I am a runner. It feels a bit weird to say that, because only 8 months ago, I couldn’t even run a mile.
It started last August. I had been a bridesmaid in a wedding for an entire weekend, you know the drill – bridesmaids luncheon, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception. All weekend long I had been wearing the tallest of high heels, and the Sunday after the wedding I set out for a short jog, stepped off a curb and pulled my IT Band. Something about extending it and contracting it, and whatever. It ended in pain. I played tough guy for about a month, but after limping around the office for too long, my boss yelled at me and made me go into the doctor. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and I wound up in the good care of Alyssa White at PhysioTherapy Associates. (She is amazing. So is her colleague Sarah, if you’re looking for a good physical therapist.)
Somewhere in my first few weeks of PT, I got the bright idea that I should enter the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile lottery. Just on a whim. One afternoon at work, I decided that it was a brilliant idea and so I just did it. Everyone asks why, especially when the longest I’d ever run was a 5k, and I had no real explanation. I wanted a goal. I wanted to show up each week and exercise my discipline. I wanted to do it because I knew I could.
So I set about creating a team of people and DC small businesses who would help, and the first step was Alyssa and getting my ITB back in shape. The second was finding a decent training program.
The official training program of the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile is run by Potomac River Running Training Programs. I dutifully signed up, met the (DC running world) famous Coach T, and let’s be real. That’s probably why I was able to hop off the PT table and 10 weeks later run 10 miles without even flinching, right there. I’d highly recommend both Coach T and the PR training programs. But that’s not the only thing that got me to the finish line. One of the keys was in the cross training. PR and Coach T recommended swimming, yoga, spin, and Pilates. Alright then, I thought. I can do that.
All summer long I’d become hooked on barre, so the nice owners at Biker Barre set a recurring reservation for me each week. I hoofed into their adorable studio once a week and tucked and plie’d until I couldn’t tuck and plie any longer. (My favorite barre instructors at BB are Jane, Stephen, Kelly W and Kelly H.) I honestly think barre was one of the best cross training activities I could have done. The Pilates-based workout provided lateral muscle movements that balanced out all that running. It also kept my abs in shape and toned up my arms.
Swimming was another must-do cross training activity. DC’s indoor pools are free, and there’s nothing like a good swim early in the morning to clear your head and get you psyched up for work. I busted out some old suits from swim team in high school (which miraculously fit) and with the purchase of some windbreaker pants to keep out the winter cold I was good to go.
Finally, I knew yoga had to be part of the mix. Obviously, my muscles needed it, but so did my mind. Capitol Hill Yoga is my go-to studio, but I also love Yoga District (Hannah, that’s all I need to say there) and the too-far-away Down Dog (Beth, I miss you!). After my long runs, getting all stretched out, twisted out, and blissed out was essential. Capitol Hill Yoga offers regular workshops on hamstrings, hips and fascial release – all super helpful when your body is taking a beating. Yoga District regularly runs workshops specifically for runners. But CHY became my home, which meant I got a weekly dose of my new favorite yoga instructors, Tara, Joan and Katie.
There were other helpful things – I treated myself to an Extreme Sports Massage at Bliss DC after phase 1 of training was up, and Teaism and Sweetgreen became my go-to restaurants.
But what really wound up happening with all this running, and all this class attendance and community-finding, is that I seriously fell back in love with DC. Not that I had ever really fallen out of love with our fine city, but I had just forgotten about some of my favorite nooks and crannies. I couldn’t remember the last time I was on the National Mall, but I’ve been down there 6 or 7 times in the past few months on runs. Places I once had much affection for when I first moved here suddenly came back into focus. How can you not love a long run across Memorial Bridge? The Capital Crescent trail is amazing. Rock Creek is its own slice of heaven, especially on an early spring morning.
I pounded out 127.2 miles of training for the race, and each of them reminded me why I chose to move here years ago. My training runs are where I can see the sights, drink it all in, take the time, remind myself what makes this city so great.
For me, this is just the beginning. I’m officially and unabashedly hooked, and I have many people to thank for that – but mostly I have the city itself for being so inspiring. Now, I have fall races to think about, lotteries to enter, training programs to consider, and other cross training methods to explore. (I’m super curious about true Pilates classes, as well as CrossFit.) (I think I could be pretty badass in CrossFit.)
They say your first race is the biggest hurdle, and so if I can take the leap of faith and get out there, you certainly can. The DC running community is one of the friendliest, supportive, amazing communities in our city and hopefully if you’re already a runner, you can share some of your favorite cross training in the comments section!
See you out there. I’m not stopping any time soon.
PS – It feels remiss not to mention the Boston Marathon bombings and how they tore my heart out. This blog post says it better than I ever could, so I’ll leave you with it.