Signing up to run ... with a smile

Summer Sanders

Constant sources of inspiration for Summer Sanders: her two kids, Spider and Skye.

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I started running as soon as I hung up my suit. The day after I retired from swimming, I ran with my best friend on Campus Drive at Stanford University; it's a 4-mile loop. I remember loving it from the very beginning. There was so much to see and take in, which was a huge difference from swimming, even at the Olympic level. In the pool, you can't see everything around you or take in the feel of a new place.

But I also remember that running didn't come naturally. Accomplishments are more worthwhile when you earn them -- when you have to work hard to really get something new. I stick to that when my kids, Skye (age 6) and Spider (4), tell me I'm sweaty after a run.

My kids are obsessed with how sweaty I get while training for a race. And now, as I prepare for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24, I am ready for whatever comes over the next 11 weeks.

"I don't think I want you to touch me with that [sweat]," Spider used to say. Now when he goes out skateboarding, he takes off his helmet and yells to me, "Mom, I'm sweating! I'm really working hard!" They make the connection just like they did when I trained for Chicago [the marathon in October 2011].

I want my kids to see mom competing as an athlete -- pushing myself, getting stronger and learning where I can push my limits. It's motivating to cross the finish line, every time.

My daughter, Skye, has already done two 5K races. When she nears the finish line, she picks it up and soaks up the attention. She smiles from ear to ear. When I see my kids like that, they inspire me, and it makes me want to do more to show them the possibilities are endless.

My dad always says, "I don't know why people run these races. No one is ever smiling."

I felt free when I ran that loop on the Stanford campus, and I will feel even better this February after I train. I promise I'll be smiling when I cross that line!

Race entry fees can cost anything from $45 to $145, so I commit once I click. I'm not going to just blow $100. I value my dollar, so it takes a lot for me to register and a lot for me to even think about missing that race.

I still have that athlete in me who is capable of pushing beyond my limit. One goal at Disney's Princess Half Marathon is to control my race and finish on my own terms. My other goal is to train and compete without getting injured. The help and encouragement I receive is crucial to my success. I don't pretend this is my profession like swimming was. I want to continue to love running as much as I did the first time I put on my shoes.

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