Things I’ve learned from running

20 Feb

It’s hard to pick a word that accurately captures the way I feel about running. Love? I suppose love has ups and downs. One thing is for sure, I don’t run because I’m particularly fast or good at it. Since I’m unable to settle on a word that encapsulates the way I feel about running let’s talk about what motivates me to tie up those laces time after time. What hooked me most and earliest on was the feeling of power I get from running. It’s hard to explain beyond that. Running in Bellingham means that I run around/next to/in view of some body of water. Usually Puget Sound which only fuels my obsession with the Sound. It’s not just a treat in good weather either, one of my favorite views is the sun setting in a gray sky over a Sound full of whitecaps. Running gives me an excuse to go experience the weather. When many people are tempted to hunker down at home I get to enjoy the squish of mud under my shoe, the sound of fat raindrops plopping on leaves, the smell of fall, or the quietness that comes with a blanket of snow. Ice and extreme cold are enough to keep me home and make me cranky but thankfully we don’t get a lot of that here. It’s a quiet time for my mind, free from the distractions and stimuli that make it difficult to fully explore a thought. So many revelations in the last couple of years have happened for me while running. More recently, I came back to running regularly when everything else in my life was out of control. Unsure of when I’d be leaving for the Peace Corps, how long my job was going to last, and what to do about my living situation, running was the one thing I knew what to expect of. Along with the things I get with every run I’ve realized a couple of things applicable to life outside of running.

The first realization was that so much of one’s ability to do anything is mental. I once psyched myself out of a 6 mile run. At the time 6 miles was juuuuuust outside of my average run. Physically I was completely capable of doing it but all these excuses filled my head and essentially sabotaged the run. When my friend and I ran a ‘practice’ 13 miles we refused to let the doubt in, telling each other that we were ‘just going to go for a run for as far as we could.’  At the starting line for my first half marathon I told myself, ‘It’s just a run like any other day.’ Sure enough, we finished both of them without ever doubting we would.

The fact that digestive issues are common with runners doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. I still don’t understand the etiology of my side aches which lead to my second revelation. I can breathe through anything. In this case ‘anything’ refers to discomforts and challenges, not plastic or fire. This is tied closely to number one, but my belief in my ability to breathe through anything makes it less likely for me to get discouraged or find myself sabotaged by a challenge that presents itself.

The last realization came this weekend. I’m into my seventh week of a marathon training plan (no plans to run a marathon in the near future, just want to see what the mileage feels like) and starting my fourth week of strength training twice a week. To say that my body (primarily my legs) is still adjusting to strength training would be an understatement. The workouts no longer leave me sore for days but I consider it a good day if I find my legs capable of more than a ‘trudge’ during runs. So this weekend my long runs were both 8 miles which is not a distance I consider outside my comfort zone. Yesterday’s was bad. B-a-d. It felt like I hit my stride around mile 2 but shortly after that it all seemed to go downhill and it felt like I was grandpa shuffling for well over half the run.  I can accept fatigue near the end of a run, but what happened yesterday was downright frustrating. I wasn’t winded, nothing was sore or hurt, the power just wasn’t there. There was no satisfaction in seeing the run through to the end. My final thought was, “The only good thing about this run is the opportunity to do it better tomorrow.” This morning I spent the first mile critical of every step before realizing that such an attitude was not going to aid in making this run better than yesterday’s so I shook those thoughts from my head and enjoyed the sun and scenery.

I prepared for both runs the same way, listened to the same music, ran the same route in a similar time yet today’s run felt so much better than yesterday’s. This brought the realization that instead of carrying the discouragement of a bad day into the next, tomorrow is an opportunity to do what challenges you better. Even if all else remains the same. Is that what determination is? At any rate, totally ties back to realization one.

 

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