Four months ago, after a yearlong hiatus I decided it was time to take back my run.
Prior to my break, running had been therapeutic for me. It had been my means of emotionally escaping the world when I didn’t want to deal with whatever was going on in it.
Running had been where I found comfort when trying to deal with the grief of losing my father. It was where I found peace and serenity when my world was in chaos. I’d love to tell you that over the last 4 months I have found my love of running again.
But, that wouldn’t be honest.
The truth is, running hasn’t been the same for me; I’ve had to do a little soul-searching to figure out why.
I started running back in 2011 when my Father passed away. Back then running was amazing to me. I loved every moment I was out there. When I was running, I felt connected to my father emotionally. I felt like it was time that I spent with him, even though he wasn’t with me anymore.
It stayed that way for several years. Back then I ran three to five miles on a run. It was my hour of cardio each day. In 2013 I ran my first half marathon, and I got addicted to the bling. I learned that I loved medals. They were this neat little trophy that I got to hang on my wall and see my accomplishment. It made me feel good about myself.
In 2013 I ran four half marathons. They were spaced out between February, June, October and December. The time in between them running still held all it’s beauty and glory for me. I used my time running to escape troubled marriage. I used it as time alone to figure out the answers to life, the universe and everything. What happened next? Where was I going? What was I doing?
In 2014 I ran four half marathons. I earned my first Run Disney Coast to Coast medal doing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in January and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November. I ran a couple local half marathons in between just to make sure that I kept my endurance up. Running was just something fun I did for me back then.
2015 started the same. I was running for fun and for bling. I loved the medals so much that I started running local half marathons that had cool medals just to bring them home. Somewhere between May and August of 2015 I decided that I wanted to take on something bigger than a half marathon.
I decided to do the Dopey Challenge. This event required that I build up the stamina and endurance to run for 4 days in a row; A 5k on day one. A 10k on day two. A half marathon on day three. A full marathon on day 4. Training for this event and building up to that kind of distance meant I racked up some half marathons along the way. Six in fact. In 2015 I ended up running a total of 10 half marathons and in January of 2016 I completed the Dopey Challenge.
This was my best year of running. I was so proud of myself, I felt so accomplished. I never wanted to do it again, but completing a full marathon was a bucket list item of mine and it’s an experience I still look back on with smile.
I struggled with overuse injuries during my training.
I knew that running 10 half marathons in a year to reach my goal had been hard on my body. I had achilles tendonitis in both ankles. My doctors told me I should slow down and stop running as much. But, I didn’t listen. Running was how I dealt with emotions. It was one of my major coping mechanisms.
I was in the middle of some big life transitions and running was how I was dealing with it. I started running half marathons almost every other weekend. Two in January two in February, three in March, three in April, two in May.
In May of 2016 my work situation changed, and I didn’t have all the free time I once had. I was working two jobs and juggling a new relationship. My new relationship was very time demanding, and I had far less free time than I was used to working two jobs, so for a few months, I put running on the back burner.
I started running again in July, when the anniversary grief of my fathers passing rolled around and then when the relationship I was in started spiraling into epic failure, I started running to escape it again. I went right back to running two half marathons a month for September, October and November. As the relationship improved again, I backed off a little, went back to running about one half marathon a month. By the time I was done I had run 18 half marathons in 2016.
I followed the same pattern in the beginning of 2017, averaging one half marathon a month until I hit the point in May that I stopped running altogether.
I have this tendency to do everything to excess. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Work, writing, playing games, putting together puzzles, sex, drinking, eating; Whatever is making me feel good, whatever is making me happy, I want that thing in epic volumes.
This is a behavior I have been working on changing in the past year.
I’ve been focused on trying to find balance in things. To appreciate things in smaller amounts the way I learned to appreciate food in smaller amounts after my weight loss surgery. I’ve been focused on being more reflective; On looking at what I am doing and making sure that I am doing it for the right reasons.
In this last 4 months of trying to take back my run and trying to find the love of running again, I’ve noticed a few things.
I really enjoy those three to five-mile runs. I’m out there, I’m happy. The sun is hitting my skin, I am taking in mother nature and I feel that emotional connection to my father again. But, those long runs, 8 miles, 9 miles, 10 miles, 11 miles. I’m pushing myself to go the distance, wondering why I am doing it.
Additionally, those long runs take a long time. I find myself feeling guilty about the time I am spending on myself when I have so many work and career related things I should be doing.
I’ve also noticed, that when I am not using running to escape life, I don’t seem to need those long runs the way I used to. There used to be a time that when I ran six or seven miles I still felt like I had emotions to work through and the longer I was out there running the longer I had to process and work through those emotions.
Now that I am in a better place in my life, I’m finding that I just don’t need running the way I once did. This was a huge transformation in what running has been for me. But this is also the first time in the history of my running career that there is nothing I am using running to get away from.
But I still love the medals. The bling. For me, the medal is the reward part of my SMART goal setting process. It’s what I get for accomplishing my goal, putting in the training and holding myself accountable.
This had me in a little bit of a conundrum.
Typically, you only get cool medals for half marathons. Yet, I don’t want to be running a half marathon every other weekend, or even every month. But here at the end of my training for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend, I’ve discovered something new. Virtual Runs with large-scale accumulated distances. I’m considering doing a lot more of these sort of little run challenges to keep earning those medals that I love so much and going back to only running about 4 half marathons a year.
I’ve changed. How I feel about running has changed. That’s not really a bad thing, it’s transformation. It’s where I am in my weight loss, weight maintenance and fitness journey today.
I’m not feeling that whole “I just felt like running,” need to run until whatever hurt inside me starts to go away emotional need to run. I’m not feeling that “Run Pandora, Run,” need to Forest Gump my emotions through miles and miles of running.
You’ll noticed I said “considering” though. I haven’t set anything down in stone. Part of me is also wondering if my lack of enthusiasm for those long runs has more to do with the fact that I am just getting back to those long distances and they are harder than they used to be.
I’ve also considered that I’ve been training in high heat and humidity. It’s not really running season yet. As the weather starts to change and fall comes, how I feel about running might change.
No matter what happens next in my run journey, I am happy to be running again. I’m grateful to the good folks at BariLife who put the opportunity to return to Paris and redo my dream half marathon again. Training for this half marathon has brought running back into my life and helped me start looking at how I am going to reincorporate it into my world on a regular basis.