February 1, 2017 by Stefanie Ozga

Welcome Runners! This is my first blog for Twentysixtwo.com and I am excited to share my story and impart some running motivation to you guys. The first thing I want to tell you may not sound very motivating, but I am going to say it anyway: Running is damn hard! It doesn’t matter if you are the fittest person, the fastest, or the slowest. Getting out there is tough – especially for me living in Connecticut where my running season is basically from March-November. Sometimes December and January, if the weather cooperates. Running may be hard, however, anyone can do it. Take me for example. I was born with cardiac and respiratory defects, and I struggled with trying to keep up. I loathed doing the mile during gym class, and I had to get a doctor’s note to get out of it. Fortunately, as I grew up I realized that running allowed me to push myself past my limitations and finding that I could do it and survive! It gave me this sense of freedom and empowerment I never knew I had. I knew I would never be fast, as I also knew I would still have to take walk breaks when my breathing gets out of whack, but the beauty of being part of a running community is, surprise, no one cares if you can’t run the entire distance! As long as you give it your best shot, that’s all that matters.

I have friends who race all the time and they would constantly tell me how awesome and fun it was. I was very apprehensive considering how I would pace and probably not run the entire time. But if they didn’t encourage me to start at least with a 5K, I would never know that feeling of accomplishment of finishing three miles in one run. I began racing in 2009 with my first race in Mystic, CT - The Mystic Aquarium’s Run for the Penguins. A bunch of 5K’s later, I completed the Las Vegas Half Marathon in 2014. It was so hard. I didn’t think I would finish. I walked the majority of it, but I finished and that’s the most important thing. It was my proudest running moment. However, I was petrified to try another half too soon. Fast forward three years later, and I plan on doing the Hartford Half in October this year.

My best mile time is probably around 13:00 minutes – on a good day, and we all know what a “good day” means in running – perfect weather, perfect mobility, and perfect mindset. And we also know how often that happens… next to never! But don’t get discouraged by mile pace, dear newbies… I recently read some awesome info from the Journal of American College of Cardiology that those who train at a slower pace were “45% had a lower risk of heart disease & lived three years longer.” You’re welcome, fellow slow pokes! 🙂 Some of my best “runs” are when I put my Garmin on the “Walk” setting and just go for it.

My advice to all the novice runners out there and the runners who are going for their first half or marathon is the following:

  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your training!
  • Don’t’ get bogged down with being “fast” – it will come
  • Take walk breaks – they’re allowed!
  • Stop and take a pic of your surroundings
  • Let the run clear your head of negativity
  • Enjoy the weather
  • Have fun!

Happy Running!