Friday, May 8, 2009

How it all began

This is the story of how I started running.

Most of you know that it all started in high school.

I've never told anyone this story before. It explains alot though.

It's true that I started running in high school when I joined the track team. I was slow. I didn't know anything about running. I didn't know where to begin in the weight room. Everyone seemed to know everyone. I tried to watch others out of the corner of my eye so I could copy their actions.

During meets, I'd watch the other runners seem to float around the track. My running was more hobbling than sprinting. Crossing the finish line was more of an embarrasment than an accomplishment.

But I loved running.

On weekends, I would go. I would run off the beaten path where no one could see me. For the sheer joy of being alone and running.

During the week, it was time for practices. I knew I was getting better. I knew I'd never be even one of the top 20 runners, but I was getting better.

One day during practice, coach came over to me. He told me that I was too big to be a runner and that I should consider doing something like shotput or discs.

That night I went home and I cried.

The next morning, I went on a diet.

And I quit track.

I was too big to be a runner.

At over 5'8" and still growing, I dwarfed the other girls on the team.

For some reason, I kept running.

Then, I went to college. I found a new joy in running really far. I would go out for hours...before the invention of the jogbra; before garmins and gu's, before carrying water, before women's running shoes, I would run.

And I still knew that I was too big to run. I started swimming. I went to the weight room. But, I still didn't know what to do in there.

Then, one day I went while the football team was there. I became friends with many of the guys who began showing me different workouts.

One day, I went into the weight room and there was another woman in there. She came over to me and said, "You're that runner I see running everywhere."

I said, "Well, I'm not really a runner. I'm a jogger. I'm not really very good. I'm not really a runner."

She asked, "How far do you go?"

I said, "Well, I know I've gone 10 miles, but I don't really know."

She said, "I'm the cross country coach, and we don't have anyone on the team that can compete at the 10 mile race. Would you want to come in and talk to the other coaches. We even have scholarship money available."

I'm too big to be a runner.

"Well, I don't know. I'm not really a runner."

**************
After college, I started working and found myself in a group of people who really enjoyed doing bike tours.

Eventhough I was too big, I was still running.

I was still swimming.

I was still hitting the gym.

And, I signed up for my first bike tour.

150 miles.

And I didn't even own a bike.

I went out and bought the first bike I found.

It was a huffy mountain bike, and it had to weigh 50lbs.

The day of the tour, and I didn't even own cycling shorts. With a couple of days training under my belt, one water bottle, and a pair of jogging shorts, no clips just a pair of running shoes, and I was ready for my 150 miles.

It's hard to believe, but I finished.

I couldn't walk for a week, but I finished the entire distance. Climbing mountains, being baked in the heat, and I finished.

I was running, but I was too big to be a runner.

I was swimming laps, but I was too big to be a swimmer.

I was riding, but I was too big to be a cyclist.

********

Then, along came two babies in two years.

One in '94 and one in '95. As soon as I was allowed, I started pulling them in the baby carriage on my bike. I started running with them in the baby jogger.

One day, I was in the pool. And a woman asked me how I could swim so far.

Before I could stop the words, I replied,"I'm training for a triathlon."

That sounded great. Except that, it wasn't true.

I didn't know the first thing about "doing" a triathlon. I wasn't even a runner! I had graduated from the Huffy to a Diamond Back, and I had done a few bike races, but I still wasn't a cyclist.

Yea, I could swim 60 laps, but everyone can do that! I wasn't a swimmer.

*********************

For years, I kept that stigma of being "too big" in the back of my mind. Whenever I thought I couldn't do something it was because I was "too big".

I'm pretty sure that's what fueled me to become an endurance athlete (in the begining). I wanted to prove that jerk of a coach wrong. How could someone say something like that to a 16 year old girl?

I kept pushing beyond my own limits. I ran further and further. I rode further and further. I swam further and further.

First, I became a marathoner. Then, I became a cyclist. Then, I became a swimmer.

Then, I became a triathlete.

Although I don't harbor any ill will toward my high school coach, I have also chosen that experience to help me push beyond what I think I'm capable of. It's why I believe in others so much. It's why I don't believe people when they say "I can't do that because....."

We all have experiences and people in our lives that have hurt us in some way. We have to either learn to live with it....

or

just live.

14 comments:

Tyger Lily said...

Thank you for this post!

I AM big and I AM a triathlete.

Spokane Al said...

Very, very nice. Thank you.

TriGirl 40 Something said...

Beautiful post.

You are a runner, bicyclist, swimmer, triathlete.

And pretty cool person, too.

I hope coaches of today aren't like that anymore, but I kind of doubt it.

Wes said...

I rarely let anyone tell me what I can't be or do. I just don't have time for it. Life's too short, ya know?

Great post, Tea!!

LBTEPA said...

That's shocking. How impressive that you were able to take it and transcend it, and now inspire others!

riderpitts said...

challenge - you did tell the running story before

Jason said...

Great post.

It's amazing how influential a negative comment can be when you're still at school. I still enjoy proving my primary school phys ed teacher wrong.

You run, must be a runner then.

R. Jeffrey Davis said...

Thanks for sharing.

b said...

I love this posting Tea :-)

Titanium said...

Thank you for putting it into words! You found courage to believe in yourself somewhere during the journey, and that has made all the difference.

-Sign me "Another big girl" who climbs mountains, runs, kayaks, cycles and refuses to quit.

Bill said...

You are, Tea.

You definitely are.

Runner Leana said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us! My gym teacher used to tell me that I should be a faster runner since I had long legs. Didn't really do much for the self esteem that I should have been better at running...but I just wasn't. Mind you, if she hadn't said that to me I don't think I would have had the same drive to run as an adult.

suzncasey said...

You are amazing! Love this!

My Journey To Challenge Wanaka & Beyond said...

EXCELLENT! Thank you :)