Hello there, happy Monday-eve!
Tomorrow is Marathon Monday, the first of many in 2017.
For my first fitness/running/marathon post of the new year, I would like to share some thoughts on last summer and fall, those many weeks spent training for but ultimately not running Route 66 in Tulsa. Even if you are not a runner, I hope you’ll find this interesting and maybe even useful. No secret that running is as much a lifestyle as a sport. If you are a runner, I would love to hear your perspective, too.
For the sake of keeping good life records and answering the obvious question, why did I train but not race?
I started last year’s spring marathon season with a pretty bad ankle sprain and had to skip the OKC April event completely. My high hopes of redemption after the 2015 Crying Games were, well, dashed.
My ankle thankfully healed in time to make a fun June trip to Colorado and get in some amazing hikes with Jocelyn plus run lots of hilly miles there, all of which served to kick off a brand new training season.
My imagination was set on the Tulsa full in mid-November, but I never registered for it. I just had this vague feeling that it wasn’t right. I did run consistently all summer, though, and into autumn, following my chosen plan pretty strictly.
It was so great. I felt better than I had felt in all the three or so years of running so far. I even lost some weight without dieting and had energy to spare.
None of that low-energy-black-under-your-eyes-carb-starvation nonsense like in 2015. Let’s never do that again, okay? Okay.
Then as the temperatures dropped and our leaves fell in earnest, I woke up one day with a nasty case of strep throat. Handsome joined the germy, high-fever club so we loaded our systems up with antibiotics and slept for a few days.
Eventually we felt good enough to shake it off and visit Jocelyn again, this time during the week that would have been spent tapering. My thoughts were torn between “I should really get some miles in just in case,” and also, “Man I am glad I didn’t pay for the registration already!”
Funny side note: I had good reason to believe Handsome was surprising me with a race BIB as an early Christmas gift. I hated to ruin the surprise if this was the case, but I had to know. What a deep, amazing relief it was when he said no. He had considered it but could tell that my race enthusiasm had waned. Okay, side note over.
I also happened to get a bizarre and disturbing case of extreme altitude sickness that weekend and only barely hiked once or twice. No running at all, much different from every previous trip to EP. We assumed the antibiotics and some dehydration had weakened me considerably. Oh well.
Pretty cool, if you ask me, how that running chapter of 2016 was book-ended with visits to Colorado.
Okay. The take-aways. What are some benefits of training for a marathon even if you don’t run the race?
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about marathon training is how much of an adventure it is. You know that saying, that a marathon is just the final 26 miles of a journey that is hundreds of miles long? Very true. And along that journey a runner learns plenty about himself, his life, and the world at large. This past season was my third such journey, and here is what I walked away with, despite not earning a finisher’s medal:
- Gratitude Interrupts Anxiety. Exactly as with every other kind of anxiety in life, gratitude has the power to sort of melt running anxiety and overshadow it. Gratitude for strong ankles, gratitude for healthy food to keep you energetic, gratitude for time available to dedicate to running, gratitude for pleasant (or at least bearable) weather. Gratitude for the people who inspire and encourage us. Gratitude for every goal met and every lesson learned when we don’t meet those goals. Gratitude for faster speeds and slower heart rates. Gratitude for comfortable shoes and good music. Gratitude for jeans that fit better than before and foam rollers that hurt so good and cold, sweet watermelon. Millions of big and little things for which to give thanks along this 18-week running journey. Let your thankful heart lead the way on the days you don’t think you can do it. You really, really can.
- Run While You Can. During the sprained-ankle months I sat around pretty depressed and pouting like a child, ha. Not being free to run leaked some funky negative energy into my life and into our home, into all of my projects. So when the day finally came that I was free to nibble at a mile here and there, everything seemed right in the world again. The positive energy quickly gained momentum. That contrast of emotion was useful later, when inevitably I felt challenged by a workout or pressed for time. I was able to remember how much worse it is not be able to run at all. Every opportunity to lace up is a gift. Run while you can, if you love it, because you never know when you’ll have to take a break or for how long. Carpe diem.
- Solitude is Powerful. I ran with local friends three or four times between June and November, and I thoroughly enjoyed each meeting! But most of my weeks were spent running alone, which was quite fruitful. Privacy in the midst of a hectic farm and family schedule helped me reset my nerves and reorder my thoughts. Forty-five minutes or an hour and a half on average weekday mornings gave me energy to work around the farm all day; it cleared my head early. And those 16-20 mile runs on Fridays felt like little emotional retreats. I looked forward to them as well as to the recoveries that must follow. Long runs on Fridays always made for super happy weekends. Mental freedom, baby. It counts for so much.
- Persistence Gave Me Speed! That was a pleasant surprise, especially in the thick of a hot, humid Oklahoma summer. I privately nibbled away at a few progressive goals and was thrilled one week to run 12.5 miles in 1:41. That was an unofficial PR, and I was elated for hours. Days. It definitely gave me the spark that I could get better with more focus, and in 2017 I intend to do just that.
- Long Term Goals are Totally Worth Having. I forget this sometimes, getting overwhelmed by the enormity of hard things in life, and I allow that sensation of smallness to paralyze me, believing that things are impossible or hopeless. (Which is weird, right? For someone who professes so much about positive thinking? But that’s a whole other conversation.) With running as a life metaphor, let’s remember that the structure of a well chosen plan is refreshing and wildly effective. It provides a base for time management, something good around which you can arrange the rest of your hours and days. It propels you to start small with what you can already do then add more and more as you improve. Progressively. Gradually. A smart plan gets you to your goal, but it also enriches and builds you along the way. Like magic, really.
- Addictive Personalities Can be Harnessed for Good. Haha, my friend Meredith and I were chatting about this recently. Handsome and I also tease each other about being “addictive” and “OCD.” If like us you too have an addictive personality, running might be a smart way to harness that particular energy. When I am running a lot of miles I notice a special chillness in the rest of my life. It’s like, if I can apply a measure of obsession to my training plan, then I can go about the rest of my routine smiling and relaxed, energetic, drained of stress and frenzy. The phrase we toss around is “Let it be your servant, not your master,” which can be a delicate balance. But I finally see for my own life that putting running toward the top of my priorities does serve my life. It lets everything else fall into place beautifully. (Four years ago I would have called you crazy for suggesting this. xoxo)
- Save Some Big Bucks. Ha, I mean honestly, races are expensive, right? The entry fee, the travel costs, the extra bananas and PASTA!! LOL. Cash in our pocket, I suppose. More gardening money. I am kidding a little, but the fact is that even without a keepsake medal or BIB, even without the race experience (which is admittedly pretty amazing), those long runs are still so good. The weeks are still intensely satisfying. You can be a happy, healthy runner in private and save some money. I have not yet discovered any laws against this.
Well friends, those are about as distilled as my thoughts on this topic are going to get. Seven pretty wonderful things I have internalized after training for but not running a big race. I feel so happy! Fortified in many ways. Ready to tackle new pursuits this year.
Thank you so much, friends, for reading and for sharing your thoughts. I love getting to know people this way.
Thank you to Handsome for secretly almost registering me in the Tulsa full as an early Christmas surprise but also for being sensitive enough to his wife’s nuanced behavior to know she wasn’t ready. For a non-runner, he is pretty tuned in. xoxo
Happy New Running Year!!
Enjoy the Journey