Sunday, October 7, 2012

Natalie, 36 years old

How much do you run?
10 miles a week is normal when running is part of my crosstraining, but it shifts up to 15-20 miles a week when I'm training for an event.

How long have you been a runner?
Since 1998 when I decided to quit a college habit of smoking cigarettes.

How did you start running?
In my teens and early 20s I was more into music and art than athletics. Physical fitness was not part of my world.

After college, I was trying to figure out who I was. Who did I want to be? What did I identify with? Smoking didn't fit with my picture of who Natalie is on the inside. Perhaps I was a runner on the inside? My father was a duathlete so I knew the ability was within me. 

I joined a YMCA in New Jersey and started lifting weights. I also tied my shoes and went my first run ever. I ran as far and as fast as I could. I was out of breath. I was sweating. But it flipped a switch in me. I felt like something. Here was something that connected current me to future me.

Best running experience
I was on a few running-related mailing lists in New York City; one of them was The Running Center newsletter. There was an opening for an assistant running coach position in 2003 for a few evenings a week. I read the requirements and thought, "the hours don't conflict with my work schedule and I meet the requirements." A few interviews later, I was offered the job. 

One crisp late autumn night, I was at the peak of the Great Hill in Central Park with a stopwatch. Waiting for the first runner to crest the hill and give splits, this feeling of pure presence and, well -- being alive -- overwhelmed me. Then followed a wave of thoughts, led by, "I can't believe I get paid to do this." I saw firsthand that training to accomplish a goal in running also builds confidence in your ability to do better at anything else that is important to you. One-on-one as a coach, I was helping improve lives. Could I make this my life? 

Less than a year later, I passed my board certifications to become a personal trainer. 

Unexpected benefit of running
Through running, I've learned great lessons. When practiced artfully, it's a sport of patience, slow gains, and endless rewards. As with life in general, you can make bad decisions in running. It's easy to be too enthusiastic, thinking to yourself, "I don't care. I'll suffer the consequences." That's when you get injured when you run. It's heart-breaking.

Running-induced crazy story
When I moved from New Jersey to New York City, I was looking for social opportunities to meet new people. I saw that the New York Road Runners offered running classes and I thought it would be a great chance to go jogging with a few people. 

So I showed up to the first session of the 10-week class with Bob Glover (author of "The Competitive Runner's Handbook"), in his booming voice saying, "Today, we're doing One. Mile. Repeats." What? It was all speed work! What did I get myself in to? So I completed the whole program and ran a race a few weeks after, and discovered I was now super fast! It was the first realization of what speed training can do. Running felt easier after that.

Advice for new runners
Avoid putting pressure on yourself -- just be open and get started. Forget time and distance. Walk a bit. Run a but. Relax and keep it comfortable. From the first step of that first day, you are member of this open community. You are a Runner.

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