Jan 12

Run Like a Girl: How I Started, 2 Blocks At A Time

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When I wrote in my Run Like a Girl Challenge kick-off post (#runwithdara) that I was only able to run two blocks at a time when I first started, I meant it.
Run Like a Girl: How I Started, 2 Blocks At A Time | cookincanuck.com #running #runwithdara #fitness

When I tell people that I have run several half-marathons and one full marathon, they inevitably say, “Oh, I could never do that. I’ve never been a runner and don’t think I ever could be. You’re crazy!”

That is exactly what I used to say. In fact, I sang that tune so many times that it made it to the top of my personal billboard charts.

I went through a brief running stint in my early 20s, dragging myself through a few 10k races over an 8-month period. And then I didn’t run again for about 10 years.

When my eldest son was just a year old, two neighborhood friends and I stood on the sidelines of the St. George Marathon in southern Utah, watching our husbands cross the finish line, exhausted but elated.

I wanted that feeling…badly. But that would require running.

My two girlfriends, who had already been pounding the pavement a few days each week, convinced me to join them.

“You can do it, Dara. We’ll go slowly…we promise. And we can stop and walk whenever you need to.”

Uh huh.

I looked at them suspiciously. What was the ulterior motive? Was this some sort of brain-washing, Stepford Wives kind of running cult they were dragging me into?

Was I going to be required to wear matching headbands and sparkly shirts that said, “If found on ground, please drag to finish line”?


(Shirt and photo from Highball)

Through a mixture of peer pressure and purely delusional thoughts, I laced up a pair of running shoes for the first time in 10 years.

That first run loomed in front of me like Goliath before David. Okay, this was going to be hard, but I should be able to run a least half a mile before walking. Right?

Two blocks in, I had to walk, gasping for breath. From there on out, I claimed that I needed to stop every two blocks to drink water, or I was liable to get a searing side cramp, which would inevitably lead to all sorts of dramatic whining.

This running thing…yeah, it kind of sucked.

Run Like a Girl: How I Started, 2 Blocks At A Time | cookincanuck.com #running #runwithdara #fitness
This is the pain part.

I’ll be completely honest. If it wasn’t for my girlfriends, I wouldn’t have pulled myself out of bed in those early days. The camaraderie was just as important, if not more so, than the actually running.

I’ll be talking more about running with others in next week’s post.

The turning point:

I actually can’t pinpoint a moment when it all changed. I don’t think it was a “light switch on” kind of moment, but rather a gradual progression towards bearable and then even enjoyable pain.

“Enjoyable pain”…an oxymoron of the highest order. But there’s some truth to it.

Although I still run with my running partner – and love every minute of our catch-up time – her availability is not a prerequisite to hitting the road. Hey, everybody needs some “alone” time every now and then.

As hard as some workouts may be, there’s something so satisfying about running an extra half mile, fighting your way up that hill and pushing through cardio distress (you know, that feeling that your lungs can’t stand another minute of it) to the feeling of euphoria and the second wind on the other side.

As many times as I have complained about crawling out of my warm bed at 5:30am to fit in a run, there are at least twice as many times when I finish the run, saying to myself, “I am so glad I did that!”

In fact, I say that every single time. Even on the toughest running days, I feel grateful that my body can carry me through those miles, getting stronger with each step.

Run Like a Girl: How I Started, 2 Blocks At A Time | cookincanuck.com #running #runwithdara #fitness
But so worth it in the end.

That doesn’t mean that I look forward to and embrace every run as though its my last. That would just be a bald-faced lie!

Each day is a concerted effort, a learning process, a challenge on its own.

That’s kind of what makes it so great.

If you’re joining me on this challenge (no mileage commitment…just running at whatever level and speed is right for you), be sure to use the hashtag #runwithdara on Instagram, Twitter, etc. to tag your pictures and comments.

And be sure to leave comments on these “Run Like a Girl” posts. I want to know how the challenge is going for you!

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria January 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

Thanks for sharing your journey with us! You are inspiring! I can’t wait to get my running shoes back on. Hopefully soon:)


2 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:17 am

Thank you, Maria! You are always so good about keeping yourself moving, whether it’s running or on the elliptical.


3 Andrea Campbell January 12, 2014 at 9:23 am



4 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thank you, Andrea.


