If you’ve read part 1 and part 2 of my running story, you’re probably curious about why I’m still running. I never felt naturally inclined to run as a child, and there isn’t enough ballistic emotional shit still going on in my life to carry forth the trend that motivated me to run in college.
When I first started, my goal was to run X number of miles and finish. I ran another marathon after my first marathon and it sucked. My body and mind were exhausted, and I wasn’t ready to commit to another training cycle…but I did it anyway. It was slower than my first race, and I felt more miserable for a greater portion of the race than my first marathon. I swore off running another marathon when I finished.
By this time, I’d met my to-be-husband and got him hooked on running, too. He’s been a lifelong athlete (baseball, football, basketball) and went on weekly jogs, but he didn’t take running seriously as a stand-alone sport. Just like when I started, running was a means of getting better at some other sport.
Together, we ran around our hometown, college campuses, and so many places in-between. I’m happy to report we’re still running together now. We make a good pair: on days that I struggle getting out the door, Sam pushes me to go faster than I’d go on my own. I’m a morning person and often convince him to get up and run with me at the crack of dawn (or earlier).
Sam and I have traveled to compete at different races of all different distances. In the back of my mind, the pain and agony of my second marathon still lingered: I would never, ever run another marathon. Instead, with Sam’s help, I focused on shorter distances (5ks, 10ks, another half-marathon). If I wasn’t cut out to run marathons, I may as well make the most out of other distances.
By not adhering to such a long and strict training plan, I learned a lot about optimizing my training based on my goal. Because Sam’s athletic drive far exceeds anything I’ve ever experienced myself, he convinced me to run more trails and climb higher hills. He guided me through sprint workouts and recovery methods. He helped me see that doing the things I dread doing are really the best things for me to do if I want to improve, no matter how reluctant I am to believe that. Now, I’m setting strategic race goals and trying to improve every time.
Not only has my perspective on running changed over the years—going from chore to pure pleasure—my running style has changed, too. I’ve gradually (very gradually) gotten faster. The strength training and cross-training I do is all with the intention of becoming a better runner. It could be cycling, yoga, or weights, but my end goal is to build myself into a stronger, leaner, faster runner.
The more I run, the more I feel like a bonafide runner instead of someone who sort of just fakes their way into some road races. Together with Sam’s help and encouragement, we’ve even managed to rank pretty high in some smaller races and placed first in our age group for a co-ed relay. I’ve even placed in the top three of my age group!
The truth is that, after so many years of running, I can’t stop. Running is a part of me now, and I hope I never have to be without it. It grounds me in a way that nothing else can. If I skip a morning run or don’t get the chance to take a few long laps around my neighborhood, my day feels incomplete. I’m restless, groggy, irritable, and apt to eat everything in sight.
I’ve discovered that a run solves so many problems. If I feel lethargic, running energizes me. If I can’t focus, running pushes all the crap out of my brain and allows me to hone in on the here, now, vital. During a run, I fearlessly battle my inner demons, solve difficult problems from work, or just spend time appreciating the pace of the world around me. Things that feel unconquerable before a run fade to easy tasks after a run.
Just as running helped me discover my inner strength all those years ago, running continues reminding me of my incredible, unique abilities every day.