The Gift Of Running

running giftRunning. Let’s talk running. I like it a tiny little bit haha

I shared with you awhile back I had picked up an injury that was really putting the breaks on my running. It seems like pushing it to a certain point just stirred it back up again. I’m starting to feel like it will never go away and get better. This isn’t a whining post, but more a reflective one.

As the photo states … running is a gift.

I had always thought that but never more than being sidelined and having to watch running from afar. This is the first season in the past few years I’ve been running I’m not doing a half or full marathon.

It feels weird not training. I love training for an event. I love the structure and planning of it. Probably more I love the discipline it requires to train well. Yes, I am dedicated to my daily workouts, but it’s a whole different animal to me when I’m training for something specific.

I haven’t always been a runner. I didn’t start easing into it until about the end of 2010- first part of 2011. And when I say “running” it was short running mixed in with more walking… but I started… and it moved on to full fledged running.

And one thing I love about running is there is never a limit on new goals to tackle and accomplish. You can always run a little faster, go a little longer, set your sights on bigger races. There is always the challenge to beat your own personal best and the huge satisfaction you get in doing that.

Running has taught me so much.

Perseverance. Dedication. Sacrifice. Big goal setting. Overcoming obstacles and challenges. Not being content to stay in one place without wanting more. It’s built a mental toughness in me that should scare you.

Running put a confidence in me that I really could tackle anything in life.

Along the way, I guess I just started identifying with it.

I’m a runner.

Of course for years, I was in the same non-runner shoes many of you are and many of my friends are. The concept of running unless my life was in danger seemed completely foreign and crazy to me. I laughed about running and admired runners in that way of awe and craziness.

Then I became one.

And I see those words “running is a gift” and I never realized it more than now…. now that I can’t. Now that I have to watch from a distance. Sometimes I’m left wondering if I’ll ever be back out running the miles I was running only earlier this year.

When I hear people joke about not running and know they have the physical ability to do so… I think… you don’t know what you’re missing.  You have the ability… it’s a gift…..

Yeah, running is hard work… not gonna lie about it. But it’s the most rewarding kind of hard work I’ve ever done. And because it is hard people don’t want to step into that uncomfortable zone. It takes time and effort to build strength to make running …look…. effortless.

I went out this morning wanting to be on the road.

Wanting to feel the familiar things I’m used to… my running shoes under me.. the feel of the road under my feet ( and not my tires as it has been so much lately) embrace how my legs feel in that form of activity from cycling and have the familiar feel of sweat building up on me in a way that it doesn’t when I’m on the bike.

I vowed to walk briskly and only do small segments of “running” .  After all, I started out as a walker, I figure I can push myself with brisk walking ( and a 12 min per mile pace, I think, is fairly brisk) I also set a short distance, a little over 3 miles and no more. I had no agenda and kept reminding myself that for now ( or a long time) easy, easy, easy is the plan.

I didn’t need to run the whole time, but for the love of all things running, I needed to feel my body go through those motions again. I was  a good girl and kept my running segments very short. I have to. Oh how good it felt to be in that zone.

Yet, how quickly your running fitness can drop when you aren’t actively working it! I want to be back at that level of fitness I had earlier this year training for my 50K.

When 20 mile runs were starting to feel “normal” and I felt tired but exhilarated after finishing them. When mid-week longish runs were 10 miles that I crept out at dark thirty to get done before the kids were off to school. When my body had that lean, chiseled look from burning more calories in a day than I was taking in.  I’ve never been at a more strong physical peak in my entire life than when I’m in the heavy part of training for long races.

And  I love it all. I miss it like crazy.

I will get back to where I want to be.

I still have marathons to conquer, I want another shot at a 50k, I want to see if I can ever, ever get my half marathon sub 2:00. I want to get my personal best on a 5k down from 27 minutes to 25 or less.  I want to do a duathlon and that requires running and cycling.

Gosh, I want a lot, don’t I ?

I’m determined and stubborn… it will happen…. and when I’m well and back at it again full speed… I’ve already reminded myself I will never, ever, forget this truth…..

Running is a gift.

