Intro to Running Notes

| March 15, 2010 | 82 Comments


Every day, I look forward to many things. I look forward to my two (or three) cups of coffee. I look forward to reading my Twitter feed while watching the morning news. But most of all, I look forward to my daily run. I run when it’s cold, hot, windy, raining, snowing, or humid. I often run alone, but I do on occasion run with friends (particularly when it’s a long run or one of us needs the encouragement). Running is part of my daily routine. I have met many incredible people and discovered so much about myself because of it. I am hooked on the progress I continue to make. I love the “runner’s high” and the improvement in my overall health. But you see – I wasn’t always a runner. I wasn’t even much of an athlete. Many of my high school and college friends are shocked to see I’m competing in 10ks (6.2 miles), half marathons (13.1 miles), and full marathons (26.2 miles). They remember me as the frail little girl who didn’t like to break a sweat! Now, in my mid 30s, I’m following in the footsteps of elite athletes and running with thousands of others who might have similar stories.

When I was 11 or 12 years old, I was diagnosed with anemia (specifically thalassemia). I was riddled with fatigue, fainting spells, and severe nose bleeds that required half a roll of paper towels. The doctor instructed me to take iron supplements, which helped a little. Because of my lack of energy, I was not a superstar on the playground, so barely passed the minimum physical education requirements needed to graduate from junior high, high school and college. During my 20s, I ate and drank anything I wanted while managing to keep a trim figure. But just because I was trim did not mean I was healthy! However, having been raised in Southern California, it didn’t matter how you achieved a svelte figure. The constant sunshine and warm temperatures should have motivated me to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, they did not. It wasn’t until after I moved to the colder climes of Chicago when I fell in love with running.

I moved to Chicago in 2001, just weeks before September 11. I created an amazing network, ate lots of good food, and landed a great job at a reputable professional services firm. I also gained about five pounds. OK, maybe it was closer to 10. I joined the gym in 2003 and decided to train myself to run continuously for 30 minutes on the treadmill. I was training virtually with my friend who lives in Houston with her husband (and now two beautiful daughters). We would motivate each other through emails, phone calls, and text messages. All of a sudden, my health improved. I felt stronger!  However, I didn’t continue the running past 30 minutes, which translated to roughly three miles. Coincidentally in 2004, I met and dated someone who was (and still is) an outstanding runner. I’ve eaten many pasta dinners with him so he could carbo-load for runs that were 14-22 miles. I watched him cross the finish line at a 5k race, placing third overall and first in his age group. I cried tears of joy when I cheered him on to a strong finish at the 2004 Chicago Marathon in a blazing fast time of 2:38:01 (his personal record at the time). That means he ran a six-minute mile for 26.2 miles. He was awe-inspiring to watch. He would share with me the play-by-play of how each race went for him. I knew so much about running but didn’t put much of it to use. Although, I did run/walk the Shamrock Shuffle 8k (4.96 miles) earlier that year. I was so discouraged by my embarrassingly slow finish time (yes, race results are publicly displayed), I gave up on continuing the training. Then one day, my boyfriend said to me “Why don’t you give running another try? You never know; you might be good at it. You might have a gift.” Those were the words of encouragement I needed to hear.

In 2005, I stocked up on a few pairs of inexpensive running shorts, sports bras, and sweat-wicking shirts. I got fitted for shoes at Fleet Feet Sports. I followed a training program from a beginning running book and sought advice from my boyfriend. I ran two-three miles three or four days a week  at a 10- or 11-minute per mile pace along the lakefront. I wore a sports watch and measured the distance using the mile markers. I really enjoyed getting out there. By 2007, my relationship with the running boyfriend had long ended, but my love for running grew. The sport felt so different from my previous attempt just two years ago. I learned to be patient, consistent, and disciplined. My progress was even more incredible. I increased my running to 15-16 miles a week and I registered for the 2007 Chicago Marathon! My longest run was eight miles, so tackling 26.2 was very intimidating, but exciting.

Since finishing my first half marathon (also in 2007) and full marathon, I have completed 20 other races ranging in varied distances. I have become stronger and faster, and I look 10 years younger! I am now known as an endurance athlete. I befriended several runners and learned many tips because of the CARA Marathon Training program. I have met amazing people online and in real life on Twitter and Dailymile. Some of these friends are single with no children (such as myself), but many have spouses, children, pets, a busier life. I have seen these athletes transform from couch potato/mother post baby/smoker to people completing triathlons, 5ks, marathons and achieving a healthier lifestyle (as well as a flat belly).

