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RADJournals: Cassie Leifel describes herself as an "accidental runner" and shares her first 1 mile run to her training for her first half marathon

I am an accidental runner. How does that even happen? After spending the first 20-something years of my life lying around on the sofa, eating junk food, and thinking runners are crazy, I found myself having health issues and in need of a lifestyle change.

Not being very self-motivated, I found myself walking into an orange-lit HIIT-based group fitness class, scared out of my mind. I was reassured running wasn’t necessary, and even had one person tell me they became a runner-I chuckled to myself. Several classes in, and I found myself faced with the challenge of running a mile. 1 mile?! I thought "no-way." But the music started, I pressed the treadmill "start" button and there I went. Now, when I say "went," I must clarify that it was not fast. It was labored, painful, and I literally felt like I was going to die. I was very sweaty and could barely breath. But here’s the thing, the coach and several classmates that had already finished stood around me and began to cheer. They believed I could finish this 1 mile, and they had done it, so surely I could do it too! The treadmill block is only 12 minutes during the class, but with the support of those around me, after just under 14 minutes, in August 2018, I finished my first 1 mile run. I was exhausted and the most proud of myself I had ever been.

I vowed to keep running and set a goal to run a 5K. I trained daily, started learning about nutrition, recovered after straining three right hip flexors, and completed my first 5K in November 2019 in 33 minutes. I didn’t feel exhausted, or like I was dying. I was exhilarated! The energy at the start line, the adrenaline during the race, and the feeling of completion, pride, and joy at the finish line was something I got to experience again. I found myself thinking I wanted to run more 5K races, and maybe even a half marathon!

As I continued running and training for races, I achieved a 7:45 mile, 26:23 5K, and set my eyes on a Half Marathon in October 2020. Well, 2020 didn’t work out due to the pandemic, and after deferring to 2021, another dream opportunity collided with that race as well. I am still working towards my half marathon goal, but I know with the support of friends, family, and running community 2022 is going to be the year!

Throughout the course of my health journey, not only did I start to find the best version of myself, but I also fell in love with fitness. I learned just how beneficial, both physically and mentally a health and fitness regimen can be, and wanted to help inspire and teach others the way I had been encouraged to complete that first mile run. I want everyone to feel the way fellow runners support each other. I am now an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. And that dream opportunity? Well, my husband and I opened a macro-based café in our community! Now, instead of sitting on the sofa, I have the opportunity to motivate and educate others as they begin and continue their very own health journeys.

So, sometimes when accidents happen, it actually turns out to be a good thing! My lifestyle change has been a complete turn around, and has saved my life. I am very thankful to all those who teach, support, and encourage all athletes, runners, and dreamers.

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