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50K’s, Color Runs and Mud

OK… this is my disclaimer to this post… it’s meant to be a fun thought process/commentary and not meant to offend anyone who enjoys the following events… ( you should be hearing this in like a…. Morgan Freeman voice 😉

I’m semi-squinting at the screen ’cause I had my eyes dilated today and it totally makes me feel awesome  jacks with my head the rest of the day/evening. I look like an owl for the next 24 hours….I’ll do my best to keep typos and such to a minimum 😉

I came into running all the wrong way.

I wasn’t a school track athlete. I wasn’t a trendy 20 something wanting to be cool and do the “jogging” thing in the 80’s.

The idea of running for the sole purpose of… running….. was a completely foreign concept to me.

But then as I’ve shared with you in other posts, it just kinda evolved, and then, one day…

I’m a runner.

I was a runner who was popping off 6-7 mile runs as the normal routine. I mean, isn’t that what you did ? I was happy in my new little running world oblivious of things like intervals, and tempo runs and hill repeats or being happy with negative splits (what was that ??)

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Hills anyone ?

THEN….. one day… a well meaning friend said…..

“You should run the Rock n Roll half marathon in November”

I laughed. I told her other people did it, not me.

And when I stopped laughing she said, “well, you’re already running over half the distance.”

That was June and by July I had committed and was officially registered for my first half marathon.

I trained myself and took it on in November. I couldn’t believe I actually ran 13.1 miles.

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Tired and scraggly after my very first half marathon in 2011. And I gave up running in these types of shorts a long time ago….

I’ve learned a lot since then. I follow a structured training plan now (thank you Hal Higdon) I’ve learned lots of running terms, become particular about what I like to run in, and learned how my body responds to various things.

I also learned this: most people start with a 5K as a first race…. not a half marathon… haha

Like I said….. I came into this running thing kicking and screaming    in not the most conventional way.

All this to say, I’ve taken what I do pretty seriously since I started. I’m intense and every run matters to me. I am horribly competitive with myself…. and hard on myself to.

When I sign up for a race, I’m serious about it. Yeah, I get the world won’t stop spinning based on my performance, I’m still kind of intense about it.

That competitive thang…..

Which brings me to these other “runs” that are cropping up faster than weeds in the spring time.

Color Runs, Foam, Neon, Music, Inflatables,  Zombies, Mud, Obstacles……

I’ve been invited to participate in them all. I haven’t….yet….

Why?

Can I breathe this out loud ?

I guess, that serious, competitive part of me is focused on running and so many of these seem like a big party.

Nothing wrong with that. People running happy in costumes, snapping selfies, no worries about PR’s or negative splits. Running is in addition to other stuff going on.

This is what I decided one day. I fall into the “serious” runner category…. not the play category.

I mean someday I’d like to do a Tough Mudder or Spartan runs… that let’s  your total athletic self  get used…. but then I think… what if I injured myself in mud…or on a barb wire fence 😉 it would mess me up running.

See? Serious runner.

As a runner, I’ve tackled multiple half marathons, two fulls, and a 50K run this Saturday.  To me, personally, these aren’t fun and game distances.

When I mention this to my fun running friends they get this deer in the headlights look on their face and laughingly tell me……. I’m crazy.

Maybe I am…. I kinda prefer the word…serious though 😉 although, crazy IS  a pretty cool compliment to a runner…..

What do you think? If you’re a runner do you consider yourself “serious” ?  or do you just like to go do something fun and playful? Do you see a difference ?

Have you ever done a fun run ?

Racing The Icing On The Training Cake

I recently read an article that discussed runners who, well, just ran with no goals ever of doing an actual “race”. They run for fun, fitness and overall just having a good time.

My first thoughts were how freakish  interesting but then those thoughts were replaced by…. what are they aiming for ?

I mean, maybe I’m weird, but I LOVE having a few races scattered through the year. Mostly bigger ones with a couple small scattered in as well.  It motivates me to have something to train for. In fact, when I found a shirt by Nike that said “Training never stops” I was all over it ’cause I feel like it’s true.

Training is…… a lifestyle.

And honestly, I’d run ALOT more but those crazy registration fees…..did I mention I still like to eat food too ??  and buy running shoes?

