My running journey began a little over 4 years ago. Before then, I played basketball for many years growing up. As my passion for running grew, I gradually dropped basketball to focus on distance running. In my third year of running, I went vegan and I believe this change had a significant positive impact on my general health and running performance.
It started in 2013. I was looking for a way to continue being active on a daily basis since I did not make the high school basketball team that year. At my local gym, I attended a weekly conditioning class that included some indoor sprint intervals and outdoor aerobic runs. At first I was fine with the sprint intervals, but struggled with the aerobic runs as my aerobic endurance was not that great and I burned out or slowed to a jog. However, as weeks went by, I improved and soon became the fastest among the group not only during the sprint intervals, but also during the aerobic runs.
I then found out about 5K races and how the proceeds from many of the races went towards a certain cause. I began looking up local 5K races in my area and ran my first 5K in March 2013. It was the longest distance I had ran at that time. I did not feel too well during and after the race as I ate too close to race time and dressed too warm for the 70°F+ Florida weather. I have definitely learned a lot about proper race prep and attire since then! Despite these mistakes, I finished in a decent time of 22 minutes 38 seconds. I thought of signing up for my next 5K race, but at the time I was not sure if I really wanted to continue as I was still attached to basketball and my passion for running was not fully developed. A month later though, a tragic event in a race on the other side of the country struck my heart and mind.
When I heard about the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, I followed the coverage on the news. Since running for a cause was my primary focus, the event captured my attention. From that moment, my passion developed to run for those who can’t or to carry on the passion of running for those who died in the Boston Marathon that year. I decided to sign up for my second 5K that April and thanks to the emotions built up inside of me and a small field of runners, I won the race first overall. This success instilled a new sense of self-confidence and satisfaction in me as it was the first time I excelled and won first place in any athletic event. During my basketball playing days, I struggled to improve my game and felt rejected from teams. When I discovered that running was a sport in which everyone was welcome, I could improve and at the same time help others improve, I caught the running bug.
I then left my hometown to go to university where I joined my first ever running club and from the end of 2013 to 2015, I attended group runs and trained for races. I ran a few more 5Ks, then an 8K, 10K and 15K and worked my way up to my first half marathon that I finished in my goal time of under 2 hours. The half marathon was the longest I have ever run and an amazing experience, but I then wanted to shift my focus towards improving my times at the shorter race distances. In 2015, I discovered veganism and as I researched information related to nutrition and ethical and environmental reasons for going vegan, I slowly transitioned to become vegan in January 2016. I believe the main benefit I felt from the diet was an improvement in my digestion and relationship with food. For many years growing up, I experienced very frequent episodes of intestinal gas, bloating and constipation. I was also underweight, because at one point in high school I restricted food and it negatively affected my health and athletic performance. When I went vegan, the episodes faded away and now they rarely occur. I managed to gain up to 10lbs of healthy weight and now weigh the most I have ever weighed in my life. My sleep improved and my recovery time between workouts noticeably decreased. Cooking and baking became hobbies of mine and nutrition for health and disease prevention became topics of interest to me. I now focus on eating in a way that is most optimal for my own body rather than copying what someone else recommends.
2016 was an epic year for me in regards to running achievements. At the time, I was training to PR in the 10K with a goal of under 45 minutes and in the 15K with a goal of under 1 hour 15 minutes. In February 2016, I finished the 15K in about 1 hour 11 minutes. Two weeks after that race, I finished the 10K in about 43 minutes 45 seconds, to accomplish the under 45-minute time I had been chasing for almost 2 years prior to going vegan. Towards the end of 2016, I trained to PR in the 5K with a goal of under 20 minutes, and got that PR in December 2016 with a time of 19 minutes 38 seconds, a 3-minute improvement from my first ever 5K in 2013. My goal for the rest of 2017 is to build strength and muscle for general health and injury prevention and to increase my long run distance and weekly mileage from the 10-20 miles per week range to the 30-40 miles per week range. I am training and coaching my mom to run and finish her first half marathon race that is in November. It will be my second half marathon and I will be training for a PR finish time.
In February 2018, I plan on running my first marathon. Eventually I would like to run more half and full marathons, including the races in Chicago, Philadelphia and of course Boston. Qualifying for Boston would be huge for me as it’s the race that got me passionate about running in the first place. I have some work to do as I have the toughest of all Boston marathon race qualification times, currently 3 hours 5 minutes or less or about 7 min/mile or less. Yikes! But what I am trying to focus on is not where I currently am and how far I have to go, but where I started from and my journey since then. I would not have gotten to where I currently am without the motivation, support, inspiration and help from my running clubs, family, friends, other runners and running resources. I also know that the journey will never be perfect and mistakes will be made that can be learned from along the way. Learning from challenges and mistakes simply makes us better runners! In order to avoid injury and be able to run as long as possible, I am taking things one stride at a time and gradually introducing variables into my training.
Running takes strong personal willpower, patience, dedication and often a step outside your comfort zone. If you’ve been thinking about trying it for a while, now is the time! You may catch the running bug just like I did! My advice to beginner runners looking for motivation to continue running in the long run is to determine your ‘why’ for running, set goals, get help when needed, train smart, be prepared to fail just as much if not more than succeed (don’t aim for perfection) and gain inspiration from others along your journey. So far, running has introduced me to many amazing people, communities and experiences and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes me next. I look forward to progressing further and following the journeys of other runners!