As time went on, our runs became longer and longer. I don’t think that I ever got to where I could run the full distance we were supposed to run without walking at least part of it. I still continued with the program and did the best I could.
Many days I simply felt fatigued and spent the whole day trying to pump myself up physically and mentally before our meeting time at 7:00. Many days I didn’t want to go or simply didn’t feel like going. I was always glad that I did.
My boss, Mr. G., became a great friend and encourager to me during this time. I worked from home, and we lived on opposite sides of the city, so we rarely actually saw each other. It was a crazy summer for the fuel industry, so we were in communication frequently throughout the week. Mr. G. needed some encouragement himself, so I was more than happy to return the favor.
I had not fallen in love with running yet. We always started off with a three to five-minute walk before we started running. That would be three to five minutes that I would spend dreading what was about to come, telling myself how hard it was going to be, and feeling like I was the weakest link in the chain.
I did, however, fall in love with accomplishing new things. On Mondays and Tuesdays we would do an out and back that we later learned was part of the 5K course we would run at the end of the program. The course started out fairly flat, then down a steep hill. Just when we started running up hill again, there was a bridge that we crossed, then it was up to the top of the hill to turn around and run the same course in reverse. The whole course was about 2 1/2 miles. These were timed runs, so at the half way point we would all turn around and go back. I was always at the back of the pack, but when we would turn around I’d be at the front until the faster runners started passing me. As time went on, it took them longer to catch up with me, so I knew I was getting better.
I was also running further and further every day. First to the half mile mark without stopping. Then, to the bottom of the hill. Then, to the bottom of the bridge. Then, I made it across the bridge. Finally, I made it all the way to the top of the hill. The way back was always tougher, and it took me until the end of the program to conquer that hill, but I did.
On Thursdays, we met at a local park and ran on a trail that was about a mile in length. These runs were for distance. These were the times that we would split into groups that ran various distances so we would all finish at about the same time. Still, I was always last, but just like during the timed runs, I was getting better and better each time. I finally got to where I could run a mile without walking. Once we were running two and then three miles, I would walk a short distance between each mile.
On the days that I was not able to meet with our group, I would run on my own in my neighborhood. I came up with a strategy that I would make myself run up every hill. If I thought I needed to walk, I would do that on the downhill. Once I made it to the top of the hill, I often found that I could keep going. There was one steep hill in my neighborhood that it took me all summer to conquer.
This was by far the most difficult thing I had ever done. It was 15 weeks of what seemed like brutal torture. Often I wanted to quit. But, with the encouragement I got from Mr. G., I kept going. Mr. G. was someone I could share my accomplishments with–things like, “I ran two miles today!” or, “I finally conquered that hill in my neighborhood!” Without him telling me that I could do it, telling me how proud he was of me, telling me not to give up, without all of those thumbs up emojies, I would have quit. It made me feel like I had someone on my side, as if I were no longer going at it alone.