The Casual Athlete – My Running Stories
Welcome to my site! I like to write, and I like to share, so here we go.
I’m a 40-something woman who loves to move, breathe, and feel the sun on my skin. I practice and teach yoga, I run (a lot), I bake like a maniac, and I love to chop vegetables for relaxation. I grew up uncomfortable in my skin, anxious, and completely uncertain of who I was . . . Taking that into adulthood generated a fair share of life lessons, some of which I learned with ease and others that were brutal.
I never dreamed that I’d become an athlete. I jokingly refer to my historical (read that carefully) self as both a “fat kid” and a “nerd,” neither of which necessarily call to mind the image of an athlete. It wasn’t until I’d been practicing yoga for nearly a decade that I felt comfortable enough in my body to try running.
In my late 30s, I got together with my sweetie who’s a runner, and one day in the park I just got tired of walking to keep myself occupied while he ran…so I started running. I ran 3 miles (slowly), and from that day forward I was hooked. We were not distance runners, nor were we fast (I’m still not that fast), so we stuck to 5k races. One day we went to the OUC Half Marathon and Lake Eola 5k combined event, finished our 5k in turtle time, and stuck around to watch the half marathon finishers. When a 68-year old man crossed the finish line in less than 2 hours, we realized we had zero excuses. On Saturday we were spectators; on Monday we were in training.
In March 2015, I ran my first half marathon. In training, with every increase in mileage, I cried with delight and amazement that I could run FOUR WHOLE MILES. Each weekend we added mileage, and by the time I ran 10 miles, I sobbed for at least an hour. It wasn’t a bad cry; it was one of victory, release, and catharsis. It was an ugly cry, BTW. I have the photo to prove it. After finishing the Swamp House Half Marathon, I said I would never run more than 3 miles again. I needed the entire day to recover from that race. It was brutal!
Six weeks later, on a casual run, something inside said, “You’re going to run a marathon.” HELL NO! Hell no, a marathon is 26.2 miles. I had ZERO desire to do anything so asinine. I also developed anemia, so I was running on empty and struggled to stay awake and energized. A couple of months later, thanks to Floradix, I was back to feeling well… and the marathon dream came back to haunt me. It seems that what’s ours to do always finds a way into our consciousness and gnaws at us until we do it.
Some time in August, I saw a video on social media about the six marathons you can’t miss. It was an ad for a hotel chain, and yet it moved me to register for the Disney marathon. My sweetie wasn’t interested at all, but I signed up…and eventually roped him into it.
Marathon training was brutal and all-consuming. When you run relatively slowly, a 15-mile run takes a while on its own, plus the stomach upset, the recovery time, and the supplementary exercise to make sure the muscles, joints, and brain are happy. In January 2016, we ran the Disney Marathon, all 26.2 miles (that 0.2 matters), and I swore I was DONE. In fact, from April to July I didn’t run one step.
And then the party started all over again, thanks to a girlfriend who asked me to accompany her to a summer race. I loosely call it a race, as my time was some 3 minutes per mile slower than it had been just a few months before. If anything is humbling, it’s learning how to be a happy runner.
Fast forward to December 2016, and I found myself injured after setting a PR for the half marathon. I had surgery in February 2017, and I started running again 16 days later. I did a lot of pre-hab and started rehab IMMEDIATELY. It was a lateral meniscus repair, done with arthroscope by a gifted surgeon who swore I’d be back in the game relatively quickly, so it was a “minor” surgery. Don’t try this rehab timeline without medical guidance. I ran a 5k the day before my surgery (since he was gonna fix it anyway), and I walked 4 miles the fifth day after surgery. YES, I AM INSANE. But I’m glad I did it that way–because I ran a 10-mile race, an 8.2-mile race, and a half marathon within 11 weeks. Damn right, I wanted back on that road!
So let’s get to today. It’s April 29, 2017, as I type this. I ran about 7 miles this morning. I would tell you exactly the distance if my running app hadn’t taken a dive some time around 4.59 miles… LE SIGH!!!! I ran with my sweetie, who actually works on his running, which meant running at least a minute per mile faster than is comfortable for me. Yes, some time during the first 4 miles of my run I simultaneously hated and loved this man. Running with him calls me to break through my self-imposed limits.
For all the tenacity I have, I also want to be “comfortable” and “run easy.” The problem is…I’m stagnant in my lung capacity and won’t grow without facing the discomfort I want to avoid. Thanks to the joys and lessons I realize from running, I decided to “suck it up” and “just push the edge.” If you know me, you know that’s NOT how I teach yoga. I’m all about being safe … but there’s balance, and the other side of that means taking some risks and breaking through some comfort zones. Sigh.
And so I realized today that my limit isn’t my legs. I was worried about my glutes not activating enough or my knee hurting too much or my calf (soleus muscle needs some ART!) aching and causing pain in my fibular head…but the faster I run, the better my body feels. My lungs are lagging behind, though, which means I’m going to have to do some uncomfortable training. I hate feeling like I can’t breathe, and I really hate feeling like I want to throw up. And yet I endured all of that this morning. I told my sweetie I needed to hire him as my coach because I run better when I’m trying to keep up with him.
I don’t know where this blog is going or what I’ll write about, but here we are. Something in me said, “write,” so that’s what I shall do. Breathing easy and foam rolling until the next run…