By Lavon Medlock
In the Fall of 2010, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and sign up for the Learn to Run (LTR) program through FootZone. A variety of factors brought me to this decision, but the main one was a desire to shed the baby weight of three consecutive pregnancies. I found myself sitting on the floor of the FootZone one Wednesday evening in late September feeling the support and encouragement of a room full of people of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. Connie Austin was going around the room asking participants to share their goals for the program and the reason why they specifically wanted to learn to run. When my turn came I simply said that I wished to be able to wear my engagement ring again. Secretly, I also wanted to be able to run 3.1 miles without stopping, but that goal seemed too lofty to be worth mentioning out loud.
Fast forward 6 weeks and I distinctly remember the overwhelming joy of having met that goal – I had just run 3.1 miles without stopping!! Never mind that I finished second to last; the point is that I had met my secret goal. Who knew that I had that kind of drive and athleticism in me? Apparently, we all do but some of us just need a little guidance and help finding our way. Coach Connie has a natural gift for doing precisely that – offering just the right amount of support balanced with just the right amount of knowledge and sprinkled with the perfect touch of prodding. There are many tips that I learned during those six weeks that I still find myself revisiting to this day. One of my favorite lessons was how “char-don-nay” can help you breathe more effectively when running.
Fueled by my new found confidence, I committed to 2011 being the year of weight loss and health gain. By exercising a few times a week and tracking my food, I was able to work off 25 pounds in about 9 months. I wasn’t running consistently that year in part due to a bout with pneumonia that had set my endurance back significantly. It was demoralizing to be back to square one unable to run a mile. After sulking about it for a bit, I started putting in the work and slowly getting my cardiovascular system built back up. If I wanted to be a runner, I had to put in the work. Another lesson from LTR: consistency is key.
2012 was a year of discovery for me as a runner. I ran a total of 12 races that year ranging from 5ks to an 8k, a few 10ks and my first half marathon. All along the way, I constantly drew from knowledge I gained in the LTR program, everything from measuring my cadence to monitoring my breathing to making sure I was wearing the right gear. It was also nice to see many familiar faces during the various races as many of the other runners were LTR participants or mentors.
Two weeks ago I accomplished a goal that I have secretly held in my heart for over a decade but didn’t dare breathe out loud: I completed my first marathon. 26.2 miles of awesome. Well, some miles were more awesome than others but when things got tough, I went back to the basics from LTR. At mile 12, my kids handed me some Ritz crackers to nibble on. I saved one and decided to hold it between my thumb and index finger to make sure my arms and hands were relaxed. That’s just one of the numerous form tips that I gained from LTR that come in handy (pardon the pun) to this day. Having completed a 26.2 mile race, I may be a “marathoner” but in my heart I will always to be a “Learn to Run(ner)” first and foremost.
Oh, and the engagement ring fits. In fact, I’ve almost lost it twice recently because it spins off my finger so easily thanks to all the running.
Lavon learned to run in 2010 and hasn’t stopped since. Living in Redmond, she is an on-the-go mom to her four and six year kids. Squeezing in week day runs between preschool drop off and errands, she isn’t afraid to sport a running skirt on the trail or in the grocery store. Find her on twitter @mizpinto00.