Running can teach us so much.

A year ago I took stock of what training for my first marathon meant for me — I wrote that post with a couple of months to go before the big day. With just two weeks to go before Boston, my third marathon, I am again thinking about what training your body for 26.2 miles can teach you. I couldn’t help thinking about this following a recent weekend 10-miler that found me running with a group of new runner friends. I discovered a few new things, about running and about myself, throughout this early morning route around Little Glen Lake in Leelanau County. In the weeks since, which has included a much-needed week-long break to the Gulf of Mexico with my family, I’ve had a few other moments of runner self-reflection…

1.) Going outside your comfort zone is essential. And uncomfortable. I often run alone, partly because my schedule varies enough that coordinating with a friend’s schedule is more back-and-forth emails and texts than actual side-by-side running. Also, I’ve realized I like the time to myself, to bliss out to peace and quiet (or a rockin’ playlist). But running with friends IS fun and, during months of race training, can break the monotony of the same-old routine. I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to run with three fantastic women. It was part of an informal run get-together that all told included 10 people. As it happened, the guys opted to run a different route, two women decided to go a shorter distance on their own, and that left me and three others choosing a 10-mile loop that started in the tiny village of Glen Arbor, took us around beautiful Little Glen Lake, up a hill with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan, and back to where we started. So where does the discomfort, er, uncomfortable-ness come into this? Well, in a nutshell, after some time reflecting on it, these women were fast runners. Fast for me, anyway, as an athlete training for her third marathon in less than a year with a not-quite-healed IT Band. It didn’t feel horribly fast as we started out, winds whipping around us and the temps in the low 30s. It felt steady, a pace I’m used to … later in my runs. So, looking back, I think running sub-8 minute miles from the get-go probably wasn’t such a grand idea for me. I’ve since come to the realization that I need to remember this lesson, and it is this: when you’re about to run with new runner friends, ask them about the pace. Just do it. Don’t worry about any awkwardness this may arouse. They may tell you a pace that’s ridiculously out of reach. Or maybe they’ll share a minute mile that sounds just fine. At least you’ll know. I didn’t know. I only guessed. On what, I’m not sure? They look like similar paced runners? That’s no way to figure it all out. Yes, I could have asked we slow down. Thing is, I didn’t really feel that we needed to — until the final couple of miles when, after ascending a hill (with sweeping views of Lake Michigan came into sudden view), I just felt…tired. Worn out. Thinking we — I — just went out too damn fast. And isn’t that the worst? Feeling like you want the run to end already because you wore yourself out within the first few moments of taking to the road? Much later, after a delicious breakfast with this group of really wonderful people and runners, I shared thoughts about the run with a good friend, someone who also is training for a marathon right now. I expressed how I was hurting, how my IT Band/knee wasn’t feeling 100 percent again after a long-ish run, and how I was feeling bummed and humbled and frustrated after running for the first time with these runners. Her reply: “They’re fast runners because they are not training for a marathon! You are a rockstar.” (we all need friends like this, no?) So, on the one hand I am happy to have met new runners — there’s nothing quite like getting to know people as you sweat side-by-side — but I’ve also realized, yet again, just how tough it is to find runners in similar stages of running — meaning, finding a person who is training in like ways, who runs at a pace that matches  your own is a little like finding a life partner. It ain’t easy. But also, that’s OK. We’ve got to try new things, meet new people, expose ourselves to different, even uncomfortable, situations so that we can learn more about ourselves.

2.) Injuries = blech (for the most part). Let’s see. Is there anything worse than having your body disagree with your mind about what can be accomplished? Sure, there are worse things. But this, well, it blows. You want to go for it, to train the way you once did, for example, and your body is saying, “um, no, not this time.” This sort of sums of the past couple of months for me. I have tried really hard to have a positive attitude about it all. I do feel we have the opportunity to learn much throughout an injury. It’s certainly a lesson in slowing down, in truly, truly listening to our bodies and giving it time to heal…even when it kills us to do so. I remind myself that if I hadn’t had these IT Band issues (or any of the injuries I’ve experienced), I wouldn’t get to know my body the way I now do. It’s an education, if you let it be, because when I am hurting, I want to know why it is happening and how I can make changes to make myself feel better–and even better yet, possibly, hopefully avoid these pains down the line. I don’t mean just Googling your injury either (of which I am guilty) but actually trying out different potential remedies, like ART. I never would have known much about this at all had I not experienced pain in my left leg and knee and mentioned it to a friend during Pilates. She immediately recommended I see a local longtime runner-coach-massage-therapist who had pretty much cured her knee ailment a few years prior. But even beyond that, I’ve been in touch with others who could possibly help me, including a chiropractor and a couple of area physical therapists. It feels good to know what is available to athletes who are dealing with injuries. It seems fitting to add this gem from my Oregon runner friend Laura (she posted this today on her Run Momma Run FB page–what timing! ;) )

Hey injured runners….just thinking about you, sending you speedy recovery vibes and reminding you that you ARE a runner. Don’t be mad at your body – feed it well, rest it lots and move in other ways. When you’re back out on the road or trail, it will be stronger and feel loved. Sometimes being injured feels lonely. You feel behind. You feel like you’ll never catch up or be your old self. You ARE a runner – inside and out. And I was just thinking about you today. Big hugs! xxxooo

3.) Re-calculating is a good thing. This year we decided to forgo flying and drive the 20+ hours from Michigan to Ft. Morgan, Alabama for

Post-long run, enjoying the balcony view and cup of coffee ~ hoped for 16 miles, ran (and walked) 13 because it was just too hot.

our spring break travels. Definitely long, definitely tiring, but so worth it. This year great friends of ours also spent their spring break in the condos along the Gulf of Mexico, a bit off the beaten path but close to Gulf Shores, Ala. It was an amazing time with them on the beach and at the pool — perfect temps of high 70s, breezy and sunny. Gorgeous running routes, though a bit hot at times. But all that driving  came with, of course, lots of pit stops along the way — some expected (meals, bathroom breaks, being a tourist) and some not-so-expected (many, many bathroom breaks). Each time we changed our course, to take an exit or check out some local spot like the Diamond Caverns in Park City, Kentucky, our lovely GPS woman would let us know she was “re-calculating.” We heard this so much, I pretty much tuned it out…except it got me thinking how my marathon training this time around has been all about re-calculating. Re-calculating because I’ve altered my days and times I’ve run, thanks in large part to an all-consuming job these past few months; because of an injury that while much better in recent days definitely has taken me off my preferred course; because … I just seem to have lost some of my running mojo. There, I said it. While I can’t pinpoint exactly why this is — I suspect it’s a combination of pretty much what I’ve just described above, and then some — I do know that I just haven’t had that same joy. That same contentedness I had become accustomed to feeling pretty much all the time when I run. So, it’s strange. A little disorienting. But I know it’s just normal. I do believe that. I’m re-calculating–continuing to re-calculate. I’m thinking the months to come are going to be great —  the two weeks ahead are going to be amazing! — as I switch things up and try new things with my running. I’m thinking more trail running. More volunteering at races. More triathlons. We’ll just see where the re-calculating takes me.

First up: a long, easy-does-it trail run on the Vasa this afternoon…

What’s something running has taught you lately?

 

 

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