They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This one is worth a thousand memories, probably more.
I celebrated a decade of being a runner last month, and while that was a notable and exciting milestone, I never found the inspiration to write about it.
But today, the ever-faithful Timehop reminded me that I posted about running a 20:41 5k on this day nine years ago. Per the also ever-faithful Athlinks.com, that was a solid time for me that summer. This picture is not from that race, but it is from that summer.
This picture is from the day that I was introduced to a lady who remains one of my best friends to this day and it represents the base of the women-centric running group that grew out of this group.
When I started running in May 2006, I went through the couch-to-5k program to train for my first race. I was young and skinny but woefully out of shape. Climbing the stairs to the third floor where my college department was housed left me out of breath. Years of working in journalism meant years of half-assed on again/off again social smoking so I would “fit in” with the guys and have a reason to hang out with them during breaks.
But in high school, I liked running. As a child, I loved running. So I came back to it. I ran my first 5k well-under my goal of 30 minutes (which was entirely arbitrary). I ran more 5ks that fall, and in the spring I signed up for the Louisville Triple Crown and the Kentucky Derby miniMarathon. I inquired at Ken Combs Running Store about having a training group, and the owner made me an offer: if I would use my public relations/marketing/journalism experience to promote and oversee the group, he would write the training plans. Oh, and he’d pay me to do it.
So, some seven months after I started running, I was leading a training group preparing for distances much longer than I had ever run in my life.
Diane, a store employee, volunteered to assist. A former high school and collegiate runner (DIII), she was a veteran. Someone needed to know what they were talking about! Diane is also the most kind, patient and caring person I know. She curses only occasionally, and when she does, you know it’s serious. She has a sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud via text daily. For years, she was my race partner-in-crime, starting that spring. I can’t even count the number of race-related trips the two of us went on. Or dumb ideas we agreed weren’t that dumb — a 50k in the mountains of West Virginia in June, Bourbon Chase overnight relay (x4), Red Eye overnight relay, etc.
Also part of that inaugural training group and in my smaller coterie of ability and interest: Heather, who had just recently had her second child. The oldest and most worldly, Heather could be counted on for jaw-dropping stories on the regular. About the time this photo was taken, Heather planning to run her first marathon in September. I figured “what the heck, I’ll train with her,” which is what led to my first marathon/first BQ. We went to Boston together in April 2008. Heather’s dad is the gent in the photo.
The last part of that original spring group Caitlin, a transplant to Louisville (like everyone in the group other than Diane and myself) who moved away again several years ago. A New Jersey native and graduate of Vanderbilt, and a cross-country and track athlete for both. I wish she still lived nearby, or that I was a more organized friend and did a better job of staying in touch.
So after the training group completed the Derby miniMarathon in April, my official duties were over. But this crew stuck together. We continued running together, and one day we had a half-baked (one of many) ideas to run from Seneca Park to a 5k downtown supporting math-related programs in local public schools. And then run back. In mid-June.
Heather somehow also convinced another person to join us on this excursion. Rebekah, a graduate student in UofL’s math program. Rebekah was participating in a program that sent college students into public schools to help teachers improve their own math/science abilities and inspire kids to pursue math and science. She was paired with Heather, which was incredibly lucky for all of us. (Including Rebekah, who met her husband through our running group, too.)
So we did it. We ran, we raced, we ran back. Steve drove to the race and I believe drove someone back to the park, but I don’t remember who.
As I mentioned, we kept at it. Rebekah took 6 minutes off her half-marathon best that fall, Heather BQ’d in September, I BQ’d in December. Diane did a duathlon and BQ’d in the spring — Rebekah did, too.
Injury eventually knocked Caitlin out of running with us, and Heather ran Boston and was basically content (and is now power-lifting!).
But Diane, Rebekah and I? Others have drifted in and out of the group. Diane moved to Lexington (about an hour away) and is currently in Nebraska, but still runs with me any time we’re in the same spot. Rebekah and I run together a few times a week.