09/28/2013 10:53 am ET Updated Nov 28, 2013

Why I'm a Runner

I'm a runner. Although I'm relatively new at this, I feel confident I can call myself that now. This year I've run two half marathons, a 5K and I'm signed up for the Brooklyn 10K next month. Running in events is fun, but you certainly don't have to participate in them to earn the title "runner."

Personally, I never thought I'd call myself an athlete or even actively inclined. I laugh every time I picture the chubby fifth grader trying miserably, trying unsuccessfully to run the mandatory mile required of all the students every year. I can still picture the gym teachers shaking their heads as they told me I ran the mile in 13 minutes and that I wasn't even trying.

I started working out a lot a few years ago. Mostly endurance workouts, because I needed to build strength. I was also very unhealthy and it got to a point where I couldn't stand it anymore. I researched healthier ways to eat that I would enjoy, and decided I was not going to diet. I don't think diets are effective. You diet, you're miserable and then you stop and gain everything back. I started eating healthier and didn't deprive myself, but I also maintained a five-day workout week. I slowwwwly strengthened my core, legs, glutes, arms and body. I felt great. I was more confident and well, pretty unstoppable.

I started running after I got home from a month-long backpacking trip to Thailand and Cambodia. I came from this amazing adventure, where I explored new things daily with my best friend, rode elephants and experienced an assortment of outgoing people and cultures back to my everyday routine. I wanted something new to be passionate about. Some friends and I signed up for a half marathon and told each other we would keep tabs on each other's training process. When I started training, I had three months, a team of ladies and very little running endurance to work with.

Since we all lived relatively far apart and with very different work schedules, this race was a big challenge for me. Running alone and in the winter with a goal slowly expanding each week to 13 miles was overwhelming, especially coming home from the sunny, 100-plus degree Southeast Asia. I did a lot of rookie runner research and it helped that two friends doing the race with me were experienced runners with a lot of patience and helpful tips to keep me motivated. I remember panicking after running my first three miles and being out of breath and exhausted. Panic-mode Pam took over, I was freaking out about how I was never going to be able to run 13 miles. I thought this just wasn't something I was capable of and was ready to stop. Though I'd never been much of a quitter, I never thought of myself as physically capable enough to compete in something as intense as a half marathon. Even though I had made a tentative decision that I wasn't capable of running this much, I ran three miles three more times that week.

I was eventually able to run 13 miles, but it took more than the physical capability. I didn't realize I would have to constantly pick myself up, treat rookie mistake injuries, think ahead to how I could do this or that more effectively, and be very positive. Some things that kept me going were the pride I felt every time I achieved a new goal, the stress release I felt from running, the abs that were starting to emerge and the new calm I felt all the time, which I believe was the result of feeling amazing inside and out.

Running is a process. It is NOT easy, and everyone starts from the beginning several times. It's a bit emotional, but very rewarding. I went through a lot to achieve my goal. I succeeded. I am a runner.

For more by Pamela Kokoros, click here.

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