Just a few years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined ever calling myself an athlete or marathoner. Running didn’t come naturally to me, but with determination, a knowledgeable network of supporters, goals to achieve, and some fun running apparel (I often say my running clothes is cuter than my street clothes), I am thankful. I am thankful to have a healthy body and enjoy challenging it. I look forward to breaking in a new pair of shoes, enjoying the scenery along the lakefront, and finally posting my workouts on Dailymile. I hope my posts will inspire you to start a walking, run/walk, or running program. I will write about my training to race half marathons, 10-milers, the San Francisco Marathon, and the Chicago Marathon. I will incorporate anecdotes from my friend/running coach, several fellow runners in my real life, Twitter and Dailymile families. I hope to express what a difference running has made in my life and perhaps motivate you to find a healthy activity that may change yours. Until then, I’m looking forward to the next time I get to run a few miles.

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Category: Featured, Healthy Lifestyle, Running Notes

About the Author ()

Chanthana Tsai is an endurance athlete currently training for local half marathons, 10-mile road races, the San Francisco Half Marathon, and the Chicago Marathon (where she hopes to qualify for the Boston Marathon). Follow her on Twitter @chanthana or provide her motivation on Dailymile

Comments (82)

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  1. Very interesting, Chanthana…I had no idea that you were a non-runner at one point!

  2. Sue G says:

    Great post. I look forward to following the journey, blisters and all.

    • Chanthana says:

      Blisters, black toenails, chafing… I know you can appreciate all the gory details! Thanks for your comment, Sue!

  3. Stephanie says:

    CT, You make me want to put on some running shoes and get out on the Lakefront. So proud of you!

    • Chanthana says:

      Steph, you are an amazing athlete! Can’t wait to celebrate with you after the Shamrock Shuffle. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Chanthana says:

    Thanks for all of the great info, Chanthana! Will have to check out DailyMile to start logging my runs. I look forward to your future posts!

  5. Deanna says:

    That last one was me (Deanna) not sure why it says Chanthana!

    • Chanthana says:

      Ha! I miss running with you. Can wait to log a few miles with you and Kayden in the jogging stroller in June. Thanks for your comment, D!

  6. Sheila says:

    Great article. I hope to continue to join you on your journey.

  7. Sami says:

    What an inspiring story. Congrats and wish you the best in your 2010 marathons!

  8. Jennifer says:

    I always think it’s amazing when people pick up running after their high school years, especially into their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s. Those first weeks and even months often turn new runners into never runners. Congrats on trying it, sticking with it, and coming to love it.

    • Chanthana says:

      There does seem to be a new crop of “late-blooming” athletes. I’m proud to be a part of that group! I hope you and I will get to race again together. It’s been too long. Thanks for your comment, Jen!

  9. Tara says:

    I run MILES with you, yet I’ve still learned more about you with this article. Can’t wait to follow you on your journey (and take many of those steps with you).

    • Chanthana says:

      Tara! My favorite marathon pace leader!! We have run many miles together, and I am looking forward to running many more with you. Thank you for your comment!

  10. Dorothy says:

    Great story Chanthana. I’m sure you are going to inspire many to start running. I look forward to your posts and wishing you the best in all your marathons!

  11. Kristen says:

    Nice article! It’s always inspiring to hear how people who were not active as children transform into endurance athletes!

    • Chanthana says:

      It’s never too late to start! Thanks for your comment, Kristen. Maybe one day you will join me for a bowl of pho? 🙂

  12. Ayca says:

    Awesome article! So inspiring – Good luck with all of your races!

  13. Beth says:

    Wow! Not only did I not know your whole running story, I did not know what an incredible writer you are. Keep up the awesome work. I’m such a fan of yours and you inspire me to keep running. I hope to come to Chicago this summer and I hope we can meet for a run! Lots of love!

    • Chanthana says:

      I hope we’ll have a chance to meet for a run when you visit! Thank you for the support and encouragement, Beth!

  14. Jill says:

    This was just the article I needed right now, Chanthana! I have never been a runner, because of the asthma I’ve had since I was a little kid. This year I created a list of 24 things to do in my 24th year – and running a half marathon is on there. Gulp.

