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In the spring of 2009, I was heavy with the weight of two pregnancies with nine months of stress eating in between. I was heavy with grief and exhausted caring for an infant. My husband was engrossed in a challenging nursing program. I was muddling through getting back to working from home with a baby who wasn’t on any real schedule. I was too out of shape to run. I didn’t have time to run, but the Couch Potato to 5K plan made me think maybe I could.

30 minutes, 3 times a week. I could do that.

Walk-run patterns that built up to all running over several weeks. I could do that.

So I did. I handed the baby over to my husband three days. I worked around his schedule, so sometimes my running days weren’t spaced as nicely as I would have liked. Some days I ran in the gathering dusk; some weeks in the blazing heat of the summer noon sun. But I did it, three times a week, until I was running regularly. Until I wanted to run more. Until I missed running when I didn’t.

I loved the C25K plan because it broke things down for me into very attainable goals, so even when I wasn’t running much, I could still check something off, say I did it.

I loved the plan because it had a reasonable end goal. Not running at all to running a marathon sounds daunting. Not running at all to running 3 miles sounds doable.

I love the plan because it made me a runner. For most of my life, I didn’t run at all or I ran to be in shape for other things I liked to do. In my mid-twenties, my sister and I trained for and ran a 5K together. I almost started to love running then. Almost, but not quite.

When I started running again with a baby at home, running gave me something. It helped with that extra weight as expected. It got me out of the house. And it changed my mood and energized me in ways I didn’t expect. I let go of frustrations and sweated out the morning’s meltdown or at least more prepared to deal with the one that came in the afternoon.

It gave me something else too—quiet time, me time. Nobody needed me when I was running. Nobody interrupted my thoughts. My mind wandered. I daydreamed. I still do. I don’t listen to music when I run. I notice the sky and the trees (and the traffic). I count as I breathe. I imagine trips to Italy or hikes on the John Muir trail. I picture our yard with chickens and bees, blueberry bushes and another peach tree. I play with my writing projects. I don’t self-censor. I don’t tell myself why I can’t do these things. I let my dreams flourish while I run.

I’m running a 10K tomorrow because having a goal helps keep me going and pushes me just a little more. I’m running a 10K tomorrow because I love running (even if I walk the monster hill). I’m running a 10K tomorrow, sun or rain, I’ll be out there, sweating, running, dreaming.