I’ve made it, officially, 2 full years as a serious runner and haven’t stopped since. Actually, I hit that milestone back in June, but, because I’ve been training for my 4th of 50 Half Marathons, I’ve had little time to write about it until today.
To me, however, this is still the beginning of a long-term relationship… the part after the honeymoon where the real work starts.
Yes, a relationship. Just like a friendship or a romantic involvement. It takes work. It takes patience. You have ups and downs. You have days of utter delight and joy, followed by annoyance or apathy. But, just like any other relationship, if the foundation is strong, you always come back together, hopefully stronger than before.
And, ultimately, more rewarding as time passes.
I always loved running, even as a kid before I knew what I was doing. During our elementary school “field day” events, I always gravitated to the running activities. My favorite playground game was either chasing or being chased by the boys (for various reasons, including being a little boy crazy, but I believe that is why I *still* prefer running with men to this day). When my other friends were playing organized sports, I would just run around like an idiot. Somethings never change.
I never joined any track teams in high school because I didn’t think I was good enough, although the rumor was anybody, really, could join and nobody got cut – I just didn’t have the courage to test the rumor. Otherwise, I only ran a few times in high school because a guy I had a crush on asked me to run with him. Again, the boy crazy thing… I guess I was trying to impress him… didn’t work. We never dated.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered running as a real sport. It was then I fell head over heels for Running. I had to take a class that was officially an “Introduction to Fitness” class called PE 100, but because the goal of the class was to run 3 miles in 30 minutes by the end of the semester, it had the nickname “Run 100”. We met only twice a week, and only one of those days was running, so you HAD to run outside of class. Because I’m a giant geek, because I was terrified of the “freshman 15”, and because I wanted to start off college on the right foot, I was determined to get those 3 miles inside of 30 minutes.
And I did. 29:45, in fact. In Keds.
That is a feeling that, like the first time I saw each of my children, is etched forever in my brain. Right after I finished that run, I was exhausted and energetic all at the same time and so proud of myself. I never thought I would ever be able to run for 3 miles, let alone in under 30 minutes and there I was – I had just done it. It was the most fantastic feeling I had experienced at the time (a few better since then, but all in the same category as far as I’m concerned). The gym teacher that witnessed me running 3 miles in Keds told me he thought I was in love with running and that if I wanted to do it regularly, I needed to get a real pair of shoes so I don’t hurt myself.
And, I wanted to do it again.
That lit the spark I really needed to get started with running. I took money I would have otherwise used for food and music (a really big deal to those of you who know me) to buy my first real pair of running shoes – the cheapest pair of New Balances I could find. I wasn’t as organized with it as I am now, but I went 2 to 3 times a week and usually did 2 – 3 miles each time. I wasn’t training for anything – I just wanted to get that feeling back that I got the day I hit the 3 miles in under 30 minutes. I went in cycles with it throughout college, but always came back to it. I continued it even after college – made easier by the fact that I lived in an apartment that had a path behind it that was about a 5-mile loop – 3 miles of it paved, the other 2 a hard-core trail. I loved it. I upped my mileage to approach 5 miles and continued to do it 2-3 times a week. Even after I started smoking (a habit I still regret having ever developed at the age of 26 – I knew better), I still ran.
Then I met my soon-to-be-ex. I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming him for interrupting my running – I gave it up to be with him because at the time, I thought he was worth what I considered to be a sacrifice. He isn’t a runner and doesn’t understand why I love it, so he wasn’t patient with waiting for me to run, and never became patient. From my perspective, it was always up to me to skip runs to meet him. Before long, I wasn’t running at all, and developed all the same bad habits he had: I was smoking more and drinking beer with him, and was becoming depressed about it. I tried going back to running several times – and running always greeted me with open arms and seemed happy to have me back – but I kept getting called away from it by the Man for one reason or another that, while I didn’t always agree and thought he should meet me half way on things, my sense of duty took over and I sacrificed yet another run. I’m not disgruntled about it, please don’t misunderstand, just giving my reasons for being distracted from it.