    I am just starting a training program that will (hopefully) take me from beginner, beginner to runner. 🙂 I look forward to reading more and using you as inspiration to keep training!

    • Chanthana says:

      I do recall you telling me about your list of 24 things to do this year! What a great idea; we should all take note 🙂 Good luck with your half marathon training. We can motivate each other! Thank you for your comment, Jill!

  15. Chuck says:

    Wow…I never knew – regardless, looking forward to seeing you smash your PB, as well as qualify for Boston!

  16. Brenda says:

    Great story, It’s inspiring to non-runners like myself to try be more committed!!

  17. Brenda says:

    Great story! It’s inspiring to non-runners like myself to try be more committed!!

    • Chanthana says:

      Brenda, you are a runner! After all, why would you be doing an 8k on Sunday? 🙂 Can’t wait to celebrate with you after the race! Thanks for your comment.

  18. FeliciaCago says:

    Great post, Chanthana! I had no idea you started running so recently and I must say it’s inspiring to know that I could start training at my age. Not that I’m gonna, but it’s great to know that I could. 🙂

    So, what do you listen to while you’re out there covering these miles? Music? Podcasts? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Chanthana says:

      I used to listen to music, but recently, I enjoy running sans tunes. It’s a personal choice; some people run faster and farther WITH music. I have thought of loading my iPod with Spanish lessons 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Felicia!

  19. Priya says:

    I loved your post, Chanthana! It was very motivational 🙂

  20. Gurmeet says:

    Chanthana, That’s very commendable…from a frail girl into an endurance athlete..!Goes to show when you have the mental strength you will find the physical strength….It,s motivating to follow your DM Diary….I am personally looking forward to becoming a stronger runner..
    Thanks for Sharing…

    • Chanthana says:

      It’s nice to connect with you on Dailymile! Thank you for your comment, Gurmeet. Looking forward to see you progress in your running!

  21. Rachel says:

    Thank you for taking us on your journey, Chanthana! How inspiring you are!

  22. Joe says:

    What a great read Chanthana! I had no idea that you just started running over the past several years! Really gives me motivation to continue running! Chicagonista – you better bring Chanthana back for more articles!! She’s a keeper!

    • Chanthana says:

      Haha! You should be my agent 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Joe! Looking forward to celebrating with you after the Shamrock Shuffle.

  23. Brian says:

    Looking forward to seeing you on the lakefront this summer, Chanthana, AND following your posts!

    • Chanthana says:

      It’s always fun to run into you on the lakefront running path (even if at first you don’t realize it’s me!). Thank you for your comment, Brian

  24. Anna says:

    You’ve inspired me! As a working mother of two, it’s really hard to get out there for even just short runs, but I’d like to start with just 1x per week and see where it takes me. Looking forward to your next post!

    • Chanthana says:

      I can imagine it’s a tough balancing act! Start with small, achievable goals. Who knows where it will take you. For me, I hope I’m going to Boston 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Anna! I miss you lots

  25. Kelly Mack says:

    It’s been a pleasure to be friends with you over the past few years and hearing all your fun running stories. I’ve never been much of athlete, but after hearing stories such as yours, it has inspired me to challenge myself. Excited to do the Shamrock Shuffle with you next Sunday! Hoping to break an hour!! And even though you’ll be done long before me I know I’ll see you at the finish line cheering all of us on!

    • Chanthana says:

      Kelly, I am still in awe of you climbing 94 flights of stairs in 26 minutes!! You ARE an athlete! Can’t wait to celebrate with you on Sunday. Thank you for your comment!

  26. Lady says:

    CT! So proud of you, what a great article!

  27. Kim says:

    Very inspiring!

  28. BlazinAsian (the tall one) says:

    What an inspiring story, Chanthana! You were meant to write about this journey. Looking forward to many more training miles and races with you. 2010 is gonna be your year!

    • Chanthana says:

      Ha! Great screen name, C! You motivate me to be a faster, stronger runner. Looking forward to training and racing with you. See you Sunday! Thanks for your comment. Keep on blazin’!

