For what it gives you

I was a smoker, for a very long time. I had to quit when I went to boot camp upon enlisting in the US Army, I quit when I was pregnant with both my boys. Sadly, I always looked forward to the day when I could start again. I had told myself, “this time I’m quitting for good”, “I’m going to do it this time” about a half dozen more times after that. I tried patches, the gum and even hypnotism. One day, it dawned on me that I had been smoking for more years of my life than I hadn’t, almost 20 years I had been smoking, and that’s when I had my “light-bulb” moment. Something changed, I just had to quit. Not being particularly fit and trim, I was terrified of gaining a ton of weight, so I decided I was going to start running, and I was going to run the Bellin Run for the first time! So, I picked a quit date, started taking a prescription to quit smoking, and started running. Well, that’s a very loose interpretation of how it happened. The date yes, the prescription yes, “running”….well, I would not quite describe those first few times as running, but I was out there!

So, I live out in the country, and adjacent to my house at the time was a side road that is one mile long. I decided, I am going to start by going down to the end of that road and back, and keep doing that until I can run that entire stretch without stopping. Day 1 plan, run to the neighbors mailbox, then walk and keep repeating that distance and over time, I’ll be able to run the whole thing, 2 miles. The neighbors mailbox is approximately a block to a block and a half away. So, one nice January day I set out, well by the time I got to that neighbors mailbox I about keeled over, I was breathing so heavy, and my lungs and throat felt like they were filled with a burning acid! And, “is that blood I taste at the back of my throat!? Where is that coming from!?” I vividly remember thinking. I walked, amazed at my lack of fitness and the searing pain that filled my lungs. I trudged on. I kept on, week after week, my quit date came and went, my lungs eventually adapted, my walking eventually turned into very weak running and I eventually was able to run that 2 miles without stopping. It took me over 2 months to be able to complete that 2 miles without stopping. Granted, it was a slow, slow jog, but I did it!

I finished the Bellin Run that summer, and was filled with great pride that I was able to accomplish all of this; quit smoking and complete my first 10k! I felt good, like I was on a road to a new me. A friend of mine was training for her first marathon. Naturally, I thought she was insane! I mean who runs 26.2 miles, really!? I didn’t even know what a marathon was a few months ago. She caught me at a time right after the Bellin run where I felt confident, (NO, she did not convince me to do a marathon, are YOU crazy?) she convinced me to sign up to run the Cellcom Green Bay Half Marathon! I began to question my sanity, but began the journey of training. She introduced me to the Green Bay Running Club, which I will credit for much of my motivation to train. Having good support like our local running community is so helpful! I was plagued with many injuries throughout the process of training, but watching so many of my new running friends accomplish their running goals, and having them out there with me and encouraging me helped to push me through and come back. I made it through the training, and completed my first half marathon!

Running does something to you, it changes you. Well, it did me anyway. I began to realize an inner strength and confidence that I had never tapped into before. High off of this latest accomplishment, my “insane” marathoner friend convinced me that training for a marathon is only ‘x-amount’ of more training miles, you can do that!  I don’t know how, but I was talked into signing up for the Whistlestop Marathon! What have I done!?

Another round of training, and another round of various injuries, but in the Fall of 2007 I completed my first marathon! I realized then, that I can train my body to do anything I want it to. I most certainly had said to myself, many times, “I could never do that!” But completing a marathon, something that seemed at one time impossible, changed my mindset. I had become one of “those” crazy runners, and was happy to be!

Running has given so much to me. I have found ways to give back to running too, which incidentally ends up giving more to me I think. I love to organize athletic events for others to participate in and enjoy, I volunteer at races that I’m not participating in, volunteer for cycling and running events for military veterans, I’m an angel runner for myTeam Triumph, and even just simply encouraging others gives me great joy. I have completed 13 marathons now, several half marathons, 10k’s, triathlons, bike races and such. I will continue to strive for new accomplishments, because I can. Running taught me that. There will surely be bad days, setbacks and disappointments, but don’t be ruled by them. Let the accomplishments, the feeling you get when you cross the finish line,  how great you felt after you went out there to run even when you didn’t want to, let the good trump the bad and let running give you everything it’s got!

Happy running!

Ann Senn

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