I used to hate running.
It had always been the bane of my existence because it was framed as almost a punishment of sorts. At the end of every school year, junior high students at my school had to run a timed mile on the track around the premises, which was something that we were obviously not looking forward to but didn’t want to be the last to complete. And when you made a mistake or weren’t focused like you should be during my team sports days, you were made to do sprints, running back and forth, touching every line you came across on the court. For quite some time, pushing what I felt were the limits of my body and getting out of my comfort zone did not feel good, and it always ended in exhaustion. What fun is that?
But I watched my father run six miles every day, which he still does no matter the weather. I also watched people running on the road at all times of day and night, jogging in one direction or another, enjoying this routine they’d created for themselves. As an adult, it intrigued me. So I taught myself how to do it, running one block before stopping to walk the next. I did this until I built up a good breathing pattern, and before I knew it, I was running a mile. At my peak, I could run almost six miles in an hour (I would stop for a light walk after the three-mile mark) down the beginning of Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway into Prospect Park and back.
And then, as usual, life happened. After getting married at my smallest size, I went on a journey to motherhood that would include a miscarriage, depression, a myomectomy, and two pregnancies that required two C-sections. On the other side of that, I found that my endurance levels plummeted. In addition, I was at my heaviest and felt like a stranger in my body.
So when I received an email about Nike putting together a women’s running and support group in celebration of the release of their latest running shoe, the InfinityRN 4, it was like a sign I’d been waiting for. The road was waiting for me, and this time, I’d be hitting it with other women.
There were multiple events. The very first event was about splitting us into our groups, allowing us the chance to meet our coaches, along with each other, so we could talk about our feelings about running and our background doing it. Many of the girls were admittedly intimidated by it. Others wanted to fit it into their fitness regimen but didn’t know how to get into it. Some were looking for a way to do it better. We all had a common goal, which was to run, whether slow or at a record-breaking speed, and we were signing up for a month-long program to support one another on the way to making that happen.
We had group chats and daily activity assignments (for example, “walk 8 mins, power walk for 6 mins, jog for 4 mins, and walk 6 mins”). They were the perfect way to slowly but steadily pound the pavement, and to get some movement in on a busy day. An hour is a lot to ask for but 24 minutes? That’s doable — and it makes a difference.
We would share our results and in turn, inspire one another to find the time to get moving. I tried to keep up with the assignments, and in no time, I was running a mile (panting at the end but a mile nonetheless!). As I kept up my efforts, also sharing results on Instagram for added accountability, my jogs got longer, and my desire all around increased. I started eating smaller, lighter meals (baked salmon on rice with a salad is the best), drinking more water, and I encouraged myself to do some movement, any movement, if I couldn’t run one day. I’d try and make a kickboxing class or throw around a kettlebell after hours in my living room.
I also was acquiring a community of girlfriends. I would cheer for them as they shared their workouts in the chat and in their InstaStories, and we would offer one another suggestions for how to improve our endurance, attend Nike trainer workouts and stay moving. We wanted to see each other excel.
And Nike made every weekly meetup or happening exciting. They equipped us with the gear to confidently hit the road, even offering to send some to someone in our lives who wanted to start their own running journey too. By the time we had our last meetup in Manhattan at the end of August, we were pushed to do what was probably the unthinkable the first week — run in front of strangers on the street. We ran to the High Line, a gorgeous park situated on an old, elevated rail line. Once there, we did sprints with a partner. It was like being back in high school team sports, but this time, with the desire to keep up and run hard. By the time we finished our exercise and started running back to hang out for the last time as part of the program, I was talking to my coaches, Sashah Handal and Kim Yee, official Nike Running community coaches, about how much of an impact the experience had on me.
In a month’s time, with hard work and dedication, I’d finally, truly kicked off my postpartum wellness efforts after multiple starts and stops (including a Daniel Fast that I quickly stumbled out of in the hopes of it being the catalyst to change everything). I lost six pounds, and I’m now running about four times a week, jogging one mile straight before taking a brief break and wrapping up mile two, and repeating for mile three. I get excited about the opportunity to run, even at night, and to hear the sounds from my customized running playlist (aptly titled “Why Are You Running!?”). And I no longer get shin splints and ingrown toenails. It’s crazy how far you can go when you get a half size up in running shoes.
So what’s next? Well, the group has discussed possibly meeting up more outside of the program, including doing 5K runs in the fall. And the work continues for me. I don’t need to get back to six miles like I did way back when I was living with a lot less responsibilities and free time. But I do want to continue to push myself; to remind myself what my body is capable of doing even when I thought I’d never probably get back into running again; and to feel the wind brushing past me as I bounce down the street, making time for me and being the best runner — I can be.