The Casual Runner

Guest Contributor Jen Smith: My First Mile

Guest Contributor: Jen Smith, Old Bridge, New Jersey

Below is the first reader contribution to www.Casual-Runner.com.  Shortly after we launched Casual Runner, Jen contacted us and asked if she could tell the story of her own first mile.  As Jen’s story shows us, we are all Casual Runners and we all have stories to tell.  In fact, sharing these stories and being inspired by one another are the reasons that Casual-Runner.com exists.  If you would like to share your Casual Running story with us, please contact us via email using the link at the bottom of the page or you can reach out to us using Facebook or Twitter

Jen Phillips Smith First Mile Pic A

This is me in my pre-Casual Runner days, pregnant with baby boy #1.

Just a few years ago, I could not have imagined contributing to a website about running.  Before I conquered my first mile in 2012, I had not exercised regularly (or pretty much at all) since the end of my junior varsity soccer season in 1997.  For most of my life, I thought of running as either: (i) punishment (as in “Girls, stop talking during soccer practice and go run a few laps”); or (ii) an activity for those lucky enough to be born athletic, graceful, and thin.

Just a few years ago, I could not have imagined contributing to a website about running.  Before I conquered my first mile in 2012, I had not exercised regularly (or pretty much at all) since the end of my junior varsity soccer season in 1997.  For most of my life, I thought of running as either: (i) punishment (as in “Girls, stop talking during soccer practice and go run a few laps”); or (ii) an activity for those lucky enough to be born athletic, graceful, and thin.

Most people think that my decision to run was influenced by my husband.  He has always been athletic.  He was captain of the high school swim team when I met him.  He swam in college, joined the military, and now coaches swimming.  Although my husband has been supportive of my decision to run, and I have always been proud of his accomplishments, he was not the one who inspired me to run my “first mile.”  Frankly, I always thought he was born with some sort of innate ability to run, while I was not.  The world was split between runners and non-runners, and I knew which side of the line I was on.

Jen Phillips Smith First Mile Pic B

Prepping for my first duathlon.

That all changed in July 2012, eight weeks after my second c-section in as many years, when I received a call from my friend Mike.  He told me he had signed up for a 10k race, which is more than 6 miles of running – voluntarily – all at once.  It sounded ridiculously unachievable (not just for Mike, but for any “non-runner” in my black and white idea of the running world).

Mike and I had similar lives.  We were friends in college (where the only exercise we did together was getting a keg up the stairs), we both went to law school, and we understood the stress and bad habits that came with the early days of being a lawyer.  If Mike could run a 10k, maybe I had a chance of jogging a mile.

I downloaded a C25K app that day and got to work.  I walked down to a local rails-to-trails path (mostly because I did not want anyone to see me running, for fear they would think I was trying to be something I was not) and started the first interval workout.  On my first day, I could not run an entire minute straight.  In fact, I could not even imagine running an entire minute straight.  It took me three tries to honestly complete the first workout, but eventually I did.  At some point, sweating profusely and red in the face, I hit my “first mile.”  I spent the rest of the summer sneaking down to the running path every other day until I was ready to tackle my first 5K race in September.  I chose a small race, for a relatively unknown organization, in a town where I was guaranteed not to know anyone.  In fact, my husband was the only one who knew I was even attempting a 5K.  My goal was to run the race, without stopping or walking, in under 40 minutes.  I made it with a precious 15 seconds to spare!

Jen Phillips Smith First Mile Pic C

My husband showing his support as I get ready to set out for the Belmar 5 earlier this summer.

Since then, running has become a regular part of my life.  I try to get in 10 to 15 miles per week.  Oddly enough, I actually enjoy it and miss it if I go more than two days without lacing up my sneakers.  I like the quiet moments, I like feeling physically stronger, and I certainly like being more than a few pounds lighter.  This season, I completed two 5-mile races, a half marathon relay (6.3 miles for my leg), and my first duathlon.  Although I will not be winning any races any time soon, my personal times have dramatically improved from my first 5k.

I still feel like an imposter some days, although less and less as time goes on.  I will never be the fastest runner, or the most graceful, or the thinnest, but I have now let my dirty little secret out: I am a Casual Runner (and duathlete!), and I like it.

We have an entire series of First Mile features. You can check out the others below, and, if you are so inclined, we’d love to add your own story to this collection!

– Jenny told us how she is successful in her Casual Running adventure, even though she admittedly was not the biggest fan of running. 

– Carly shared with us why she wants to be a runDisney Princess, and reminded us of the importance of setting personal goals and sticking to them.

Jake explained how he got himself onto the path of his own Casual Running adventure, which now includes a very creative race costuming hobby

– Jennifer is a mainstay of the Casual Runner Team, but she had to start somewhere. Here is her first mile story.

– Mike also had to start somewhere. As we mentioned above, it took him several times of trying and failing before he was able to succeed in his goal of becoming a Casual Runner, Here is his story.

– Starting from a different point of view, Steve, ran his first mile, and never looked back.

– Tony went from aspiring poet to aspiring Casual Runner.

– In sharing her first mile story, Jen helped us understand the way we view ourselves as runners and running itself.

– Ryan’s compelling first mile involved conquering some personal challenges.

– Allison inspired us by sharing where she found her own inspiration.

– Kari’s first miles and race experience were unique and personal, and serve to remind us that we all have unique experiences and stories to share.

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add us to your circle on Google+.  See you out on the running trails!  

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5 thoughts on “Guest Contributor Jen Smith: My First Mile

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