Whenever I Run

Run, girl, run
Speed doesn’t matter; hitting the road does

(Column first appeared at FemmeFan.com in October 2006)

By Tiffani Hill-Patterson

I am a runner. I’m not fast and I don’t do long distances, but I am a runner.

That description is one I never thought would apply to me. As a high school and collegiate athlete, I hated to run. When running is always used as punishment it tends to make you hate even the thought. Slowly, I’ve overcome that mind-set, and I no longer see it as the price you pay for missing a grounder or serving the volleyball out of bounds.

I see it as a way to sneak some time for myself, to gather my thoughts, relieve some stress or just zone out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And the bonus is that my legs are stronger and slimmer, my heart is pumping more efficiently and my mind is clearer.

I started running when I started doing the Body-for-LIFE program. The cardio portion was a 20-minute workout, and I did a combination of walking and running. Eventually, I was able to jog and run the whole 20 minutes. Without dying. And I liked it. It was a miracle.

The longest length of time I’ve run is 42 minutes, 12 seconds. That was my first 5K, on Memorial Day. It may have taken me awhile to finish, but it was exhilarating.

My husband had tears in his eyes and said, “I’m just proud of you” as I headed to the starting line. If that doesn’t put a spring in your step, nothing will.

My daughter stood near the finish yelling, “Go, Mommy!” I knew I couldn’t slow down even a little until I crossed that line.

And I couldn’t have done it without my little brother, who has run 10Ks and half-marathons. He ran with me and kept me going. And my parents and sister-in-law were there to cheer us both on – it’s great to know you’ve made your family proud.

But even better was the pride I felt in myself for taking on the challenge and accomplishing the goal. I did it. For me. To prove that I could.

After my first 5K, I met a woman at the gym and we hit it off and started running together at least once a week. She’s faster than I am and much more committed. And that’s a good thing. She doesn’t know it, but she challenges me to get better. And even though I haven’t been giving much lately, I’m grateful to have someone to be accountable to.

My second race was in September, and I cut about 2 minutes off my time. Another goal met. Another boost in self-confidence. This running thing has turned out to be more fun than I thought. And I’ve made some friends along with getting in better shape.

The final proof that I am a runner came last Saturday, the day of my third race. The first thing I had to do when I awoke was hit the bathroom. Um, someone find the Imodium. After three trips, I was sure there’d be no running, but I was going to do that 5K anyway, even if I had to walk the whole way.

That’s just what I did. The cool air and conversation with a fellow walker kept my mind off my tummy troubles. At least for the first mile-and-a-half. By then I was halfway done . no point in stopping. Finally, I saw the 3-mile marker and rejoiced; the finish line was just ahead.

I spotted my husband and daughter in the crowd and yelled for my daughter to come with me. My sweet 5-year-old grabbed my hand, and we ran the last 30 yards to the finish line. The look of excitement on her face was enough to make me sign up for another 5K in November. And to dream about the day she’ll run a race next to me.

I’m not fast; I’ll never be fast. That doesn’t matter. I’m a runner because I run.

Hot Stuff

Forget the Cheese Fries
How I’m going to become one of the ‘hot mamas’

By Tiffani Hill-Patterson (originally published at FemmeFan.com, Nov. 2006)

Talk about motivation.

I went out to lunch with some gym acquaintances. All of these women are in shape and good-looking, and, except for one, they’re all mothers, too. I’m taller and heavier than all of them, so I usually feel out of place.

My running partner is friends with lots of women at the gym, including several instructors, and she invited me along for a lunch to celebrate three of their birthdays. Most of them are at the gym every day, teaching or taking two or three classes. Out of the nine people at lunch, only three knew my name.

But that’s my fault. I get to the gym about twice a week now and hit the treadmill and weights on my own, and I take only one class. No wonder no one knows me.

I’m 34 years old. I have a wonderful husband and daughter and a successful career. I’m not in junior high, so why is it that I let myself feel inferior? Sure, they’re all in better shape, but I’m working to get there. And they’ve all been nothing but nice to me and have included me other events.

It’s silly, but I doubt I’m the only woman who feels this way. So I’m using my inferiority complex as motivation to get in better shape and be one of the “hot mamas” (literally) at the gym. Here’s my plan:

* Make better use of my mornings by scheduling gym time and writing time before my workday starts at 2 p.m.

* Be consistent with my running. Stop making excuses.

* Stop being such a sissy and push myself harder, whether it’s on the road or in the weight room.

* Be more outgoing at the gym. Turn off my iPod every once in awhile and see what’s going on with everyone else.

* Let the instructors know when I enjoy their classes. Ask them for advice. What can I do when my motivation starts to wane?

* Next time we all go to lunch, lay off the cheese fries and indulge in a salad instead.

If I use these strategies, I’ll be feeling—and looking—like I belong in no time. And the best part? I’ll have new friends to turn to for support and good times.

(Update: Alas, I’m not thinner or in better shape now than I was then, but when school starts, it’s back to the gym for me. LOL)

Later …