Do you know what happens when a 30-something married mother of four realizes her love of food from a drive-thru window and general First World living has her scale reading more than her first pregnancy?
She becomes an Ultra Marathon Runner.
Yeah, so maybe not the next day or anything. In fact, I bumbled around numerous misstarts, scale rage, safety pinned pants, and photo editing fails before I successfully walked the dog six miles.
That was two years ago. That same year I finished my first 5k. I placed in my first 10k. The Savannah Bridge run unsuccessfully tried to kill me. I signed up for my first half marathon.
Look out! I think I might be a runner.
But I wasn't the only one. All of Savannah seemed to be discovering this idea. The crazy notion that getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday and run until your legs jellied became less absurd. There was a momentum shift.
The Rock 'n Roll Marathon series was on its way to our city. We had visions of morphing into Kenyans.
"The running community was there but significantly smaller and fragmented," remembers Dan Hernandez, a systems administration from Cadiz, Spain. "I was so amazed at how popular running became in Savannah after the announcement of the first Savannah Rock 'n Roll. To be honest, I thought it was just a fad, but man was I wrong!"
It was exciting. I wanted to be part of that excitement. I had the opportunity to be a part of that excitement.
I chickened out.
In 2012, I swore off fast food and lost 30 pounds. I finished that half marathon. I was determined that I may do a good many things, but chickening out again would not be one of them.
While I will never get back the opportunity to participate in the inaugural event, I conquered the 2012 Savannah Rock 'n Roll Marathon. That I was even able to run at all was a testament to Ledesma Sports Medicine nursing a fractured heel six weeks before the event. I finished under four hours.
My last official act of 2012? I became a dietary vegan, or what is sometimes referred to as a "plant powered athlete," another interesting movement growing in our area.
The landscape of the running community has quickly evolved in the Lowcountry. Victoria Ten Broeck, local runner and blogger extraordinaire has also noticed the uptick in Savannah running.
"New runners, old runners, businesses alike have all come together to promote a sport that has made our city healthier! New races have formed, more people are entering 5k's, and people are excited to get healthy! It's a win-win for the city!"
More than health and recreation, runners look to be good stewards of the community. Nearly all of those 5k races Victoria alluded to are formed to benefit some person or group in need. With the help of local runners and businessmen Robert Espinosa and Tim Waz, Dan brought the first Ultra Marathon, a race covering a distance greater than 26.2 miles, to Savannah.
It benefited the Rails to Trails restoration project near Fort Pulaski. It is also where I earned the right to be called an Ultra Runner.
"Savannah has become a running town! Runners are everywhere. Running groups are springing up in different parts of town doing their own thing and encouraging others to join them. Running has become the all encompassing, all inclusive, recreational sport of Savannah," says Dan.
It is life-changing for many. While that may seem a bit overstated, I'd argue that a few hours spent volunteering at one of the area's many events would quickly provide evidence, at least anecdotally, that I may not be giving the impact the full measure it is due.
As I look at the rest of my 2013 race calendar and into the challenges of early next year, I believe there are stories to tell. Understandably my journey is uniquely mine, and unable to come from any perspective other than my own.
However, I would do this and future tellings an unforgivable injustice if I couched it as simply another runner profile.
It's not simply health, wellness, and mommy gets her sexy back.
It is more than one vegan woman and her barefoot running shoes.
The running community has discovered a whole new level of mettle hidden amidst the traditional spectator favorites. They can tap into it, explore it, and build relationships through it. There is a story of growth here in the South. There is a wealth of community, social responsibility, personal challenge, human spirit, camaraderie, strength, and kindness.
If nothing else, I hope to convey, in some small way, regardless of profiles, accolades, races, or routes, we would still run.
This is great, Ms. Lebos.
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