Third Time’s The Charm

It’s time again to pack my bags: I’m going on a road trip this weekend to Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

Let me rephrase that. It’s time again to pack my racing bags: I’m going on a road trip to run in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m one of the weird, crazy people who have set the Fifty in Fifty by Fifty goal for themselves, which means I’m planning to run a half marathon in all 50 states in the US before I turn fifty. Why, you ask? Well, lucky for you, instead of asking a lot of questions, I’m here today to answer questions. It’s kind of an FAQ, but it’s more accurately things I’ve figured out doing long runs the past few weeks that I’ve been back in Chicago.

I started exercising because I just wanted to feel better about myself. I wanted to be more confident and feel better about myself. This went on for a couple months, and then my Junior year of high school started to wrap up. I realized that I was going to be graduating soon, and that meant one thing in my mind at that time: I was going to be done with high school marching band. Realize that band was one of the most important things in my life at that point in time (still is,) but it felt like my world was crashing down. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I needed to keep marching. I needed to keep spinning. How else was I supposed to cope with knowing but not knowing what I wanted to do?

So I decided to put the little bit of training I had started doing to use – I decided to audition for a drum & bugle corps.

But that’s almost besides the point. Almost.

Somewhere along the line, I learned that the best way to train for a summer of DCI was to run. That’s how I really started running. It started out as a mile. Then two miles. Then a 5K here and there. I felt great, I was happier, and I felt like I was becoming closer to my friends and family who were also runners. It was a great experience.

Fast-forward about a year. I did a summer of DCI, and moved to Chicago. Lots of changes in a short amount of time, but one of those changes wasn’t increasing my mileage.

I learned that the Lakefront Trail existed, realized I needed to keep training for DCI, and started my 5K-running-regime and became a runner once again. Somewhere along the line, I decided to run a little bit further. Let’s make the 3.5 mile run 4 miles, why not? Then “let’s try for 5, why not”. Even after I decided to take an internship for the summer instead of marching, the miles started adding on.

As the weather got cooler, my runs outside got shorter and shorter until eventually, I had to stop. I wasn’t committed enough to keep running in that frigid Chicago Polar Vortex. (Not yet, anyway.)

But, Chicago eventually started to thaw. Slowly, but surely. As the time had passed in the winter, so did my tolerance for the gym. As soon as it got above 10 degrees, I hit the ground running. Outside. And I was hooked. I signed up for my first half, Get Lucky, and fell in love with the 13.1 distance.

I loved training, I loved talking about running, I loved researching foods to eat and shoes to buy and techniques to try. Everything I could soak in about it, I did. After running Get Lucky, I immediately planned to run the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN in June – and after training for real (I trained for only about five weeks for Get Lucky,) I found I was hooked on being a runner. I loved the thrill of dropping three seconds on my time/mile. I thrived on the post-run high and the excitement I felt after making it through an entire run without eating a bug or having to go to the bathroom. I craved the feeling in my legs for a few days after I was able to run anything more than ten miles – an elusive jelly feeling that only comes after exercising for a really long period of time.

But now it’s round three. I’m feel much more of a seasoned veteran to the half marathon, and I don’t get butterflies when I think of the fact that I’m just going to run for two hours straight this weekend, and I haven’t really done much to rest up for it (besides carbo load like a crazy lady, but that’s a different story. Milkshakes count, right?)

I remembered why I run this past weekend, though. It was the perfect Saturday – I had no time commitments besides an interview in the morning and a get-together with friends after 8pm. The day was mine, and I seized it. I ran 14.34 miles, and loved every second. As I went north along the great lake of Michigan, I couldn’t help but smile the entire time. The air was cool but not crisp, the breeze was slight and there just enough to keep me from overheating, the moisture in the air was enough to not dry my throat out, but not too much to drench me in sweat. Like I said, perfect. The seven miles out went so much faster than I had anticipated, and I was sad when my GPS told me it was actually time to turn around. But the wind was to my back, the city looked gorgeous, and I had plans to get coffee the second I finished. It’s been awhile since I was purely content in the moment and what I was doing; totally satisfied in where I was and what I was doing. But I felt it on Saturday. I felt happy, and like I was in the place I was meant to be.

So it’s with a smile, a twinkle in my eye, and a skip to my tapering step that I say I’m ‘totally stoked’ for the Brewer’s Mini Marathon this weekend. I couldn’t be more ready to lace up my shoes and run for a couple hours in a state I’ve never ran in before. I think it’s gonna be a good one. Goal time of 2:03:00-2:05:59. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned.

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Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship, but right now just talking too much about running shoes and a Masters Student at DePaul (Journalism). Training for the marathon with various podcasts. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

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