Health Female Adda
1 year ago
What Happened When I Stopped Telling Myself I 'Couldn't' Run

I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but I never thought I could be one. I used my bad knees, debilitating shin splints, and asthma as excuses—and they seemed legitimate enough. So legitimate, in fact, that they kept me from even trying to run for about 12 years.

Until this summer, the last time I could remember running a mile—let alone more than that—was in the 10th grade. But then my boss forwarded me an invitation to attend Nike's Zoom Camp for what I thought would be a simple press trip to launch their new running sneaker, Pegasus 32. In reality, it ended up being an intense two-day training camp (with tents, lanterns, bugs, and all) that culminated in participants trying to run their fastest miles. Wait, what?!

When I got to Eugene, Oregon, I quickly realized that all of the other attendees were runners—except me.

(I even had to covertly Google “running PR” on my phone to figure out that people were talking about their personal records.) I immediately started second-guessing myself, especially when I was picked last by the Nike running coaches for a team. Okay, they really just announced the teams that were pre-selected ahead of time, but they still called my name last (face palm!).

The three Nike coaches—Joe Holder, Katie Bottini, and Blue Benadum—were amazing and so, so supportive (special shout out to Coach Holder, who led my team). Still, I went to bed feeling defeated after four hours of sprints, recovery jogs, and conditioning on day one. My shin splints had shown up for work in a big way, and my baseline time of 12 minutes for a mile was slower than I’d expected it to be. My stomach, aching from nerves, kept me up all night.

Day two was equally brutal, and then, as I started the last stair workout, I got a Charlie horse that actually had me on the ground in pain. Nike Zoom Camp: 2. Jenn: 0.

NIKE


Day three was the last day of Zoom Camp—and race day. Coach Holder told me he thought I could run a sub-10 mile. My first thought: “What the crap is sub-10?” My second thought: “If that means less than 10 minutes, he’s crazy. But he thinks I can run a mile in less than 10 minutes...” His confidence in me meant more than he probably realized.

The race took place at the legendary Hayward Field.

Photograph courtesy of NIKE


While most athletes are beyond excited to run there—they say there’s magic in the track—I was pretty convinced I would die there. I was so nervous, I could barely breathe. Then track star Galen Rupp (who can run a mile in under four minutes!) gave us a pep talk. “It doesn’t matter how fast you go,” he said. “What matters is that you’re trying and that you finish.”

Photograph courtesy of NIKE


I felt like crying, but I told myself, “Jenn, at least try! Do something that scares you for once! Get out of your comfort zone!” So I took my mark.

Everyone took off, and I started jogging at a very (very) slow pace. As I neared the end of my second lap, I realized…I was about to get lapped. I started to feel discouraged, but then everyone began yelling, “Come on, Jenn, you can do this!” as they passed me. They clearly had more faith in me than I did, and I smiled.

I pushed through the shin splints, sore knees, and aching calves and crossed the finish line at 10:40. Not sub-10 at all, but I didn’t stop running the entire time. To an experienced runner, that might not have been a big deal, but to me, it was everything—especially since everyone cheered and hugged me when I crossed the finish line. It made me cry, but not in the same way I’d wanted to before I started the race.

My life has changed a lot since that day three months ago when Coach Holder told me I was a runner and I decided to believe him.

After Zoom Camp ended, I wanted to keep the momentum going and participated in something called Zoom Academy, an eight-week training program from Nike designed to help participants run their fastest miles. I trained with Nike coaches three times a week for the duration of the program—and I’m happy to say I’m now 10 pounds lighter, have run three miles without stopping, and have a mile PR (ha!) of 8:34. It’s not the fastest time, but it’s my fastest—and it can only get better from here.

Jennifer Peña


So thank you, Nike and Coach Holder, for believing in me and teaching me to trust my body and to run for myself, not for others. To run at my pace, not others’. To beat my time, not others’. The whole experience has made me more confident, healthier, and happier. I'm so happy that our fitness director Jen Ator couldn't go on this trip and decided to ask me if I wanted to go in her place (thanks, Jen!). I never thought I could be a runner, and now I know—I was wrong.

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