Hanging up my running shoes...for a little while

I run, but I don't call myself a runner. I actually hate running.

I don't get that elusive runners high that everyone seems to talk about, instead, I just get injury's. I've racked up thousands of dollars in doctors bills because of running related injuries. You would think that I have been running all my life, but I haven't. I only took up the sport about three years ago.

I ran my first 5k in celebration of my 30th birthday. I actually placed in the top 3 for my age division. After that race, I made friends with my local podiatrist and was in his care for about a year. I had some major foot issues (name your foot "itis" and I had it!), most of them occurring and flaring up because of running. I now wear custom orthodics. Sexy, right?!

Last year, I ran my first half marathon. I had major surgery just four months before the race, but was determined to train and run just to show myself that I could.

I ended up with a knee injury that slowed me down but I was determined to run. I will never forget the feeling as I ran through the streets of Tacoma. I would tear up when I would see little kids lining the streets with signs of encouragement for their moms. Husbands cheering and volunteers ringing bells and shouting out "you go girl". I ran with a feeling of pride that I could do this and at the end, I was thankful that I had.

I had the worst blister from my socks rubbing in my shoes from the rain and even lost a toe nail because of it. At that point, I felt like I could have taken on the title of "runner", but I didn't want to embrace it.

When winter rolls around, and the skies are dark and grey, I tend to hibernate. I stop running on a regular basis. I hate running on the treadmill. The thing that I hate the most about training for an endurance race, like a half marathon, is that it changes the way I work out.

I work out 4-5 days a week for around 1-2 hours a day. I do classes, I lift weights and I do cardio, mostly on the elliptical or the bike because it's easier on my knees. But when I train for a race, I have to focus on getting long runs in, getting short runs in, and generally just running.

Did I mention that I hate running?

This summer, I have a friend that had just come off of running and training for her fourth half marathon. She needed to squeeze in some longer runs on a weekly basis to keep her stamina up, and I told her I would like to join her. So we started running early every Saturday morning.

I went from not running at all, to running at least 12 miles a week. On Saturday we would fit in a long run together, and while we talked, the time passed quickly. We started with 5 miles the first week, then the next week we did 7.5. During the week, I warmed up at the gym with a 5k at least 3 days a week. Once I hit 7.5 miles, I had a crazy thought to run a half marathon again.

I ran 9 miles on my own the next week to see if indeed I was ready and then I signed up for a half marathon that was less than a month away. Crazy? Yep! I continued to train and after my last long training run of 11 miles, I felt great. I knew I was ready to run the Tacoma Narrows Half.

For some reason I had a goal for myself to complete a half marathon in less than 2 hours. I have no idea where I pulled that number from, or why I wanted to complete a race in that time, but I did. My first half marathon I crossed the finish line in 2:02. I was satisfied with my time, but knew there were a few things I could work on to shave off a few minutes (like start a bit faster and not take as much time at the water stations)...oh and not just come out of major surgery!

I started my second half marathon physically prepared, but not mentally prepared. Endurance running is very mental and I didn't prepare myself for that. I had a goal time in mind, but hadn't really trained any differently for this race to make me hit that goal time. I started off too fast (at times, I was running nearly 2 1/2 minutes faster than I trained), and I hit a wall. I was able to maintain that faster speed for about 8 miles of the course, and then I was spent.

I wanted to quit. I don't remember much about running the streets, what I do remember is the self talk I had to do to get myself moving every step of the way. As I came to the 11 mile mark, the two hour pacer started to move in front of me. The gal running next to me said "oh no you don't!" and I knew that I could either make the choice to pick up my pace, or concede to the fact that I wasn't going to make my goal time.

The question I have to ask myself is running a race about the finish or is about the goal you have set? At that point in the race, I was happy to just finish and I thought as long as I have that pacer in my sights, I can still finish close to my desired goal time. A win win.

At the final half mile of the race, the 2 hour pacer stopped in front of me and said she was a bit ahead of schedule. I was quite relieved and didn't realize how important that goal time was to me. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:58.04, but with a time of 1:55.31 on my Garmin (I stopped it at the water stations). Under two hours.

I found a curb and sat down thankful that the worst run of my life was over. I had the worst attitude, and part of me was glad that I could cross that goal time off my list of things I wanted to accomplish in life.

I spent the week after recovering, and then knew I had to get right back into running again to train for yet another half marathon in 6 weeks. I had signed up early to run the same course I ran for my first half the year before.

I headed out on a 9 mile run with my friend Jen and had to stop about 7 miles in because my knee was giving me issues. I have a pretty high pain tolerance (I have given birth naturally), and I don't complain often, but I couldn't press through.

I started taking 6-8 ibuprofen daily just so that I could walk with the pain (if you know me, you know I hate to take medicine for anything). I continued to go to the gym and get my cardio in on the elliptical and on the bike, but anytime I would try to fit a run in, my knee would stop me in my tracks less than a mile in. I mentally wrestled with myself wondering if I was secretly looking for a reason to not run the upcoming half, or if I was indeed injured enough that I shouldn't try to run.

You Go Girl! Half Marathon Tacoma

I dread the thought of going to the sports medicine doctor I saw last year, knowing he's going to want to run several very expensive tests. I was torn for weeks wondering if I could at least run through my injury and at least try to finish the 10k that the race also offers. I finally made the decision to not run. And I was o.k. with that, until I got the e-mail in my inbox talking about the upcoming race and I physically got sick to my stomach.

I'm not the kind of person who says they are going to do something and then doesn't. I signed up, and made the commitment. I had given my knee 6 weeks of rest (gulp, but what if I didn't have the endurance anymore?) and could finally get through the day without the help of over the counter meds (but what if I was doing permanent damage to my knee?). I wasn't in a cast and I was able to still walk so I thought what the heck. Maybe if I have someone to run with during the race, it will take my mind off of the whole thing.

So I called my friend Jen again and asked if she would like a running buddy. She made me promise that I would stop anytime I felt like my knee was not going to hold out on me and with a new back injury on her part, neither of us had high expectations for the race.

Having just run a half marathon last month finishing in my goal time, I decided to answer my own question. Is running a race about finishing or running in a set time? The race this time was about finishing. And finish I did!

I think not having high expectations and slowing my pace down helped me to actually enjoy the run. My knee hurt and even froze up at one of the water stations at mile 11, but once I got moving again, I was thankful to cross that finish line with a time of 2:12. A respectable time considering my injury and lack of training for this particular race.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about running and why I do it. Especially since I don't love it. What I do like about running is the fact that there is a goal to work towards. A measurable distance and a goal time/distance/pace that can be set. I've decided that since I don't really love running, I should really only do it when I *want* to. On my own terms. So for now, with three half marathons under my belt, I'm hanging up my running shoes.


Laura4uandme said...

Totally inspiring. My husband and I just completed our first ever race. It just so happened to be the Warrior Dash. So more challenging then a traditional 5k. We trained by doing the couch to 5k. We should have started with just a traditional 5k, but we didn't. We still did awesome though. We are continuing to run and are going to start doing 5ks.

Jessica said...

I just read your comment on my blog! Thanks so much for stopping by! You inspire me to keep going! I think I'll have to challenge myself to do a few 5k's before I do the 10k again! I hate running to, but I need to get better at it. I need to look at it as if it's my friend and not my enemy. It has helped me shed some weight this year. I did the bad thing, which was not train and run on a regular basis in the last month before I did the 10k. I'm really sore, but now I know to train before I do something like that again! By the way, I love your blog! I'm a new follower!!! :)

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