5 Holly January 12, 2014 at 9:35 am

I don’t see a marathon in my future but I relate to your getting started just 2 blocks at a time. I tried the app last summer “from couch to 5k (c25k)” and started very slowly. It was a big help to have the app tell me when to walk and when to run. I’d recommend it to anyone just getting started (especially after a long break from exercising like me).


6 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:18 am

Thanks fantastic, Holly! I know lots of people who love the c25k app. And you certainly don’t need to run a marathon to call yourself a runner! :)


7 Sharon January 12, 2014 at 10:11 am

You have inspired me! I’m 70 years old just recovering from BC. Cancer free now.
Did the whole nine yards, surgery, chemo, radiation that was my Marathron.
Now I’m ready to get strong, I fought like a girl, now I’m going to run like a girl.
I’ve enrolled in yoga to get my muscles ready, I’ll run the beach everyday, mostly walking but I’ll do it!!! I walk now 8000 steps a day (average) and will up the ante.


8 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

Sharon, you are amazing! What a fantastic attitude and drive you have. There’s nothing like showing cancer whose boss by getting your body strong again post-treatment. I can’t wait to hear about your journey. Please keep leaving comments on these posts!


9 Sharon January 12, 2014 at 10:20 am

PS : Love Your CookBook!
You look great, congrats on your Marathon plus!!!


10 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:20 am

A cookbook hasn’t happened yet, but I hope you enjoy the recipes on my blog! :)


11 Susan January 12, 2014 at 10:21 am

It’s been a few years, okay seven, since my last race (the Seattle half marathon) and I had been contemplating running a full marathon every year for years. Now that I’ve paid off a huge portion of my student loan debt and actually have something called free time, instead of working extra jobs to pay off said student loan debt, I decided it’s time to run again. Back in November I started training for the LA marathon. You’re right! It’s amazing to think that those first few weeks seemed like a lot of running but now a three or five mile run is a piece of cake. The fifteen yesterday…not so much. Thankfully, I have a couple of really great running partners, Abby & Lexi (my yellow and black labs). They get me up every morning and wait semi-patiently at the front door while I attempt to tie my running shoes.

Thank you for sharing your story!


12 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

Susan, you are knocking it out of the park! It’s so true that those first weeks and months feel so challenging, and amazing to think that you’ve now worked yourself up to 15 miles. And there’s nothing like a couple of energetic pups to get you moving in the morning. Who can resist those “run with me” eye?! Please keep me updated on your journey!


13 Liz January 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

Thank you, Dara. Have a Wonderful Sunday.


14 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

Thanks, Liz. The same to you.


15 Barbara | Creative Culinary January 12, 2014 at 10:48 am

Years ago when my ex-husband left for his ‘true love’ and I was alone and scared with two little kids, no job, a huge mortgage and more…I decided I needed to alleviate some of that stress or it would kill me. I had given up many of the physical pursuits I had enjoyed as his involvement with our girls was minimal (and now I knew why!) and I never had a moment alone.

My dear neighbor agreed to come over early each morning while my girls were sleeping so I could start walking a couple of blocks; yes, I had gained some weight thru pregnancy and stress and was not in the best shape of my life…that’s for sure.

A couple of blocks became a mile, a mile became two and it wasn’t too long before I was walking a 3 mile path around our neighborhood. To push myself a bit further I decided I would ‘try’ running a bit. It was like the beginning of walking. First just a block then a couple of blocks, then a couple more and I remember to this day that overwhelming sense of elation when I ran the entire 3 miles. It took a full year to get there but once there, there was no stopping me. I started doing some weight training and more at the gym and found an indoor track for the coldest part of winter. I entered some 5K races and loved the entire experience.

Contrary to what some thought, I was not motivated by anger or getting back at my ex…I think what happened to me is that it was the first time in a long time that I found time to dedicate to ME and I loved it. It made me feel not just healthier and strong but simply more valuable; you know…I really did matter!!

I kept with that program for years…and then I broke my leg 4 years ago. Broke it bad. I’ll always limp but at least I’m walking and not using a walker! I’m getting settled in a new home without a 2nd floor and giving that poor knee a break but I’m also back on track to gain back some of that strength and yes, again, lose some of the pounds those first 2 years of almost complete inactivity culminated in.