I need a sponsor… would anyone sponsor a sassy, outspoken, middle-aged woman who’s trying to make fitness look cool for the greying hair crowd ?? 😉

Anyway, I ended last year with a marathon, launched into this year with my sights set on the 50K March 1 (which I’ve mentioned was cancelled) I did the half marathon that day they offered, and I already had a half planned for the end of this month… Sunday actually… and then the following Saturday (28th)…. I’m doing my 50K on my own.

Not a bad racing month…. and then I’m backing down on my miles for some recovery time… which will be soooo hard…but I know is necessary.

But all that training… leads to… RACE DAY.

No matter how many times I do it, I still get those hyper butterflies and excess energy. I love the day before picking up …. my race bib…… what is it about that?? Seeing that new number excites me.

And what about being around other people who are as crazy as you are ? The energy is like none other.

And finally, I’m dressed, bib on, gear all in place, if the satellite gods align my Nike+ watch will connect right on time and then I’m… on… that….starting line.

Freaking cool.

All those training hours? early morning runs? cold, wet, hot, humid, tired whatever, it’s all come to this moment…. I stand on that line ready to be launched with a sea of other runners. All of us running together, but each one having very different goals and personal victories for that race.

I know I won’t “win” that race.

I really try not to giggle when people nicely ask me if  “I’ll win my race”. I try and explain, that no matter what, when I cross that finish line, I do win. I’ve overcome a lot to get to that point. I’m not the speediest runner, I won’t break any records, I can hope to place well in my age group/gender, do better than a lot of the boys in the race 😉  and even overall… I’m good with that.

So yeah, when race day rolls around it really is the sweet icing on the cake for months of hard work and dedication to my training…..

Which leaves me pondering the runner who never toes the line…..don’t they like frosting on their cake ?

Tell me what you think as a runner… could you just run without ever goal setting for a race?

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Finish line in sight. Closing in on finishing my second marathon Dec 7,2014.

Yeah I’m a Runner With Muscles

I have a friend who always tells me….

“I’m glad you don’t look like a runner”  the first time that surprised me ’cause I’ve had perfect strangers assume I am.

What she meant was that I don’t fit the typical profile… if there is such a thing as one… (see my Runners World page on that topic)

Well, first of all, blowing me out of the running for any “normal runner” profile is the fact I’m 6’0 tall. I’m definitely an easy target and I’m often paced off of… or targeted to overtake ha

Yes, my legs are long and my stride is one to some of my much smaller counter parts two strides, I’ve had to deal with the fact I’ve got a lot more…. body… to move along and my pace might not ever be that of my smaller, whippet thin running companions.  I’m just stupid happy to be in the club…..

Besides, those obvious things, I pack a decent amount of muscle and that is what my friend means. She likes that I have muscles….  more than the average person/runner …..I kinda like it too 😉

As mentioned in another post, a few years ago, I started doing strength training on days I couldn’t run because of really bad weather ( I hated the treadmill and found it to be sooo boring) so I started doing my own “routine” I’d do some boxing and some weights. Nothing crazy, but enough to give me a decent workout.  I’d do it a couple times a week.

Well, it kinda stuck.

Over time I tried to actively incorporate that into what I do. In the beginning I was a kinda ….uninformed.. runner. I am pretty much self taught, read voraciously, and do a trial and error thing.. if it works for me I keep it… if it doesn’t I toss it out. I shamelessly talk to people who are more experienced and knowledgeable. It’s how I’ve learned.

So imagine my total delight, when I started seeing articles and suggestions that runners needed to do more than “just” run. That strength training/cross training was beneficial on so many levels. I was ahead of the game!

Injury prevention/protection

Overall body strength for those last, long hard miles.

Not to mention, it’s good to work all muscles in your body not just running muscles.

I think my body responds well to some weight training, I don’t go all crazy with it. And genetically, I might have something going on that helps.  But I do know I am more aware than ever of how all my body works together running and how I am aware of the strength coming from other areas and not just my legs/glutes.

Of course, being strong and having muscles helps greatly in my daily active life too =) and let’s not forget… summer and tank season 😛

Dec 2014
Dec 2014…..front view……..
Dec 2014
Dec 2014… and the back… I was surprised… I hadn’t really looked at them in awhile 😛                                                    

So what do I do ?

