Inspired by an Ironman: How I Learned to Love Running

By Chrissa Hardy for

“Ugh Mom, I hate it here. I mean, I love Tony and obviously I want to support him, but at what cost? It’s 5 in the freaking morning! I’m surrounded by people who keep mentioning gels and energy cubes. How can these people be SO into this? Are they insane?????” I said on the phone to my mother in the wee hours of the morn on my boyfriend Tony’s race day. The verdict? Yes, these triathletes and runners may just be insane. Little did I know, I was about to enter their crazy world of energy cubes and gels, with a smile.

I was never an active kid. I played softball, but for the most part, all of my energy was spent trying to get out of physical activities with fake ailments. I preferred the comfort of my couch with “Saved By the Bell” reruns playing on a constant loop via an endless stack of VHS tapes. Feeling sweaty and hot never seemed worth the fun of any sport. So, a couch potato I remained until August of 2024.

Tony is just the opposite. He’s always loved sports. He’s such a natural talent in any sport he tries that it ruffles my feathers with envy. Tony was a track star in high school and decided to get back into running as an adult. He started with a 5K. Then another. And another. Then he tried his hand at triathlons. I could see his hunger for longer distances and tougher races increasing in front of me. In thirteen months, Tony went from a 5K race to an Ironman distance race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run). Insane, right? He did this quicker than is recommended, but he’s a hungry over-achiever so there was no stopping him.

During these races, I woke up early with him, stayed in hotels with him, and arrived at his races with him before the sun came up. I cheered him on and watched him smile as he crossed the finish line. I was starting to understand the reason these races would have thousands of participants. The sense of accomplishment the racers would have made me jealous. I wanted to be able say that I could do something like this. I wanted to know that I also had it in me.

I started running with Tony at night. Bless his heart, I was a handful in the beginning. I couldn’t complete a mile without multiple breaks. Once I could get through a mile I started going out on my own and increasing my distance little by little each day. I skipped the 5K and decided to sign up for a half marathon (13.1 miles) as my very first race. Tony created a training plan for me that included one long run, two short runs and one or two in between, each week. My iPod became my new best friend and I relied on the hard tracks of Limp Bizkit and Kanye West for the extra push when I started to get tired. May 1st (my race day) was quickly approaching and I just started telling myself that no matter what I was going to do this. No fake ailments would be used as an excuse. Zack Morris and the gang would need to hold tight until May 2nd. That finish-line-smile would soon be mine.

Race day had arrived and I was surprised at how ready I felt. I was there before the sun came up. I had two packs of energy gel in my hand. I had my three-hour playlist ready to go. Britney, Christina, Destiny’s Child, Basement Jaxx, Kanye, Limp Bizkit and their greatest hits were in my ear and keeping me motivated. I was into it. My average mile pace was 11:55 and I finished in 2:36:13. I did not stop running until the finish line was crossed. I was smiling, and happy to be insane, just like the rest of them.

Also Read:

10 Reasons Running Doesn’t Suck as Much as You Think

Gwen Jorgenson Makes it Look Easy to Become an Olympic Athlete

Running Bonds Mother and Teen Daughter in the Wee Hours of Morning

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