It all started with the idea to run in the Homecoming 5K. After trying relentlessly to convince the entire HOYA staff to join me, there I was Saturday morning with only a news editor and the senior web editor, and one was only there for moral support.

At first, I was mad. Where was the sports editor who said he wanted to run? Why did my legs feel so heavy or, for that matter, why hadn’t I performed any physical activity whatsoever in the last month?

Soon though, frustration turned to excitement. I think it was when I got a bib – No. 81. I realized I would be running in a real race, where there were real prizes for the winners. I was totally psyched.

And then I ran, and it was exhilarating. The news editor – who finished a good four minutes ahead of me – ran it better, but I still finished my first road race.

There were only about 150 of us there that morning, but the excitement of the crowd, the support of the runners next to you (not to mention the free breakfast after) was so motivating and inspirational.

I had been bit by the running bug.

That same day, I began to research road races and training events all over Washington. I could run a 5K for breast cancer next week, or a marathon for leukemia in three days, or a 10K Turkey Trot next month. It felt like a calling.

So, I did what any good runner would do.

I called my mom and asked her for money to buy new running shoes.

Since I was hardcore now, I wanted those hardcore Nike Shox – the ones that have the four little (and probably more cool-looking than useful) column-shaped cushions on the heels. All the girls that have them look totally bad-ass, so I wanted them too. I ran in a road race for crying out loud, I’ve gotta be pretty tough . right?

The next day, the day after the race, I woke up with a mission: new running shoes. Destination: Georgetown Running Company.

The only problem was, I couldn’t walk.

My butt ached, my back was searing, my neck was cramped, my feet were tired, my arms hurt and even my hands were sore.

I was a disaster, but I was an athlete reborn. I waddled down to Street to look at new shoes. The first pair I saw had sky blue columns and shiny silver material – definitely tough enough for the rigorous workout regimen I was already formulating in my head. The money from mom hadn’t come in yet, so I decided I’d check out some other stores and come back later. Waddling down the street in pain and looking strangely like a penguin, I went back home.

Maybe I don’t have to walk back to the Running Company, I thought in hindsight. There’s always the Internet, right? Plus, it’d be really hardcore if I designed my shoes myself. At Nikeid.com, you can design your own shoes – from the outline of the swoosh to an embroidered nickname on the back.

I could get really hard-core running shoes and they could be pink. So I designed myself a pretty bad-ass pair of running shoes with pink soles and hints of purple, but my newfound motivation couldn’t wait 3-4 weeks for delivery. I needed new shoes and I needed them right then and there.

About three days after the race, when my legs began to work again, I went back to M Street.

I was the proud owner of a pair of Nike Shox in bad-ass baby blue and I was Yates-bound.

I put on my favorite athletic shorts with matching socks and tied up my new kicks. I braided my hair, grabbed a sweat towel and hopped on a treadmill overlooking the basketball courts.

After a quarter-mile walking, I picked it up to a jog. A slow jog. There still was spring in my step and I was bounding along at a terribly slow 5.3 miles per hour – but I felt great. I could do this forever!

And then, I felt a sharp pain in the bridge of my right foot. But I was tough – I had tough hard-core new shoes, so I ran through the pain. I pushed the treadmill up to a 10-minute-mile pace. Pain in the toes on both my feet seared up through my legs. I slowed the treadmill back down, trying to fight the sting. I held myself up on the railing, wiping sweat off my forehead. I was a bad-ass, I had bad-ass shoes – I could do this.

And with the little red screen showing .75 miles, I got off the treadmill.

I kept telling myself it was because my shoes were tied too tight, but I knew the truth.

No matter how spiffy I looked or how stiff my shoes were, I got off the treadmill because I was out of shape. I tried to use a pair of new Shox to convince me otherwise, but you can’t buy a pair of trendy bad-ass shoes and run a marathon the next day. And after that day at Yates, I realized I’m not going to be running a marathon any time soon.

I guess at least now I look like I could.

Erin Brown can be reached at brownthehoya.com. RUNNING THE OPTION appears every Tuesday.

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