Then came November of 2008. My marriage was, at best, rocky. I was tired. My house was a mess. My car was a mess. I was a mess. I was lonely and I was depressed. Although we lived in the same house, I was constantly alone with the kids and when they were in bed, I was alone eating dinner and then alone watching TV until I passed out from exhaustion. I was 30 pounds overweight because I hadn’t had the time to focus on my own heath from worrying about the health of my kids (my older son is autistic) and then was made to feel guilty for taking an hour of my day just for me. I was depressed and distraught from the constant arguing with the Man about daily life. It drained me. I was profoundly unhappy and, adding to it, I was thinking about my mother who had passed away at the age of 35 exactly 20 years before. I was the same age, and realized how little I had done in my life. What if my own life was snuffed out tomorrow at such a young age? What would I have to show for it? I needed a change. I needed to be healthy. I needed focus. I needed discipline. I thought about the happiest I had ever been in my life, and it was when I was running.
That was all I needed to visit my old friend, Running. As always, Running greeted me with open arms, but this time was brutally honest with me. ‘You need to loose the weight, hon, or this isn’t going to be fun for you’. Running was right. I struggled for just one lowly mile at a 12mm pace. It frustrated the hell out of me, and I was so disappointed that I couldn’t get past that for months. But… little known fact about me: when told I can’t do something, I have indigent and dogged determination to actually do it just out of spite and I don’t quit until I’ve accomplished it, even if it takes years. So I joined Weight Watchers in March of 2009 to loose the weight because doing it on my own wasn’t working. I started to undo the 36 years of bad habits I had accumulated and slowly get to the person I always thought I was… a goal I’m still working and will likely work on for the rest of my life. Although I was pretty depressed during this phase, I had Running as a sliver of a beacon of happiness in a tumultuous time. As the pounds came off, the mileage went up and the speed came down. My first test was the 2009 Susan Komen Race for the Cure. I ran the non-competitive race because I didn’t think competitive was for me – I just wanted to run it in under 30-minutes, which was, I thought a realistic goal.
And it was. Unofficially, I did it in 29:58.
Then came the IT band injury in June (just after the Komen Race) that I thought might make me give it up entirely. I wasn’t ready to give up and I didn’t want to prove the Man right about my not having the fortitude to stick with it, so I switched to spinning for a while until the IT healed and I could run again. And I did. With the encouragement from my Running Buddy #1, I entered my first ever chip-timed race, the 2009 Great Raleigh Road Race, a 4-miler. I wasn’t even sure I could finish it, let alone better my time from 4 weeks before and overcoming an injury. Running Buddy #1 poo-pooed my negativity (as he does a lot) and told me to just do the best I could.
He was right. Not only did I finish, I did it in 34:55, breaking a 9mm pace for an overall average split of 8:43mm for a 4-miler. I’m still proud of that.
I was hooked on racing after that, and, to keep me focused and give me incentive to continue to run, I kept entering races. I was back, happy in the comforting arms of Running again. I honestly thought there was enough room in my heart for all of it – the kids, the Man and Running. Running, I thought, was the key to my being able to have the discipline I needed to be a good parent and a good wife, and that was the scope of the effort I put into all three. I recently told that same Running Buddy that encouraged me to enter the Great Raleigh Road Race “I run for my sanity, not for my vanity” and that running is really the most selfish thing I do.
I still believe all of that, by the way.
In the last two years, I have had a lot of bumps in the road, and running has been there for me. The Man and I have split, unfortunately. There were many, many reasons for the split, and thankfully, running was not one of them. However, Running was what I hung on to (white knuckled some days) during the roughest parts, so it comes up a lot when I talk about that episode in my life. The kids are supportive of my running, even at their young ages. On some days, they’ve even shown a little bit of interest in doing it too, but they’re so young their interest is still pretty fickle. I won’t be disappointed if they don’t end up being runners, but I do fantasize about running some of my 50-states with them when they get older. A Momma can dream…
My relationship with running is like any other I’ve ever had. I have days when I’m totally smitten. I have days when I’m apathetic. I have days when I’m chomping at the bit and can’t wait to see Running, followed by days when I really don’t want to see Running. But, I do it anyway and I’m always happy that we spent the time together, even if the run was crappy (like yesterday’s so-called “long”).
I’m still in love with Running.
Here’s to another year and looking forward to many more in the future.