After a 45-minute run this past Monday, I decided to take a full week off, focus on my PT exercises and continue to take it easy until I get rid of my lingering hamstring discomfort. It’s minor, but it’s there and I’m sick of it messing up my training. Not running has been tough – I really need my stress-release right now, with more exams coming up and countless other things on my plate – but now’s the time to focus on recovery. Chicago training begins in June and I am determined to begin, and end, that training cycle injury free!

Taking time off means that I won’t be in racing shape for the Brooklyn Half, but I entered that race knowing that would probably be the case. It’s only a few days after my final exams, and I highly doubt I will be primed to PR. That’s why I signed E up too – it gives him a good excuse to visit me (not like he needs one) as I celebrate finishing my first semester, and it will be a great opportunity for me to finally pace him in a race. My goal is to bring him in under 1:50, which was his goal in the NYC half. I normally wouldn’t sign him up without really asking, but the race was selling out so quickly and I knew he would want to run it if he had a spot. That’s the nice thing about dating another runner – I don’t think I could randomly email a race confirmation to anyone else and get “woohoo!” as a response.

The running aspect of my relationship with E is actually a feature of my Running Story, which I’m excited to report was published this past Friday in Sam Murphy’s Real Women Run, by Kyle Books. If you’re interested, you can check it out at the publisher’s siteAmazon or Amazon UK – my story (pictured below) is in the preview pages! Awesome.

This means that I can finally share the actual text of my story, to accompany all the photos and past entries I have posted since Sam – my UK running coach- first asked me to contribute to her new book in June 2011.

Here’s a bit of context – she invited five women of different backgrounds and ages to write a short piece on why they run and how they integrate running into their lives. She wanted my story, which describes how I got back into running while living in London, to represent the perspective of a twenty-something woman with a busy career and social life. I found it challenging to write what running means to me in just 500 words, while representing this specific point of view, but it was a fun project.

I figured I was entitled to a bit of dramatic license, so I embellished and twisted things around slightly. My job wasn’t so high-powered that I rushed off to important early morning meetings or worked late on a regular basis (once in awhile, sure) as the story implies, and I actually started running again before not after my last relationship ended (but just up to 10k distance). A friend encouraged me to enter the half marathon, and I did so before not after the breakup. But the breakup definitely inspired me to throw myself into training for that race, and ultimately fall in love with longer distances. It was very empowering, tracking my progress over the course of those four months and crossing my first half marathon finish line, faster than I could have ever imagined!

Everything else is true – weekends in Istanbul, beach runs in Zanzibar and all. I traveled and socialized very often, and balancing that with running was at times a bit difficult, but I made it work. One thing I didn’t include in the story is the fact that I trained for that half marathon on occasion with my ex – it was a great way to remain in each other’s lives during a somewhat awkward post-breakup phase, before we became friends again. It was also wonderful having his support on race day – running your first half is scary, and I was glad I wasn’t doing it by myself. It didn’t hurt either that I got to gloat a bit over my time afterwards, although I’ll add for his benefit that two years later, he beat my time by 54 seconds on the same course! That’s okay, no one can take that initial victory away from me. 🙂

But enough of my blabbing…here’s the story!

It was a broken heart that motivated me to start running again. I had moved to London to be with the man I’d fallen in love with whilst travelling through South America – but a year later, our relationship came to an end. Although the break-up was amicable, I was nonetheless devastated and needed a healthy challenge to drive me out of my hole and rediscover parts of myself that I had long neglected.

One morning, an ad for the Royal Parks Half Marathon caught my eye. Although I hadn’t run regularly for years and had never run more than six miles, I signed up. I felt a rush of excitement, and then one of fear. How could I successfully juggle an intensive running plan with myriad other things vying for my time?! Initially, I struggled to find the right balance between prioritizing my training and, for example, staying late at work to finish an urgent project, going on a date, helping my sister plan her wedding, spending a weekend in Istanbul…However, I quickly discovered that running doesn’t take time – it gives life force. With each step, I was both clawing back my old self and building the foundation for a new, improved version.

Fittingly, as I had taken up running to leave my previous relationship behind, I did just that on race day – both literally and figuratively. I not only recovered from my emotional slump, but also smashed my first half marathon to pieces, beating my ex (who also happened to be competing) by four minutes! He was proud of me, but visibly annoyed, which made victory that much sweeter.

Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that my passion for running ultimately sparked my current romance. I was at a party, chatting about training for my first marathon, when another runner joined the conversation. It was refreshing to finally connect with someone who shared my love of running! We dated for several months, and after I had completed the Paris marathon – aided by his support and encouragement – my gut confirmed that he was the right guy. Seven months later, we both finished the NYC marathon – his first, and my first sub-3:40. I was incredibly grateful not only to have achieved my goal, but also to celebrate with someone I love who understood exactly how I felt, down to waking up the next morning and hardly being able to hobble to the bathroom!

As time goes on, running continues to inspire me – as I coast along the river before the Monday morning rush; as I furiously attack an interval session prior to an important meeting; as I chat breathlessly with a running buddy in between hill repeats; as I shift gears in mile 16 towards a well-earned Sunday pancake breakfast; as I savour a refreshing breeze along a stretch of beach in Zanzibar; or as I sprint across a finish line and realise – I did it.

What is consistent across all of these runs is that powerful, uplifting feeling of endorphins coursing through my body, translating into the confidence, courage and positive energy that fuel the rest of my day – or dare I say, life.