Running is Better With Friends

It was January 1st 2016 and I felt overwhelmed by dissatisfaction. I was at a point in my life where I wanted to change everything. My career, body, love life, friends, and lifestyle all needed revision. I decided I was going to start small with something I could control and that thing was running. In 2014 and 2015 I entered 7 or 8 NYRR races with distances up to a 10k. I never really trained, always ran alone, and struggled when race day came. This year, I wanted running to be different. I needed it to transform me.

So on Jan 1st I started walking the 5 miles home from work everyday- rain, snow, or shine. Just walking through central park was hard on my body that sits at a desk all day but eventually, after 2 months I could run/walk. I had been following Harlem Run on Instagram and decided that when I could get myself up to a consistent 12 minute mile pace for 3-4 miles I would shake my nervousness off and show up.

As I was working towards my goal pace of 12 minute miles, I went to the bookstore to learn more about this sport that I wished I was good at. I picked up half-marathon guides, nutritional books and ‘survival’ stories written by runners and ultra-marathoners. I read ‘A Race Like No Other’, written by Liz Robins and I knew that I wanted to run the New York City Marathon in 2017 for my 35th birthday. Boy did I have a lot of work to do.

By the end of March I could finally make it through three 12 minute miles without dying so I showed up for ‘Girls Run the World’ – a running event that Harlem Run held in honor of Women’s History Month. When the evening ended I knew I had stumbled onto something special. The vibe was contagious. Transformation was happening! That night after the run, I went home and wrote down some goals:

1.       I would complete my first half-marathon this November at my goal pace of 10 minute miles

2.       I would qualify for the 2017 NYC Marathon through NYRR’s 9+1 program

3.       I would run through the winter & not quit in the cold weather months

4.       I would step out of my comfort zone and make new friends. Friends that ran.

From March through June, I finished my 9+1 and in July started the Hanson half-marathon training program, an intense 18-week, 5-6 days of running per week plan. I went outside and hit the pavement regardless of weather. I asked for advice and tips from various leaders that I met across the NYC Running community. I told anyone that would listen about my goals so that it would hold me accountable to achieve them.  I figured if I immersed myself in the sport and got to know other runners I would stick with the plan. Race training hasn’t been an easy journey. I developed Achilles tendinitis from tight calves and poor running form, an injury that I’m still working through.

When a coworker talked me into doing a half marathon on Oct 1st, a month earlier than scheduled, I decided to go for it and make it a practice run. While the race was way harder than I ever expected due to the hilly course and lack of participants (only 246) it was a rewarding experience. When I finished the race on a cold and rainy morning upstate, I thought to myself, “They can’t all be this bad”! Now I’m actually looking forward to hitting my goal time at the Rock & Roll half-marathon in Savannah, Georgia on November 5th.

In addition to the hundreds of miles I’ve clocked since March I learned a few things. You must treat your body with love and care if you want it to perform for you. Committing to your goals & perseverance are key. You can do more than you give yourself credit for. And probably the most important for me, running is better with friends. Luckily I made 200 new ones which I get to see every Monday night at Harlem Run. Running will never be the same.


Amir Figueroa7 Comments