I'll be the first to admit that running and I are not the best of friends.  There are times when I'm loving it, especially if I have a great new playlist on my iPhone that keeps me motivated or if I am meeting up with a friend I haven't seen in awhile and we catch up while doing laps around the Washington D.C. mall.  Then there are other times when I despise my running shoes -- usually those are the times when I have taken a serious break from the activity and my lungs are screaming at me. 

For the longest time, I never even thought I would run long distances because I'm slow as molasses!  My first attempt to run longer than a 5k was when I first moved to D.C. in 2001.  My friend and I signed up for the famous Army Ten Miler in October.  Unfortunately, the event was canceled due to security concerns from September 11th.  Honestly, I was relieved because I had only reached 7 or 8 miles in my training by then, and I was not mentally ready.  Thankfully I have a fantastic friend who offered to run the ATM with me six years later in 2007.  This awesome friend stayed with me the entire time, even though she normally runs a 2x my race pace!  I think she secretly enjoyed giving me obnoxious encouragement, like "That lady in front of you has a bigger butt than you.  You're not going to let HER beat you to the finish line, are you??"  She's great, isn't she?

Having finished that race, I became a running snob, scoffing at little 5ks.  D.C. has an absolutely beautiful 10 mile race in the spring, running under the cherry blossom canopies, so with that under my belt I figured what's another 3.1 miles, right?  I ran my first half marathon in 2009 with Team Challenge.  I thought that if I was going to put myself through 13.1 miles for the first time, I'd better not do it alone!  Plus, the destination was Miami in January, so you can't really complain about the race weather conditions!  Since then, I've returned to Miami to run two more times, ran the Disney Half in January during a shocking sleet storm, went to L.A. to do the Disneyland Half and get our Coast-to-Coast medals, and then did a Rock and Roll half.  Hey, if you're going to run that far, you should at least do it at a fun place and make a vacation out of it.
Team Challenge - Miami Half Marathon 2009
The funny thing about running is that if you don't get back into it after a serious injury, it's like you've never raced before in your life.  That's what happened to me.  First, I got achilles tendonitis that took a good part of a year to recover, which required me to quit running altogether for that time.  Then the worst thing I've ever endured happened.  I've lived a very healthy, or lucky, life as far as injuries go - nothing broken, no joint problems.  But in 2010, I finally got hit with two extruding discs.  It's amazing how much an injury like that can be both a physical and a mental hurdle because you don't want to do anything to take away the calm and relief from pain after receiving a cortisone shot.  So I can honestly say that running stopped being a part of my life because I was afraid of the pain and being helpless again.  Unfortunately, my brain thought that I was still a runner, and when I did a 10k last October with a friend, it was telling me "No problem!  I got this! This will be easy peasy at half the distance you've gone before, so it won't matter that you didn't train at all."  Boy did my brain get a lesson that day!  Within 3 painful weeks, I was back on the surgery table getting more cortisone injected into my spine.

Best finisher medal ever?  I think, YES!
I don't know what I was thinking this spring when I entered the lottery for the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco.  It must the lure of the Tiffany's finisher necklace that has me determined to participate this darn race, despite its nasty hills.  I had been doing this lottery for the past four years, but never got selected.  Maybe I figured it wouldn't be different this year and I'd be off the hook.  Well, my luck changed, and I've paid my entry fee.  So here we are now, time to get moving and start training again!  If it makes any sense, though, after last October/November, I'm really scared to run again, for fear that I will be on a training run and have something go wrong with my back and be stuck far away from home.  But, I got the green light from my orthopedist today.  In fact, he told me that the November cortisone shot had long worn off and my lack of pain is due to all my work being conscious of my activity and movement and from strength training.  Good news!
Wait...this is what awaits us at the finish line?
The race is in October, so let the countdown begin! 17 weeks to go!  Stay tuned for the race recap in October, fingers crossed I'm injury free and able to race.  If this works out well, I'm definitely signing up for the lottery to run in the brand new Nike Women's Half in Washington D.C., coming in Spring 2013....

If this is cheering me on, I could run a marathon too!