Why do I share ALL of this? I didn’t especially care for the notion of walking or even running but I did it because I thought it would make me feel better. At first it was just a chore but there comes a time when it’s no longer a chore…it’s a need and how wonderful that it’s a healthy need right? I’ve loved watching your journey Dara and hope that people like you (and I) can inspire someone to find the time for yourself, give it a chance, take a risk and yes, in the words of Nike, ‘Just Do It.’ You won’t be sorry, I know I wasn’t and it’s pretty clear about you Dara…I’ve seen the change, not just in your body but in your spirit. Trite maybe but so true…You GO Girl!!!


16 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

Barb, thank you so much for sharing your story. You are such a wonderful example of someone who spent some quality ME time and took control of their lives in every way. Thank you so much for your kind words and for being such an inspiration yourself!


17 Melissa January 12, 2014 at 10:56 am

Awesome Dara – running has always been part of my life but this past year it slipped by the wayside and with a foot injury and making “busy” excuses, I’ve been having trouble getting motivated to get out there again. This reminded me how great it feels when you’re finished, even if you didn’t want to start. First up, new running shoes next week :) Thanks!


18 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 12, 2014 at 11:26 am

Ah yes, those busy excuses are hard to brush aside. I’m so glad that you’re going to join me in this challenge! Please check in on these posts and let me know how your running is going.


19 Cindy @ Kicking it In January 12, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Dara, you’ve said it straight- up honestly here. There is NO magic light switch that gives you unlimited and constant motivation to run for the sheer joy of it. Pain is involved. Bad runs happen for seemingly no reason. But you do improve, inside and out. I find it’s the life you create in and around running that gives you the joy – from nailing workouts in tough times, to simply choosing
to invest in yourself when you could find 100 excuses to blow off your run on any given day. And great “bragging right” stories of the highs and lows that go with running.


20 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:39 pm

It’s so true…there rarely appears to be a rhyme or reason for “good” or “bad” runs, but it’s the feeling from knocking it out, and the improvement over time, that gives me great satisfaction.


21 Cindy @ Kicking it In January 12, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Oops, only part of my reply came through! I meant to add that the above is what running gives you – a new center of power that comes from living this way – challenging and triumphing every time you lace up. Everyone you meet sees this confidence in you, the runner. It’s not about meeting some irrelevant standard of what a “real” runner is. That is the crazy part! It’s about the effort and growth, inside and out.

Everyone on this thread who has made the decision, CONGRATS! I am so inspired just reading through his page! Everyone on the fence, come on. We will do this together. It takes a village!



22 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:41 pm

There’s really no sense in comparing yourself with someone else. Everybody has a different experience with running and runs at a different pace. It truly is about personal growth. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Cindy. You’re are always so inspiring to me!


23 Stephanie @ Long Distance Baking January 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Two years ago I “got into” running and did my first half marathon. Grand ideas of yearly races floated around and my running partner and I vowed to do another race together. But of course, life gets in the way. First it’s too cold in the winter. Then it’s too hot in the summer. I even once used the excuse that it had just rained and there were too many worms on my running trail that I turned around and went home (I really hate worms…). You’re right…running is hard. Sometimes it’s not fun. But once you get to that point, where 3, 4, 5 miles is easy…that’s when I start enjoying it. Reading through your Boston post reminds me running isn’t just about me. It is in some ways, but us runners have to stick together. Thank you for the motivation to lace up my shoes again. I’ll be following along on this journey!


24 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:42 pm

LOL. I laughed at the comment about the worms because my running partner feels the same way! I’m so glad that you’ll be joining in on the challenge. The community is a strong one, and will be stronger for having you as a part of it.


25 Jodee Weiland January 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Great job, Dara! Because of asthma that isn’t helped much outdoors here in the Midwest and knee injuries from a fall I took while jogging outdoors a few years back, I jog in place indoors everyday on my mini trampoline for 65 minutes or more. Sometimes I will do another 30 to 40 minutes later in the day because I enjoy it so much. I would love to do more outdoors, but while the mini trampoline has helped strengthen my knees, the asthma depends on environmental counts. You have to be able to breathe to run. Maybe I’ll try again when we get better weather in the spring, but no matter what I will continue to jog indoors on the mini trampoline. Good luck to you on your continued efforts and accomplishments.


26 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Wow, that is fantastic, Jodee! Whether you’re inside on the treadmill or trampoline, or outside on the road or trails, a runner is a runner. Way to go!


27 Laura (Tutti Dolci) January 12, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I love this post, Dara! After a few years off, I’ve been running 3-4 days a week since July. Some runs are easier than others, but I never regret going – even if it involves putting on extra gear to face the 46 degree winter days!


