Even as I type out the title for this blog, I’m left pondering how and when, I turned into an endurance athlete.
It was certainly never on my radar at any point in my life like, “Hey, when I grow up I wanna do crazy things like run a stupid amount of miles or bike that many or do BOTH!”
I wasn’t an athlete in school. My athletics involved band and being involved in twirling the last three years of school.
I wasn’t athletic most of my adult life.
I started running when I was 46. I ran my first half marathon in 2011 and was hooked.
I crossed the finish line feeling triumphant and exhausted already plotting my next one. It would be several more half marathons before I really felt the pull or the “calling” to do a full marathon. Some of my friends have simply referred to it as me going crazy 😉
I never really let myself examine to closely the (craziness) of deciding to run 26.2 miles.
Really. Only real runners did that stuff, right? Real athletes. I never backed down from that first one, and one time, and one time only did I look those numbers in the face and feel terrified and almost back down. I put that thought away and never let it out again.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
I simply started training and embracing the whole discipline of the preparation it took for a marathon.
Then with quite a few half marathons under me, and a couple full marathons, I jumped into a 50K.
THAT… is when I’d see friends in the store and they’d pull me aside and quietly whisper to me..
“Honey, are you ok? Really? I mean, a 50K…. I think you’re crazy!”
Ha… I guess looking at it from some sort of rational perspective, it must seem that way. I had just come to the realization that running a lot of miles at once was just…well normal….. right?
Normal, sane, grounded people just don’t decide to train for a 50K race.. and then do it.
Something though about endurance running meshed with me.
Was it the constant challenge to push my body to more? To see how far and long I could go? To simply know that I could do it? If I’m honest, for the natural kinda high that came along with it ?
Ah yes, that was the biggest thing. To know I could take on something that felt so much larger than life to me, something that seemed so impossible and so far from anything I’d ever been or done… that huge challenge… and then go out and do it.
It builds confidence in you like nothing can.
In the mix of running I started cycling some. Just to mix it up and because, hey why not another sport? Cycling of course worked my body in a different way from running and I liked that.
But running still remained my main passion. Maybe it was the fact it took such strength and mental discipline to do it, and to do it for long periods of time.
Getting up on those early Saturday mornings and being on the road by 5:30 to knock out my long run… as hard as it could be some weeks getting out of a cozy bed and leaving a warm house…there was something I relished about it. Running in the black, quiet morning still sleepy with nothing but the soft sound of my feet hitting the road and the sound of my breathing, it was almost comforting. I loved passing houses all dark, people still sound asleep as the miles built under me.
As the darkness gave way to light I loved having often 10 or more miles under me while the world was still getting it’s first cup of coffee. And by the time the sun was up in the sky I would be wrapping up a run in the teens’s or 20’s miles and it felt amazing.
Somehow completely exhausting myself at the start of the day made me feel empowered.
Geez how many people were out running double digits before the sun came up?
Not just that… but somehow out there on the road on those runs…. you find yourself in ways you didn’t know before. You come to understand things about yourself and what you’re really made of. When you do endurance sports you have to dig deeper into yourself and pull things out that you previously didn’t know were there.
Quitting isn’t an option. Your mind and body need to be disciplined and pulled into a cooperating agreement, which can be hard when your legs are starting to ask ” are we there yet?”
You find a strength you previously didn’t know existed. You learn to give more when you think you can’t give more. That is where your mental muscle is really built.
You begin to relish the feel of your body responding to the demands you put on it, how the road feels under you, how your mind is so…alive.
I do some of my most creative thinking and problem solving when I’m out on the road.
When I had to cut back on running last year with an injury, time on the bike was a replacement for giving me the miles I had come to crave. Not the same as running, but I had the ability to go out and ride for miles and challenge myself in new ways ( riding a bike up a hill is a different game than running up a hill 😛
I loved the new level of strength I built from cycling along with the running. Ok, and I will admit, that it’s a total head rush flying off a hill at wild speeds and holding on for dear life and feeling like you’re 12 all over again… that’s the reward for climbing hills haha
And then I started entertaining the idea of doing a duathlon, an event where you run, cycle, and run. Two things that I was beginning to feel I was pretty good at.
It was on my agenda for last fall… but this nagging Achilles injury just wouldn’t let me put the training in for running like I needed to so that event was shelved.
So yesterday, I was out on my bike. The first time in well over a month…closer to 2 more likely. The doctor wanted me off of everything that could possibly irritate it and keep it from healing.
Yesterday was the day after the period he had suggested before I tried some cycling again.
I hardly slept the night before I was so excited. It’s the same feeling I have the night before a long run or a race. The day started off foggy, misty and warm but I didn’t let that stop me. The sun eventually popped out. It felt so amazing to be out again…so free… I cut myself off at 17 miles thinking that was probably enough for my first time back out.
I’ll be honest… I’m not sure where this injury is gonna land me or how long it will be till I can really get after what I want to do. It’s still hanging around and I need to hit it face on. I’m terrified of being side railed for a long time and getting to do nothing. Terrified.
What I remembered out on the road (again) yesterday… is how ALIVE I feel when I’m out there. How endurance sports make me feel alive, and strong, and powerful. There’s something heady about it that I can’t explain and you probably only understand if you’re an endurance athlete.
Somehow, in the pouring out of yourself on the road, you dig deeper and learn more about who you are and what you’re made of than you ever knew.
I’m ready for bigger challenges and new goals.
I love having an event I’m training for, my calendar laid out with my mileage I will be doing for months, my cross training days plotted in and each day knowing what I’m doing is moving me that much closer to my event… the new challenge.
I miss it. I miss it so much right now, not being able to have something I’m intentionally training for. Yes, I workout for my mental sanity, my health, and continued fitness goals. But I miss the focus of training for a big race or event.
I think this endurance thing is in my blood now and I want to keep digging deeper into it taking on bigger challenges and new goals.
What about you? Does the idea of running long distances make you twitch? Or feel alive? Do you love having something to train for? Do you enjoy multiple athletic activities?