I was 12 when I had my first cigarette, and I became an official full-fledged underage smoker by 14. At the ripe old age of 17, I was up to a pack a day. It wasn’t until I turned 21 that I started playing with the idea of quitting. I began to feel gross, especially on the nights I worked in a bar. Back then, smoking was allowed in so many places, and being a smoker in a smoke-filled club all night, I would often wake up not being able to breathe very well.
Looking back, I’m not sure how it was possible to become a smoker at 14. I guess it didn’t help that I lived in a town where purchasing cigarettes or alcohol was as easy as handing over a note from your parents. Plus, because smoking was allowed almost everywhere, it wasn’t odd to see a teenager walking around, cigarette in hand or mouth, or sitting in a diner with friends sharing a pack.
When I turned 26, I finally quit once and for all, and I haven’t gone back. That was around the same time I took up running. When someone asks why I started running, there’s always a different answer, depending on the day I’m having. I started for so many reasons – quitting smoking and getting healthy are among them.
Running, Food, Family, Friends, Repeat Now, life just seems to be about running. We’ve logged another couple of hard runs, including an 18-miler. But we also had a nice group dinner at fellow trainee Jenny Williams’ parents’ house. It was excellent. Her folks put out an amazing spread that even took the vegetarians into consideration. Coming from an Italian background, I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
It’s amazing to see all the support from family and friends. My own family is small and mostly disengaged, so it’s pretty cool when other parents “adopt” us, so to speak, and make sure we’re all well fed. Jenny’s parents are just those type of people, and the instant you walk into their house, you feel at home. They’re going down to Florida for the marathon to cheer Jenny on, and it makes me smile to think about the love in that family and how I end up benefiting from it by sharing in just a slight part of it.
18 Miles and Counting Getting back to the 18 miles and what it feels like to run that long and that far… well, it’s hard to keep a positive attitude for hours and hours and not feel like everything you’re doing is a struggle. The real trick is to never stop if possible. When we cross streets, we hope that there will be no cars, or that cars will stop for us, because as we all get closer to those last few miles, stopping might mean never starting again.
We didn’t all make it. One runner got sick about 16 miles in. We are all trying out different forms of easy-to-consume nutrition while we run and for her, the combo of GU and other energy packs didn’t leave her feeling great. It’s a little scary since several of us are getting hurt before we even hit the 20-mile mark. Actually running all 26.2 miles without injury might be a small miracle. I’m not sure that any of this is healthy.
Half-Marathons? Ragnars? Bring ‘Em I am getting better at running shorter distances and enjoying them. What’s more, running five to eight miles on a work day is no longer impossible. I find it amusing that the idea of running half-marathons actually seems fun now and I can’t wait to sign up for more. There are all types of themed half-marathons that have made my bucket list.
A group of us just formed a Ragnar team called, appropriately, Whine Now, Wine Later. Many thanks to fellow trainee Laura Cotugno for coming up with that ingenious name. I’m really excited to be part of this group and can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us. It’s interesting planning a long relay run in the middle of training for my first marathon. I ran my first Ragnar last year and just a year later, I’m already helping a new group of people through next year’s. I love sharing in these experiences, and I’m grateful for where running has taken me and the people I’ve met along the way.
Work Hard, Play Hard This weekend we’re tackling 20 miles. I can think of many other things I’d rather be doing on my Saturday, but I’m committed to this and I’ve come too far to quit now. I’m just going to do it, no matter what it takes. To stay motivated, I’m treating myself to a road trip that hopefully involves a visit to my favorite brewery, Keegan’s, and definitely includes one of my favorite annual events – Rosendale’s International Pickle Fest. I even plan to have some awesome company for the trip. It’s all about the little rewards in life after working so hard to keep going.
Lauren (third from left) is all smiles after a much-needed and well-deserved Italian feast prepared by Carol Ingarra (second from right)—talented chef, adoptive team mom, and real mom of fellow trainee Jenny Williams (third from right).