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I Am Not a Runner. (But I Crossed the Finish Line Nonetheless)

Let me begin by saying, I am not a runner. I never have been. The only times I have ever run somewhat regularly were in high school for PE credit and in grad school when there was beer and a scavenger hunt-type activity involved. If I am being totally honest I did the bare minimum of running in both cases. I have always thought of running as the least enjoyable form of cardio and avoided it at all costs. I dislike the way I look (so awkward), sound (inhuman loud gasping), and feel (like my legs and lungs are going to explode) when I run. Whenever people tell me about the “really great" long run they had over the weekend or the bucket list marathon they are training for, my first thought has always been, “Why would a sane person make this choice?!”

Which is why you should absolutely believe me when I say that you should try running your very first race.

I did a seven-week session of Run Club to prepare for the Reindeer Run on December 8th. I joined as a physical and mental challenge. I wanted to find out whether I could truly improve enough to run a 5K in just seven weeks, and whether I would be motivated to stick with running for the entire session. The answer to both questions is, surprisingly, yes. I am writing this on December 9th and in the last 24 hours, I have twice looked for upcoming 5Ks and am considering doing the Cooper River Bridge Run. Craziness!

If you had told me two months ago that I would ever wake up on a Saturday morning to run over three miles in 47 degree weather, I would have laughed right in your face. But that is exactly what I did for the Reindeer Run, and it was actually an ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE. This is because of the motivation and camaraderie that Run Club provided. I thought that I would be competing with the other members and nervous because I knew some people in Run Club were avid runners. It turned out that I was competing against myself, which is incredibly motivating if you are like me and competitive by nature.

We all started out at different levels and while I was a little embarrassed that I couldn’t run as fast as some of the other women in the Run Club Facebook group, I was encouraged by the fact that some moms were sharing times similar to mine. I quickly became addicted to seeing my own improvements each run—a little further each time and sometimes a little faster, too. It was great! I kept posting my runs because I was proud of them, and I continued going out and running because I wanted to see even more improvements. The messages fellow Run Club members left under my times gave me more fuel, and I started to see other members’ times as goals instead of unreachable ideals. I was so encouraged that I even woke up at 5:15 one morning to get in a run before I had to be at work! I felt like a superhero for the entire day, although not enough of one to do that again.

A little over halfway through the session, I started feeling discouraged. Running with a stroller is difficult and it slows you down quite a bit, so as the runs got longer I stopped seeing my times improve as quickly as they had been before. I shared my disappointment and received advice and encouragement. On a later run I felt so much pain in my calves that I decided to walk to finish. I texted Lee and she coached me through my frustration, giving me concrete things to focus my attention on (distance instead of time) and recommending a massage stick to work on my leg pain. I ended up running the last half mile home because although I would have just taken the easier route and completed the walk before, I felt motivated to push through and finish strong. Throughout every step, there was Run Club—and the rest of the Fit4Mom Charleston community—cheering me on.

Because of Run Club, I felt nervous excitement before the Reindeer Run instead of dread. As part of team Fit4Mom, I experienced bursts of energy when I passed, or was passed by, another member. And because completing the run and crossing the finish line was a positive experience, I hope to continue running and improving. I still do not consider myself a runner because I don’t enjoy running for running’s sake. I know that I won’t stick with it if I don’t have a goal in mind or a community keeping me accountable. If you are thinking of doing the Cooper River Bridge Run this April, I have no doubt that Fit4Mom Charleston can also help you cross the finish line.

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Zahra Gauthier

A local to West Ashley, you can find Zahra teaching Stroller Strides and Stroller Barre classes with daughter Margot in tow. You can follow Zahra's motherhood journey on Instagram @zahracongauthier.