28 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:44 pm

You said it, Laura! There’s no regret…just that feeling of satisfaction at the end of a run. I have to tell you…46 degrees sounds idyllic right about now. :)


29 Divacowgirl January 12, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Almost inspires me to try it again


30 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Cheering you on! I would love to have you as part of the challenge.


31 Kim (Feed Me, Seymour) January 12, 2014 at 7:49 pm

I’m really glad to see this. I really, really want to start running but it’s almost like I can’t find a starting point, I’ll never be able to, it’s too hard. Hearing that others had the same feelings at one point, well that makes it so much better for me! Motivational!


32 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Not to be cliche, but it truly happens one step at a time. You can do this, Kim!


33 Trish @infinebalance January 12, 2014 at 8:10 pm

I read the first post about “run like a girl” yesterday and it got on the treadmill this morning. It is so true – you never regret a run. You might not enjoy it, but you will not regret it.
thanks for this. This is just what I needed to get back at it.


34 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

I’m so glad, Trish! Please keep me updated on how the running is going for you.


35 Kirsten | My Kitchen in the Rockies January 12, 2014 at 8:42 pm

My son is a runner, He loves it. I also hear your words through him. You are a true inspiration, Dara. Allerliebste Gruesse. Kirsten


36 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Thank you, Kirsten! It’s great to hear that your son is out there, hitting the roads. Any chance that you’d want to join me in this challenge?


37 Tess January 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

You inspired me with your post! Normally I run at night and in weekends. I am planning on taking a run BEFORE work tomorrow. I have to get up at 6:15 am, not nearly as early as your 5:30 but I’m still a bit nervous whether I will hear my alarm clock.. I hope I do and I hope it will give me energy throughout my work day.Thanks!


38 Dara (Cookin' Canuck) January 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Good for you, Tess! I won’t lie…it’s hard to pull yourself out of bed first thing in the morning. But Nike says it all – “Just do it”. I promise that you won’t regret it. It’s such a great way to start the day!


39 Tess January 21, 2014 at 2:24 am

Well, I did it! It feels great, although I am looking forward to lunch break even more than usual ;)
Thanks again, and I love your recipes as well.


40 kelley January 15, 2014 at 6:39 am

I’m so glad you’re sharing your story. You’re a true inspiration! How many times have I told you I’m not a runner? Now I wonder if I’m just lying to myself…. humph.


41 Traci January 16, 2014 at 6:52 am

I took on the personal challenge to get back into shape last year and felt exactly like you. It was horrible starting out! By the end of the summer I was running half’s every weekend. I run the same trails I did last year and think everytime I go out, “remember when I could only walk this stretch?” Now I am hitting personal mileage bests. I enjoy the freedom of choosing my own schedule with running and being able to toss my daughter into the jogger and have the kids grab their bikes and come with me. It’s been a great experience. good luck to you this year!


42 Kirsten January 16, 2014 at 11:04 am

This post reminds me of my wonderful walking buddies back in Virginia. Rain or shine or snow (but not black ice) three mornings a week we’d meet up at 0545 and go for an hour long brisk walk. For the rest of the group it was a chance to exercise their dogs before the day started, but for me it was just a chance to get exercise and catch up with friends. (The guinea pigs did not desire to accompany me.)
I missed that time when I first moved here, and though I made friends and would go on walks it’s not the same. However I have 3 walking buddies now: Simon, Vincent Barbarino, and Wee Oliver Picklepants. They keep me from spending too much time indoors with their love of excursions.
When I begin training in earnest for the USAF half marathon (I’ll be walking it, again, hopefully this time with my spouse) I’ll be doing loops past the house to drop off dogs (first Wee Oliver, as his 2.5 inch long legs can’t go past 2 miles), then Vincent, and finally Simon–leaving me “free” to walk as fast as I want to without stopping to sniff everything. It’s a terrific feeling to complete a particularly long walk–a couple of weeks before my first half marathon I walked the HouseSpouseTriHalfMarathon just to make sure I could do it for realz.
Great idea for a running challenge, I look forward to reading more.


43 Ali January 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm

I was just starting to get back in to running and sprained my ankle badly two days ago. As I’m laying here on the couch icing my ankle it’s good to have a reminder that, while it won’t be easy, I can always start over….again.


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