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My running story

Running as a sport alone used to be something I despised. I grew up playing soccer and would dread the “conditioning” workouts involving it. Ladders, suicides, timed miles, even just having to play mid-field instead of my usual defensive position was pretty much the worst form of torture I could imagine. If you would’ve told me 3 years ago that I’d one day run a half marathon, let alone 3, I would’ve laughed in your face.

Something crazy happened in January of 2010 though, I started googling “5K training plans” and came across the Couch to 5K plan. I had just started reading healthy living blogs and overhauling my eating habits  at the time and saw all these bloggers finishing the Disney Marathon. When I read their “about me” sections I realized these were normal people, people who hadn’t necessarily been running their whole lives, but had trained properly and finished a marathon. That was my light bulb moment and I figured why not try it out?

I usually don’t half-ass things. I’m either completely consumed by something giving it my all or I just give up. Running became the former. I live in NY, didn’t belong to a gym and it was January. Traditional gyms just aren’t my thing and treadmills usually bore the heck out of me. So, I became the lunatic who ran around the perimeter of my office parking lot bundled up like a snowman since it was the only lit area after 5pm. My coworkers thought I was crazy and I’m sure all the other businesses in the complex did as well. But, I stuck to it gradually building up from running for 30 seconds the first week to running 3 miles straight by the end.  I signed up for my first 5K in March with a goal of ”please God keep it under 30 minutes″. I ran my first 5K, the Shamrock Scramble on March 21, 2010 in 25:43 and I was hooked.

Next up was a 5 mile race that May. I can so vividly remember the first training run of 5 miles and thinking how far it felt and how amazed I was that I did it. I ran the race with 2 of my coworkers and my brother, who of course didn’t train at all and managed a 7:13 pace. Ridiculous right? Sometimes I hate boys. I was super happy with my time of 42:46 and we ate the best stuffed french toast afterwards to celebrate (of course I remember that).

Throw in a couple more 5K’s that June, including a new PR of 24:39 and I was now contemplating a half marathon. I kind of had been since the start but didn’t really want to vocalize it in case this running thing didn’t stick. The summer of 2010 was about 95 degrees and humid every single day. I bought a camelbak and upped my runs to 8 miles by August. I knew I wasn’t going to run a half in the summer so I just kept my fitness around 8 miles. I was eyeing up the Palm Beach Marathon series on Dec 5. which just happened to be the same weekend we were visiting my mother-in-law in Florida. Florida = flat and flat =happy runner. I knew my goal should just be to finish since it was my first half, but I really wanted to do it under 2 hours. All my training runs were between an 8:40-8:55 pace so I figured I had a decent chance. The weather the day of the race couldn’t have been better.  It was 50-60 degrees and we started so early we had a good hour before the sun even rose. My first mile was 8:30 and I remember from then on doing mental math with each passing mile trying to calculate the deficit I had created for my sub 2-hour goal. By mile 8 I knew I was going to do it, maybe even 5 minutes less. The course ended up being long (13.27 miles), but I still finished in 1:57:16 and was ecstatic!

After the half, I kind of fell into a mental slump. Everyone I knew said “once you do your first half you’ll want to do more or a full”. Well, that didn’t happen to me. I was pretty exhausted and tired of long runs consuming an entire day of my weekend. I said I’d never do one again. One was enough, especially since I made my goal of under 2 hours. I spent the winter on the treadmill rotating between speed work and shorter runs of only 3-5 miles. I was forced inside on that damn thing for 2 full months in January and February with the brutal winter we had. I was happy to still be keeping fit and in decent running shape but not in any way wanting to race anymore. Then spring hit. It got warmer and in my first couple of runs outside I realized I had unknowingly gotten much faster since the fall having shaved off about 25-30 seconds/mile. Those intervals on the treadmill which were only to keep me from crying tears of boredom at the time had seriously paid off. That’s all it took to inspire me to want to race again. And that’s exactly what happened in 2011. There were a few more shorter races, my first 10K and 2 more half marathons.

These days, my fitness drug of choice is CrossFit as I love the variety, the atmosphere and the results of the workouts but running is still a behind the scenes constant for me. Sometimes we’re in total lust, other times we’re on an extended break, but it’s a relationship I can’t see ever ending.


Saturday 27th of February 2021

Thank you for sharing this! Your recipes have been my allies for years of running, hiking, racing and conquering mountains. Notably the chickpea pesto sandwich, chocolate chili tacos and Greek lamb apricot and mint meatballs are the go-to’s. I’m happy you found a renewed drive and community in CrossFit and hope your fitness life keeps evolving in ways that bring you fulfillment and joy. Ever get out on the trails in upstate NY?

Gina Matsoukas

Sunday 28th of February 2021

So happy to hear that! I do hike often on the nearby trails, not too much that far upstate but mostly in the hudson valley area.


Friday 24th of May 2013

I am really inspired by your story; thanks for posting! I have recently started running- about 4-5 times per week & some days are better than others. I'm not that great at- for starters I am short with short legs (5'1'') and usually average a 9 minute mile. :( I will take any of the extra motivation I can get. I would love to run a 5k someday and work my way up.


Wednesday 6th of March 2013

I started running back in 1998 using the Couch to 5K program as well and have ran ever since. I enjoy reading your blog!


Saturday 15th of September 2012

I just discovered your blog. Tried the protein pancakes and loved them! Thank you. I look forward to more posts. I am also a runner from Missouri, do cross fit and I am interested in Paleo...Although I have a hard time sticking to it for longer than 5 days at a time =( (very sweet tooth).


Friday 14th of September 2012

I just noticed how you ran the Palm Beach Half Marathon and I signed up for that race this year as my first half marathon! I heard last year was awful with water stops (even before reading your post) but hopefully this year will be better with new management?? I am hoping for a good experience with my first half attempt =) I also saw JUNO BEACH in that that beach!

Running to the Kitchen

Sunday 16th of September 2012

Good luck! Last year was pretty bad so I hope the water situation is better this year for you. If nothing else, it's FLAT and flat = good :)