  29. MZS says:

    What a great article. Very inspiring. I would so love to become one of those couch potatoes-turned-athlete you mentioned in your notes above. If you ever move back to LA I may have to start tagging along on some of your runs 😉

    • Chanthana says:

      Wouldn’t you rather we sit on the couch, drink wine, and watch Felicity episodes? I’ll take you out for a run the next time I’m in town! Thanks for your comment, M!

    • Chanthana says:

      Wouldn’t you rather we sit on the couch, drink wine, and watch Felicity episodes? I’ll take you out for a run the next time I’m in town! Thanks for your comment, M!

    • Chanthana says:

      Wouldn’t you rather sit on the couch, drink wine, and watch Felicity episodes? The next time I’m in town, let’s go for a run. Thanks for your comment, M!

  30. Aileen says:

    woohoo! Marathoner, endurance athlete and now published writer? What a great article, Chanthana! It inspired me to go running soon. 😉

  31. leah c. says:

    wow chanthana! not only your running and writing achievements but your positive attitude through it all inspire me!

  32. Michelle says:

    Beautiful!!! I am honored to know you Chanthana and look forward to reading all about your training for Chicago!!!!

    • Chanthana says:

      Michelle! You are a wonderful runner and motivator. I’m so happy to connect with you on Twitter & DM. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  33. Ed S, says:

    Great read Chanthana! Well written and from the heart. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Chanthana says:

      Thank you, Ed! The words were pouring out because you know I am passionate about running. Thank you for your comment!

  34. Kay Mack says:

    Kelly shared your post with me and I am proud to know you. Your post was inspiring and I am sure you have touched lots of people who just don’t know “how” to start…you go girl! I will be following you, although I don’t Twitter…
    Kay Mack

    • Chanthana says:

      Kay, you are so sweet! Thank you so much for your support & encouragement. No need for you to be on Twitter to follow me. We can chat in person 🙂 Thank you for your comment!

  35. Cathy says:

    Hey Chanthana- great story. Can’t wait to hear about how you kick some major a$$ this running season!

    • Chanthana says:

      CT! Do you still think I’m crazy to run this much? 🙂 Thank you for your comment! I know I’ll see you & B soon.

  36. Michael says:

    A great post and a fantastic story! I know I’m among the many who consider you to be an inspiration!

  37. Neelam says:

    This was fabulous! I can’t wait to read more. You make me want to go for a run (and I haven’t gone since Mia was born). Looks like it’s time!

    • Chanthana says:

      Neelam, I remember when you & Christine were training for a half marathon. I thought “WOW! I can’t imagine ever running that.” I totally admired you and still do. Thank you for your comment! Kisses to Mia 🙂

  38. Ger says:

    Awesome, CT! I’m so proud of you and what you’ve accomplished, not only with running but with everything that you do. I still have that 10 week training schedule and will start it up again soon. I think about you every day because I think about starting that training program every day! You are an inspiration. Love & miss you!

    • Chanthana says:

      Can you believe we were “training” together so long ago?! It’s never too late to start it up again. Thank you for your comment, Ger. Miss you tons too!

  39. Robert says:

    great post Chanthana… congrats on being published and even more thanks for your inspiration. Keep it up!

  40. Andrea says:

    What a great story, Chanthana! I never thought I would ever sign up for a race, but watching you run so many over the past few years has really inspired me. Thank you for motivating me to achieve such a challenging goal! I’ll never forget the day you helped me pick out my first pair of running shoes 🙂

    • Chanthana says:

      Keeping active shouldn’t be a chore. I hope you find it to be something fun! Let’s get you some new shoes soon 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Andrea!

  41. Sarah says:

    Hey hun!

    I’m so happy to see that you started blogging because this first post already is great…I can’t wait to read future ones 🙂

    I also consider myself a “late-bloomer” when it comes to running – I was never an athlete in high school or college either. It’s crazy sometimes when I think about that fact that I started running less than two years ago and now it is such a huge part of my life…and a very positive part, at that.

    Have fun attacking those hills in San Fran…they should make you even speedier and stronger by the time Chicago comes this fall. Fingers crossed for a BQ finish for you!

  42. Deanna says:

    Well I just reread this article and your latest one as it’s been TOUGH getting back into running shape after having a baby. I’ve run 2 marathons, about a dozen 1/2 marathons and have done a handful of triathlons but I’m feeling like I’m starting at ground zero. Thanks for the motivation again, CT. And as Arnold once said, “I’ll be back!” 🙂

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