My name is Kristine, and among many other things, I am a runner. And since this is a running blog, let me give you a rundown of how my running journey up until my personal Running Renaissance (a time of my life that requires its own post to do it justice!).
As a kid, I always hated running. I’m not sure why. I loved riding my bike all around the neighborhood. I loved sprinting around outside playing games with my friends. But the twice yearly mile run in elementary and middle school? I hated it. The four laps around our gravel path at my elementary school — a thrilling adventure on my pink bike — was a drag when traversed by foot. The three laps around the soccer fields at my middle school was an intimidating set of rolling hills. One year, I gave up completely and “ran” the mile in 17 and a half minutes… I walked all but 2 minutes of that mile.
And yet when it came to choosing sports to get me out of gym in high school, running was the first sport I chose. Fall term of my sophomore year I tried cross-country. That summer I skimped on my 1, 2 and 3 mile training runs, finding even the two mile loop around my neighborhood endlessly tiring — probably because I decided to go out and run them at the hottest part of the day, which can be oppressive in Iowa’s summer humidity. I did cross country for two years. I wasn’t very fast, I wasn’t competitive, and I barely tolerated it. But I didn’t want to take gym at 6 am, so I suffered through 7 mile run-walks in 90-degree after-school heat in August and froze on blustery, rainy October days. To say I liked running in those days is a gross overstatement… I tolerated it and I got okay at running two or three miles at a time, and that was good enough for me.
I spent a lot of my time in HS XC looking confused.
However when I began running, so did my dad. He quickly passed many running milestones: a 5k… then a Fourth of July 8k… then a half-marathon… and then in the fall of my junior year he ran his first full marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon. I was inspired and made the mistake of saying, “Dad, if you can run a full marathon, I bet I could run half of one.” And so he challenged me to train the next spring to run the half-marathon at the Quad Cities race the following fall. And even though I didn’t really like running all that much… I did it. I came home from runs in tears because it was too hot or it was too cold. I suffered through a pinched hip flexor and through multiple flare ups of my right IT band. I went out and ran as hard as I could and then suffered for miles on end. My dad pulled me along on 10 or 11 minute miles on my training runs… then went out the next day to run his own at a much faster clip. But still, I trained.
On September 28, 2008, I ran my first half marathon at the Quad Cities Marathon in a torturous 2:18:22. My dad was next to me every step of the way, urging me to keep moving, stop crying, etc. I remember being about 9 miles into the race and holding back tears wondering how I was going to make it through 4 more miles. Cheating my way through my training runs — cutting them short or stopping for long breaks in the middle — had caught up to me. But I finished. I earned my t-shirt, I got my medal… and I was hooked.
That winter, my family took a vacation to Disney World for the Marathon Weekend in 2009. My dad ran my second half marathon with me — this time in a much improved 2:06:45 — and then ran the full marathon the next day. We trained through brutal cold for that race. We slipped and slid over ice-paved bike trails and wore burglar-esque face masks. And it was all worth it to spend that glorious week in Florida wearing race medals around our necks.
And then that spring… we headed to St. Louis for another running weekend. My dad ran the full — per usual — and I ran the half. I had the ambitious goal of running under 2 hours, and I barely made the cut: 1:59:19! I pushed so hard that final mile that I almost passed out walking through the finishing chute. That was the first and last race that I chafed miserably; it was a rainy race, and I didn’t even know that my shorts had chafed the back of my thigh… until I got into the shower back at the hotel. I have never forgotten Body Glide or Vaseline since!
After I graduated high school, I decided to give cross country another try in college. I figured that with my half marathon fitness, I would be able to perform better than I did in high school. And that was true, but I also suffered quite a bit by upping my mileage too much too soon. I wasn’t able to do much of the summer training because of a nasty bout of bronchitis, so jumping from 15 mile weeks to running 5-7 miles 5 times a week… my knees and my shins were a mess by the end of the season. And I was still one of the slowest runners on the team. Needless to say, I did not go back.
That semester of cross country made me realize that what I had liked so much about running when I did half marathons was not necessarily the distance, but that I controlled when and how far I ran. I hated coming to practice unsure of what I had to do. When I was running half marathons, I found joy in designing a training schedule, mapping routes around town, and having complete control over my running. This is what I still love about running today; I’m a total control freak about it, and that’s okay.
But I didn’t give my knees time to heal from the injuries sustained during that cross country season. I suffered tendinitis in my left knee for years. I ran on and off, and then decided to give half marathons another go in 2012. I ran a local HM in May with an agonizing 2:21:53. I was horribly underprepared for it and I was ready to quit about 5 miles in. But I finished to the cheers of my college friends and my family, and I remembered what I liked about running half marathons: the medal and the sense of accomplishment… even if that half marathon felt awful, everyone else was impressed and encouraging.
My dad and I pre-race.
Then that fall — fall of 2012 and my last fall semester of college — I went to Chicago for a semester. To ease the transition, I decided to sign up for a couple more half marathons, so that I would have something to look forward to when I got there and perhaps feel less homesick. And it worked! The weekend after I moved in, I ran the Chicago Half Marathon in a time of 2:06:26, a marked improvement from my May race time. Then I ran the Chicago Monster Dash in October in 2:09:15. I had been aiming for a sub-2 hour time, but I was thwarted by a recurrence of my tendinitis problems.
I graduated from college in 2013, and didn’t do much running for a year. I was tired of training through IT band pain, tendinitis pain, another pain in my knee from a crushed plica band (crushed during a pre-dawn run). I was tired of pushing myself through runs that always felt too long, too hard.
When I started college, I weighed around 120 pounds. By the spring of 2014, I was half a pound away from 150. Seeing myself at 149.5 pounds was a bit of a shock to me. I’d known that I’d packed on a few pounds my senior year and the year since I graduated, but I hadn’t realized I had gained quite so much. Through that year, I had ran a few miles here, a few miles there, but I didn’t have any motivation. But as spring — and my 23rd birthday — approached, I decided to start running again. After I got accepted to Princeton for a Masters program in Near Eastern Studies, I picked out a few races that would fit into my schedule and decided to get off my butt, put my running shoes to good use, and lose a few pounds.
And that was when my Running Renaissance began.