It’s all stuff I have at home. I have weights of all sizes which I use for upper body ( I really do prefer them over machines as I feel like it’s a little harder and makes me invest more of myself) I spend some time on that as well as core/ab stuff too. Squats of all kinds are my newest fav move….weighted and not weighted. I also use a jump rope and love explosive move exercises like jump squats….. which are not recommended to do a high volume of and then go wear heels 😛

and yeah, I end with a plank. I’m up to 3 minutes which makes me feel super bad ass crazy sweaty and breathing harder than an old horse out to pasture when I finish.

The most recent thing I’ve picked up working on is a single leg deadlift.

BOOM. There’s a move that singlehandedly kills your ass haha.

Seriously, it totally isolates one hip/glute area, develops balance (yikes) I do think I need a lighter kettlebell than my 35lb one to do this move with. I’ll keep you posted on my progress with this. It’s one of the harder things I’ve tried.

Basically, if I have only 30 minutes I cram it with constant movement…. if I have more time… I put more in. I prefer 45- to an hour if I can.

Ah……… all for the progress of becoming a better, stronger runner 😉

If you run do you strength train?  Cross train? Tell me what you’re up to incase I wanna try that too 😉

Who Me ? A Runner ?

It’s the question that can come without fail.

“Did you play basketball in school?” after my 6’0 frame has been assessed. “Why, no, I didn’t…”

“Oh, then you must have been in track”

Again, no, sorry.

I smile and tell them I was in band, and a twirler, my claim to fame and athletic prowess.

But… you run now… and you didn’t run in school…  is the next part of conversation…. ( well I did, chasing boys 😉

Then as it does, the conversation shifts to how I, somehow, without any youthful skill or pursuit of running, am doing it now.

Seriously.

How at the crossroads of “middle-aged womanhood” when I’m supposed to be getting soft and fluffy and settling into sensible shoes and clothes,  do I turn into a running junky who now sports the hard and lean look?

What possesses a woman to dive into a sport that people half her age scoff at doing ?

I’d like to claim pure insanity, but I kinda just almost, casually stumbled into it. I didn’t wake up one morning, jumping from bed, proclaiming……………..

“Today, I become a runner!”

I’d always viewed running as a sport requiring a lot of…effort… and one I wasn’t willing to dial up that kinda energy for.

If you’ve read my personal page you might already know that I started off as a happy disgruntled walker.  My doctor had encouraged me to get back to some kind of exercise, so since I used to walk, I just picked that back up again. Rather grudgingly in the beginning I will admit.

As time went on ( and I mean probably a couple years) I found it almost easier to do light jogging for short times. My legs are long and I walk fast ( my sons accuse me of “power walking” at all times, anywhere haha) when I realized the wheels didn’t fall off with that activity, I kept trying to go a little farther.

I still didn’t die.

Then at some point I thought I’d try pushing up my pace a little and attempt to go farther.

Then it happened. I got to a point where I was running more than walking. I kept at that process challenging myself to run to the next tree, or driveway, or mailbox, whatever was a short attainable goal. I usually got to that spot and set my sights on a new one.

And one day someone called me…. a runner. I was flattered and startled all at the same time.

Me? A runner? How had that happened ?

It was a slow gradual process of challenging and training myself. I never set out intentionally to do it. And you know something ? I’m so glad I did.

Physically, mentally and emotionally it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done on many levels.

The other thing? I’ve never met a community like those within the running community who are so encouraging, supportive and helpful to each other. Oh, and let’s not forget, we relate to so many things our non-running family and friends don’t…. so again… it’s awesome to have a huge group of  insane   committed runners to learn from and share victories with.

They understand when you gleefully post “I did negative splits on my run today!!!”” on your Facebook page. They get the crushing blow of defeat and frustration when injury hits or goals get missed. They understand the total euphoria of crossing that finish line…. again….. and what that means…and why you want to do it all again.

So yeah.

I’m a runner.

At this point now, I comfortably call myself that.

I don’t fully understand how it all unfolded, I’ll just say, that I’m glad it did.

Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014
Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014