Starting to run

4:55 a.m.

That’s the insane, awful time I set my alarm for four mornings a week during the summer.

The summer. You know, the time when I don’t work.

I started running in the summer in 2009. I conned my best friend to run a half marathon that following February with me. I think she was trying to gain her sainthood. I don’t know about her, but I had never run a mile in my life. A bear had never chased me, so running had never seemed necessary.

That summer, though, I had a lot of stress going on – one of the big ones being starting my doctorate classes. I was having trouble sleeping – which has been an ongoing process since I can remember – but running seemed to work. Running wore me out and helped me sleep.

Rindy ran with me. For our training, we would run a city block and then walk a block. We moved up to two blocks run, one block walk, but we never went any further than that. While we enjoyed the running (and frequently treated ourselves to ice cream after long runs), we enjoyed the companionship more. Whether it was a 6 a.m. run or a 10 p.m. run, it was a chance for us to talk, to visit, and to relieve stress. We groaned together about our sore muscles. We griped about our work. We laughed about inside jokes.

Eventually, though, it was time. Time to run our first official race. I’ll never forget our first 5k. Please remember that we were not runners before this. Ever. We weren’t even really exercisers. We were in our mid-20s with good metabolism, so why exercise?

That 5k was hard. SO hard. We started yelling in the middle of it because we’re generally loud anyway (or maybe just I am), and we had a mantra: “What are we running for? PANCAKES!! What are we running for? PANCAKES!” (Because we were going to iHOP – or is it iHOB now??? – after our race.)

No, seriously, we really did eat pancakes after the race.

We ran a couple of other smaller races – another 5k and a 10k later on – and then in February 2010, we ran our first half marathon in New Orleans. We woke up at what we considered the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. (this was obviously before we had children and recognized 5 a.m. as the golden hour before children wake up) and ran 13.1 miles. Thankfully, they were all flat.

Going to race — IN THE DARK! Who gets up at this time??!

We were exhausted at the end, but we did it. And I felt that runner’s high. I had accomplished something I had never done before. I felt successful.

We got prizes! And FOOOOOODDD.

So…I kept up running.

I like to joke that I run to eat, and that’s true a bit. I love to eat. I’m from Louisiana – how could I not? We have beignets, fried fish, bread pudding, crawfish, poboys. I don’t think I’ve ever said no to any of those at any time. But I also want to be healthy (to an extent, as I do love those fried foods). I want to be strong. Strength is emotional and physical, and, in the physical form, running helps me accomplish that goal.

Plus, one of my favorite stories to tell is about The Artist when she was about 3 years old. I had put her down for a nap (so I thought), and I started running on the treadmill. If she looks out her bedroom window, she can see the treadmill. Kyle heard her on the monitor and checked the camera. She was standing on her nightstand, watching me, and yelling, “Go, Mama! Run, run, run!”

She knows her mama is a runner.

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