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I ran 990.2 miles in 2016. (Had I known I was this close to 1,000, I would have made a point of running an extra 10 before the year ended.) I recorded 726.60 miles for charity using the app Charity Miles, raising a total of $181. I worked on increasing my mileage and pacing each month (except after I got married because let me tell you, weddings are exhausting and I needed a break). I’m pretty thrilled to see the numbers line by line because it proves something I half-heartedly believed but never practiced until this year: hard work pays off.
This was the first half of my year. As you can see, February was my lowest mileage (18.5) and March was my slowest average pace (13:19). Part of the reason my times are so much slower during these earlier months is due to me incorporating a lot of walking intervals in my training. (And the reason my mileage dropped in June? I was on vacation for two weeks, though I'm proud of the fact that I still got several runs in while overseas.)
Now we get to the second half of the year and this is where I get a little emotional. You see, I didn't think I'd ever become a FAST runner. I thought I'd be a steady runner. I thought I'd get my mileage in. I thought I'd consistently run about a 10-minute mile and I thought I'd be happy with that. But then I noticed it: each month, I was getting faster. At several of my races (I made it a point of running a race a month in 2015), I finished in the top five for my age group — sometimes even higher. It wasn't just my endurance that was increasing. Little by little, I was becoming a faster runner, too. Each month, I melted away a little more time. My 10-minute miles became 9-minute miles and my 9-minute miles became 8. During the last three months of the year, I did something I'd never done before: I surprised myself. Until this point, I always had a fairly good idea of what I was capable of and never tried to push myself beyond that. But one day on a fluke, I decided to do just that: push harder. Why continue running at a comfortable, steady pace when maybe, just maybe I was capable of running FAST?
This month, when I realized I had it in me to break a 7-minute mile, my runs started to take on a new meaning. I should also note that this was the WETTEST MONTH IN PORTLAND'S HISTORY — EVER. This is significant for several reasons: one, because I ran the majority of this month's runs in rain, which ranged from light drizzle to absolute downpour. I can't tell you how many times I came home sopping wet, my damp clothes stuck to my skin, unable to feel my fingers or toes because I was so cold. This brings me to the second reason why this month's weather was significant: this was the first winter in my entire history of living in Portland (I've been here off and on since 2000) that I didn't let the rainy winter defeat me. EVERY other winter in my entire adult life, I've let the weather stop my fitness goals. I've hung up my running shoes, said no thanks, and stayed inside to drink hot chocolate instead. I've looked at the cold temperatures, seen the pouring rain, and said: Nope, not gonna do it. I hibernated. I slept in. I lived in sweat pants. I consumed copious amounts of macaroni and cheese. I remained sedentary for entire months. And then each year, I'd get back out on the running trails when it was finally again sunny in spring — and each year, I started back at the beginning. I started from Day 1. I started from a place of decreased fitness. I started from nothing. No matter how hard I worked the spring and summer before, my winters off meant I always started from nothing.
Not this year.
This was the year I decided to crush it, weather be damned. So each day I geared up. I piled on the layers. I wore the hats and the hoods and the gloves and the gloves on top of the gloves and the rain jackets over my running clothes. I covered my neck and my ears and my fingers and I ran in wind so hard, my headphones fell out of my ears. I ran in puddles so deep they covered my calves. I ran in rain so heavy, I came home looking like I'd gone for a swim. I ran through chattering teeth and I ran with droplets of rain on my eyelashes and I ran with the legs of my pants stuck to my skin. I ran against the wind, under the clouds, and though the storms. I ran on days when I wanted to run. I ran on days when I didn't feel like running. I ran on days when I'd rather do anything — anything — else. I ran on days when I argued with myself for HOURS until I finally convinced myself to open the door and go. I ran. I ran. I ran.
I ran so fast, I broke a 7-minute mile.
I ran so fast, I broke a 23-minute 5K.
I ran so fast, I broke a 46-minute 10K.
I ran, I ran, I ran. I ran 150 miles this month alone. I ran through my fears and I ran through my protests and I ran through my "Who do you think you are?" moments and I ran through my "You can't really do this" moments, too.
My parents-in-law were in town for my last 5K of the year and as we wrapped up in warm clothes way too early in the morning, psyching ourselves up to go out into the cold darkness, my mother-in-law looked at me and said, "Why do you do this? Do you ever ask yourself that?"
I run to prove to myself that I can.
I run because I'm strong.
I run because I like to improve.
I run because it keeps me sane.
I run because it's my escape from other people.
I run because I get to be alone with my thoughts.
I run because the feeling I get at the top of a tough hill is unlike anything else I've ever experienced in my life.
I run because I'd like to have a baby someday and I'm doing everything in my power to create a healthy home in my body for when that time arrives.
I run because I always assumed I was the type of person who would stop moving for entire months at a time while eating copious amounts of macaroni and cheese and feeling absolutely miserable, but this year I proved to myself I am more than that.
I run because there are nearly 16,000 people out there watching what I'm doing on the internet and some of them are realizing how much they are capable of after seeing what I can do.
I run because I can and that makes me lucky as hell and I realized through three years of working at a retirement center that yes, our bodies will fall apart and yes, the day will come when we'll wish beyond belief that we had the energy to simply put one foot in front of the other.
I run because it makes me a better wife who has an outlet to let go of things instead of carrying all my thoughts around in a tight ball.
I run because it's important to prioritize myself at least a little each day and I have nothing to offer to anyone if I don't take care of myself first.
I run because I'm a fitter, stronger, FASTER person than I was a year ago and that, to me, means everything.
I run because as awesome as this year was and as proud as I am of my accomplishments and records, I know that next year will be even better.
So let's do this, 2016. I'll see you all out on the trails.