There was once a time when I hated running.

You couldn’t get me to run ten feet. A little bit of healthy sibling rivalry changed that for me. Over the past two years, I watched my sister complete half and full marathons, collecting medals along the way, and decided to give running more of a chance!

I ran my first race in 2015 without training at all, simply because I didn’t know how to. I figured I could just go out there and wing it! I did it, but during the race, I felt winded. Summertime in the Chi can be extremely humid, and the sun was beating down on me. At the end of the race, I was so sick to my stomach and couldn’t understand why. In hindsight, I realize I hadn’t fueled properly, and needed water to rehydrate and salt since I lost so much of it during the race. Nevertheless, I loved the feeling I got from racing. The cheers along the way gave me that motivation that I could be and do anything I wanted. And that final symbol of a job well done, that medal put around my neck, made me feel like I had really accomplished something. After those feelings, I knew I couldn’t stop, so I signed up for several 5K races.

running

This time, I was committed to training properly.

I already had a running app on my phone, but it felt like it was missing something, so I did some research to determine which running app was the best out there. Runkeeper had the highest reviews, so I downloaded it and tried it out on a short run around my neighborhood. I absolutely loved it! Since downloading the app, I have used it to train for every race.

sister number 2_Motivated Her

I made it through 2015 signing up for “fun races” like color runs, all the while keeping my eye on more serious races for 2016. Each race I ran, I learned something new about running. From the type of shoes to wear, to how to properly hydrate in the days before, I saw so many improvements. I had salt, power gels, and Gatorade to help with electrolytes and water. I wasn’t as tired during the race, and the recovery was so much easier.

After all of these races, I still faced one major obstacle:  I had no one to run with!

I’m a people person and like to talk while I run. I get motivation from someone else running next to me. I knew that if I didn’t find someone to run with, running would quickly become a lonely sport.  The only competitive runner I knew was my sister, and we didn’t live close enough to coordinate our workouts. Running solo also didn’t feel like the safest of activities, especially because I like to run pretty early in the morning, sometimes before the sun is out.

So I decided to make running social.

I reached out to a friend of a friend, someone I knew was an active runner.  We started chatting, and she told me about the Chicago running group she is a part of called Black Girls Run (BGR). The group originated in Atlanta, GA, and grew nationally. There’s a BGR group in all the major US cities.  It was started by two women who set out to tackle obesity in the African American community and to provide encouragement and resources to new and veteran runners.  I loved the group’s mission and wanted to help make living a healthy lifestyle and focusing on fitness priorities in our community.

I joined BGR on Facebook, and from there connected with the ambassador of one of the groups that ran close to where I live. It’s been heaven ever since. My first run with the group was an awesome experience. We were divided into different paces: the runners, the run/walkers, and the walkers. My local Bolingbrook/Plainfield group, also known as The Dashing Divas, is an encouraging group of women of all different ages. We’re more of a sisterhood than just workout buddies. Before every run, we take a group picture, and after the run, we pray and say our goodbyes. While out on a run, we get to know each other better and talk about our running and health goals. Outside of running, we share personal stories from our lives. We all wear our Bondi Band that says “Black Girls Run” and we always run into other members either from Chicago or from other states. I’m blessed to have been introduced to such a great group of women that will DEFINITELY hold you accountable for your workouts. The group has been tremendously supportive and motivating; on days I feel like being lazy, they will reach out and remind me of my goals. That kind of encouragement has been paramount to my ability to stick with training for longer races.

shamrock shuffle

Just as I’ve been inspired by the women in BGR, one of the most rewarding parts of my training has been inspiring others.

The snowball effect absolutely comes into play.  ’m a huge social media sharer, and love taking pictures from group runs and races and posting them online. I’ve had three young ladies see my posts and reach out to me about joining Black Girls Run in the six months since I joined the group. I am so proud of the progress they have achieved and so excited that I was able to take part in their running journey.

I’ve come a long way since watching from the sidelines while my sister achieved her running goals. Two weeks ago, after recruiting some fellow runners from BGR, I took on a double-header of Rock ‘n Roll races. I met my goal of running the 5K in under forty minutes, down six minutes from last year! And the following day, I made it through the 10K in 1:23:19. I was tired from the day before but kept telling myself that I needed to run and to just not stop. That the end was VERY near. Just 100 feet from the finish, I felt myself wanting to walk. But then I heard an outpouring of support and cheers coming from the finish line and kept pushing through. After the race, I was so excited to head over to the Remix Challenge tent to get my medal. But as good as that accomplishment has felt, my quest isn’t done! My first half marathon is 9/25/2016. So I’m headed back to The Dashing Divas to keep my endurance up as I get ready to meet that next challenge.

IMG_8332

A note on running groups:

If you’re interested in joining a group, my first piece of advice is to see what groups have formed locally. Do you have friends who are runners? Are they part of any groups? Another way to look for a running group is to visit your local running shoe store. Runners come and go from these stores daily, so that’ll be a great resource. And finally, there’s a quotation I’d like to end with:

“Stop comparing yourself to the person who’s been at this longer! Comparison is the thief of joy”

~Theodore Roosevelt

P.S. from the Runkeeper Team: With our launch of Running Groups, there’s no better time to set group goals ;)