A blog by runners. For runners.

My first run: Ashley Marcin


This is an installment of an on-going series called “My First Run”. You can read more here and submit your first run story here

My first run was the Presidential Fitness Test mile time-trial in 4th grade gym class. I was 9 years old, and if I’m remembering correctly, I think we did 10 laps of this tiny playground island at my elementary school. I finished alongside my best friend at the time in just under 9 minutes with a huge smile on my face and much energy to spare.

When puberty hit several years later, this athletic event became the most dreaded moment of every year. I was a band kid. And when I wasn’t in band, I was in chorus or music theater productions. You get the idea. At our school — and at many, I’m told — you sort of had to follow one path of interests. Obviously, this is very much pre-Glee days when letter-earning athletes didn’t harmonize show tunes and vice versa.

Anyway, my transition from hating running to loving it was extremely bumpy and rife with struggle and complaint. I had decided to stay in my college town the summer after my freshman year. A couple days into my stay, I fell so ill with a mystery sickness, I had to return home for rest and close monitoring. Eventually I pulled out of it and returned to my apartment and life in general. After weeks of laying in bed, I felt weak and flabby — both physically and mentally.

A few housemates of mine were runners. Not just joggers either, but marathon runners, and the whole concept of making it 26.2 miles on foot utterly baffled me. I simply hadn’t been exposed to that level of activity, and quite frankly didn’t even know people did that sort of thing. It sounded crazy. These friends encouraged me to get out there and try running. So, inspired by the unknown, I did.

I’d consider my first real run to be a solid 10 years after my very first actual mile. It was a hot July day when I laced up a pair of Converse sneakers and ran down . . . the block. Huffing and puffing, I had made it maybe a tenth of a mile. The experience was incredibly humbling. I knew my sickness was partially to blame, but I also knew I was horribly out of shape for a 19-year-old. I had gotten by on my natural slimness and somehow tricked my body into thinking I was “healthy” when it was so very far from the truth.

I walked another block and then tried more running. Winded again, the difficulty kept me going. I had made it another block and continued this walk/run approach until I reached a half mile. I returned home in the same fashion and slipped off my shoes, feeling exhausted and ravenous. That mile wasn’t exactly as easy as my 9-year-old self had found it. I mostly felt proud of myself, though. Though there was nothing at all easy or pleasant about the experience, I felt up to the challenge and knew it was for the good of my body and my mind.

Slowly I started replacing the walk portions of my exercise by running until I could do a mile, then two. My biggest accomplishment that summer was making my way around an entire 3-mile loop without stopping. Three whole miles. From there, it’s been a long journey full of successes, failures, PRs, injuries, and lots and lots and lots of miles — fast and slow.

When friends and others ask me the “trick” to becoming a runner, to pushing past that hard stage, I explain that there isn’t one. Of course it’s highly individual, but for me it took persistence and hard work. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I wanted to run a marathon. I couldn’t even run down the street without struggle. By sticking with it and having patience with myself, I’ve gained a healthy habit for life.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.