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Falling in Love With Running

I remember winning races in Girl Scout camp when I was 9 and 10 and people saying I was fast. But I also remembered faking a stomach ache the last year of camp so I didn't have to run.

I was SO not into running. I was into dance and music and glitter. In eighth grade, my gym teacher, who was also the track coach, started telling me I needed to run track. Something about long legs and hurdles, but I wasn't having it. Did he really think I was going to get gross and sweaty?

Ninth grade came around and a bunch of my friends and classmates ran track. I watched them have a great time and I actually got jealous. I then asked my dad about track and found out he was a great runner in high school. He encouraged me and gave me that last push I needed. So I went out on a limb and starting running track.

Coach humored me when I chose the 100 meter and 200 meter dash. I chose those races because they were short and sweet. When I got stuck getting out of the blocks and didn't fare well with sprints, he asked me if I was finally ready to take his suggestions. I remember him saying, "Ranttila, you're a distance runner. Stop fooling around with those sprints." To this day, I love how he let me figure it out for myself. I also trusted him when he suggested I start with high jump.

High school track led to a love affair with running. I found my niche in the 400 meter, the half mile, the mile. It just felt good.

I ran through college, but then the business of graduate school took over. I didn't run much until my best friend, Sue, got this great idea to run a half marathon to get in shape for her wedding. I remember telling her she was absolutely crazy. Then I went home and thought about it. I thought about setting a goal to run what seemed like an insane distance (13.1 miles!) and very quickly, it seemed like a fabulous idea. I called Sue and told her I didn't think she was crazy after all -- but maybe I was the crazy one since I was going to join her in this half marathon business.

In 2007, we both ran our first half marathon in Chicago. Sixteen half marathons, countless 5Ks and 10Ks later, here I am. I remember when "OMG six miles, hope I don't collapse!" turned into Sue and I justifying having wine with dinner because the next morning we "ONLY had six miles" to run.

The brain is a marvelous thing. The more we do something, the more our thoughts, actions and feelings create pathways to support this thing we do. We can use this power for good or evil. This pattern can create unhealthy habits and self sabotaging behaviors. Or we can use brain power to transform our thinking. Simple perseverance changes six miles from something to dread into something to crave.

Each day we work towards the approximation of a goal, we pave the pathway. Imagine walking through the woods to get somewhere. If you haven't traveled that path before, it will take a lot of time to remove the brush, make a path, check your directions, and find your way. Yet each time you take that path, it gets clearer. It becomes easier and natural to arrive at your destination.

That's how our mind works. Sometimes we have initial resistance to new ideas because we can't envision the path. But even fumbling your way there initially makes it easier and more efficient to keep going. Plus, if you put your feet in the right direction and keep moving, your head and heart are sure to follow!

I love to run. It's hard to believe I once resisted it and disliked it. I talk to people all day for a living. I have the honor of adoring my job and helping people to clear their paths through the woods. Running is MY therapy. My chance to not talk and just feel. My chance to put on my headphones and get lost in music.

The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term "flow" to describe the feeling when time loses meaning due to true engagement with an activity. During flow, people experience deep enjoyment, creativity and total involvement with life (Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 2008). Running is my flow. Because of my love of running and then getting shin splints, I found yoga. Now yoga is also my flow (vinyasa flow, that is!). One path of running led to the path of yoga. And on a personal note, the path of yoga created many paths to beautiful friendships. And it all starting with running!

It's hard to describe how personal running is. Running is about setting goals. Self-actualizing goals is at the peak of Maslow's hierarchy of human needs for a reason. Achieving even the smallest of goals has beautiful implications for well being and happiness.

My goals are my own. I don't pretend to be the fastest runner - I'm just not. It's about improving my own times and besting my personal performance. I had a goal to run 10 half marathons by age 35 and I did it. I want to run 20 by 45 and I only have three to go.

One of the hardest half marathons for me is the Green Cathedral. Anyone from from the Youngstown area knows those infamous Mill Creek hills. It's often my slowest race because of those hills (ugh my shins!) but my goal is to beat last year's time. I wouldn't care if I was the last person across the finish line as long as I beat last year's time. My PR (personal record) is from the very flat Towpath Half Marathon in 2014. I still haven't beat that time. But you know what? I am going to try like hell. Just for me.

I dare you to fall in love with running! And if running isn't your flow, what is? How deep can you take your love? Are you making time to find your flow?

Join me in the Youngstown Marathon on June 3rd. Marathon, half marathon and 5K distances. Visit to register and use promo code NICOLERUNSTHEYO for a great discount. You can also join me to crosstrain with yoga, cycling and pilates at Studio Oxygen Yoga. Message me to get in touch or for any running tips. See you at Mill Creek Park!

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