Life as a Run

I am so excited to be able to run again!  There was a long time – a couple of years, really – when I found myself struggling to get through even a mile without having pain in my knee.  I felt defeated every time I had to stop.  I felt so good otherwise, and other activities left me feeling strong and limitless.  It irritated me.

How amazing it was to find that, with the addition of a few targeted physical therapy exercises, I could completely eliminate the knee issue, along with the limitations it represented!  All of a sudden, I am excited about what each run might bring – a faster pace than ever before? . . . or maybe the thrill of discovering that my “easy” pace is now so much faster than I could have run a year ago at my fastest?  As I notice the gradual effects of aging, it is satisfying to find something physical that is actually improving.

I find running to be a great metaphor for my life – seeking balance (when to push and when to just let things be as they are) and seeing clearly how thinking can help or hinder personal growth and progress.  Join me, if you dare, inside my head (scary!) this morning.

“Ok, what’s my goal today?  Had a good dose of carb . . . a bowl of oatmeal . . . and enough caffeine to feel charged up.  Last time I ran outside, I got so tired at the end of 3 miles, I had to stop even though I had hoped to push a little farther.

“Here we go!  I’m just going to try to feel good today.  Yep, do 3 miles AND feel good.  I don’t care how fast I go.  In fact, I won’t even check until I’ve gone at least 1.5 miles.

“Hmm.  Feeling a little tired starting out.  How fast am I going?  No, don’t check.  Just keep on going, keep on going, keep on going . . .

“How far am I from the first steady uphill road?

“No, stop it!  Don’t think ahead.  Hills ahead = tired thoughts.  Focus on THIS step – now.

“If I didn’t know that uphill climb was ahead, would I be anticipating how tired it would make me?  Probably not.  Maybe that won’t happen this time . . . if I just keep thinking about the next step I’m taking.  Here and now . . . here and now . . . grateful for the strength of my legs and the stream of my breath.

“How do I feel now?  Right now.  This second, without any attention on what is ahead.

“Pretty good actually.  Remember that sturdy tree in the yard?  The one that helps me keep from falling over when I visualize it during yoga balance poses?  I am that strong!  Solid!  Flexible, but sturdy and secure at the core.

“Wow, I’m climbing now . . . didn’t really notice when I started . . . breathing a little heavier.  Am I going to make it?

“Stop it!  Now!  Of course, you strong tree of a woman, you will make it.  Breathe steady, . . . in . . . out . . . in . . . .  Hmm, I feel better, less tired.  It’s passing.  My foot is stepping on level ground now.  Nice.  Breathing is good.

“This actually works!  One step at a time.  Easy breathing.  When breathing quickens, focus on the rhythm until it steadies again.  I think keeping a steady rhythm is what this is all about!

“Could my thoughts about how I expect to feel down the road be making me tired?  Can anticipation of something tough make it tougher?

“Hmm.  Interesting thought.  I think I’m on to something here.  Think of that magnificent tree . . . I am sturdy.  I am strong.  I can do this.

“Two miles in less than 18 minutes?  And I’m OK?  I’ve kept that pace before, but always had to slow way down for the last mile – always so tired.  What if . . . ?

“Just keep going.  Don’t think ahead.

“I see my 3-mile landmark ahead!

“Why am I starting to breathe heavier.  I’m getting tired.

“Aha!  My mind jumped ahead to the finish.  Get back here.  STAY RIGHT HERE.  Thinking of the finish = panicky thoughts.  I want to be there, at the end.  Makes me tired to think about it.

“Steady!  Just keep going.  Remember:  today’s goal is to feel good while you are doing this.

“Steady . . . steady . . . breathe . . . DONE!  That was awesome!  I feel good, pleasantly tired.  Perfect.”

Three miles in just under 27 minutes.  Not a world record, but a personal triumph.  What a feeling!  And what a great reminder to stay present, not to focus on impending doom that may never occur, and to keep a steady pace – nothing too ambitious, but challenging enough to push the limits.  What great practice for life!

Does anyone see a connection to consistency with eating and better results with weight control?  Stay present.  Ride with the ebb and flow of human motivation.  Accept where you are now.

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4 responses to “Life as a Run

  1. 3 miles in under 27, that’s pretty good! That’s my goal actually. I did a 5K a couple weeks ago and got 30:15. I’m thinking of signing up for another one next month and hoping to reach sub 27! And you’re right, you really can’t think about the road ahead or how tired you are, if you want to keep going.

    • It’s fun having personal goals, isn’t it? This is all new to me – trying to be faster. I never really trained for anything. Today I did some “speed work” (alternating run fast, walk). Who knew that doing that could increase speed and endurance?! Now, instead of making assumptions about what I can and cannot do, I’m just playing with it. I doubt I will ever run a marathon, but I used to think it was impossible. Now I’m not sure. You can do a 5K in under 27 next time. Try some speed work – it really helps.

      • Speed work definitely helps! My training so far has been just plodding along for as many miles as I can, haha. Now I’m going to take it up a notch and start doing some fast/slow work. The long distance training definitely helps too with endurance, but yes you have to include some speed work. I used to run cross country and long distance track in high school, so I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of a race!

      • Fun! Let’s see what we can do this summer. I just read that a 57-year-old woman just ran a marathon in 3 hours, 48 seconds – completely mind boggling to me.

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