 13.1 miles is plenty. I don’t feel like I gained much with the additional 13.1 for a full, and training for a half can fit into normal life. A full, a lot less so.

  2. Lily says:

    I’m really stuck with my running lately. Signing up for a race used to work wonders for my motivation and training consistency but after taking a full year off (due to living in a running unfriendly location) I just can’t seem to get back into it. I do the couch-to-5K program, and just start to get back into a proper routine, and then something happens (a deadline, a house move, a flu) and I end up having weeks and weeks off, and then eventually start from scratch again. Even signing up for races doesn’t work – I’ve now done 2 half-marathons where I walked most of it. A friend suggested that I just ‘give up’ and see how it felt to assume I wasn’t going to run anymore…a few months after ‘quitting’ I decided to come back and had renewed energy and enthusiasm…and then stopped again. Anyways, I’ve now signed up for a race in a great location, which my husband and a bunch of friends will also do, and we’ll need to travel to do it. The training plan is on the fridge. I’m getting a running watch for xmas. Running days are booked into my diary. I really need to lose a few pounds (or buy a lot of new clothes). Hopefully it works this time (except I had to skip today cos I have a really sore throat!)

    • @Lily- all those are great steps to stick with running. Of course, there are plenty of other ways to exercise, so if you don’t really want to run that’s fine! In my case, I *want* to run when I have things like a deadline or a move because it makes me feel less stressed. If it doesn’t for you, then maybe that means some other form of activity would be better. Long walks. Exercise classes with a friend? Some people really get into weight training, because you don’t have to do much to change shapes.

      Speaking of which, I’m not sure running is great for weight loss. I have run a lot this year, but running every day has not budged my weight at all. And since I’m a few pounds heavier than what I consider my happy weight, that’s been a bit frustrating. But possibly just part of my shifting into middle age…

      • Lily says:

        Thanks for the encouragement…yep, the middle age weight thing is very frustrating! I think I’m going for the ‘exercise lots, care less about your weight’ thing…

  3. Zenmoo says:

    I hated running as a kid. I was slow. We lived in the tropics. Mean kids laughed at me when I fell over while running. We had a pool & swam a lot.

    Now, I’m just past my one year anniversary of a solid running routine. I had kind of sporadically trained for a few random 12km races and sort-of trained for a half. I finally got over being slow and At age 40 I took half an hour off my previous half marathon time and 9 minutes off my 10k time. I guess the advantage of taking it up now is that I’ve made some good improvements!

    • @Zenmoo – Good for you on the new PR. I’m pondering setting a goal to get a new mile PR in the first quarter of next year. January-March always features a ton of time on the treadmill, what with the ice and snow (which can be as bad as the tropics, albeit in a very different way!) So it will be good for speed work. Also, my current record is 7:37 and I’m quite positive I can do better than that. I just…haven’t.

  4. Byrd says:

    I could have written this post 3 years ago (pre baby) as far as being done with signing up for races as motivation, but have struggled so much with getting back to running post baby after a difficult pregnancy where I couldn’t run at all. I now have a 2 year old.

    So I’m signed up for a 5 K this weekend and have actually stuck with a couch-to-5k program (the one from another mother runner, if it matters). Here are the things that helped:

    1. It is fall. I love to run in the fall.
    2. Signing up for the 5K did seem to help this time. Partly visions of doing it with my daughter which is on my fun list
    3. I think for a while I really had other priorities (breastfeeding, pumping, figuring out how to be a working mom, time with baby) that I wasn’t fully recognizing
    4. I figured out that if I run on Mondays and Fridays, which are my low productivity days, I actually get more work done than if I don’t go. This rationale helps me with work guilt which was another roadblock.
    5. For my cross training I am doing a Y class on Saturday AM with other moms which is also our social time.

    Obviously not one size fits all but it is working and at this moment in my life the 5k helped!

    • @Byrd – good luck with the 5k! A lot of people really do find races motivational, and group exercise classes too. It’s all about knowing what works for you (and what doesn’t — there can certainly be seasons of life when exercise is more about maintenance than anything else. And a few walks a week can do that.)

  5. Rebecca Primis says:

    Congratulations, Laura! It’s fantastic and inspirational that running is such a part of your lifestyle. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become less dependent on races for motivation. Now, running is a consistent practice in my life to help me stay well, process my thoughts, get outdoors, etc. I’m more focused on being a lifetime runner rather than a racer. Plus, races now seem more like a treat when I do decide to do one!

  6. Phil Min says:

    Congratulations on the “runniversary”. I started 17 years ago while I was finishing my comps and dissertation and I got so many great ideas while I was “out there”. I think if anyone knew me 20 years ago, they would have thought me the least likely to run any type of distance….much less a couple of hundred marathons. I concur with your opinion about the big urban races, although Philadelphia remains a favorite. The crowd is not overwhelming, the course is great mixture of history and beauty…running along the river in many miles, and the logistics are easy.

    Another good one that should be fairly close is Steamtown in Scranton. The course is a downhill point to point that runs through quaint towns. The Delaware Marathon/Half Marathon is a favorite as well! I am getting slower, but so thankful that I started this adventure.

    • @Phil Min- I will check out Steamtown. Also, I am now signed up for what was the ODDyssey half marathon (I think they changed the name) in early June of 2018. My husband said he would do it too, so it will be a chance to do a race together.

  7. Sandy says:

    I ran the NY Marathon on Sunday and highly recommend! My husband ran it too, and our 11 year old daughter came along on the trip. We try to schedule a race to travel to every year and all 3 of us go. He and I do the race, and we fit in sightseeing so my daughter has fun too. We did Philly marathon a couple of years ago – that was a good one!

    • @Sandy- how great to make a family trip of it! I agree that Philly is nice too. I have done the half version of it multiple times. Maybe someday the full. It’s nice to know if I do want to do a full there’s a great one right in my backyard that I can just do without proving I can run a sub 3:30, or win a lottery, or the other things required by large city races!

  8. I miss running, but due to a compromised ankle, I can no longer run. But I take advantage of other activity options, and my recent favorite is paddleboarding on my SUP. Be still my heart!

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