It’s Not Easy Being Green

Green is my favorite color.

As a poetic type, I really adore imagery and symbolism. I love the way that in literature, for instance, inanimate entities represent much larger ideas. So, naturally, the fact that I am drawn to the color green intrigues me. So, I sat down and thought about what the color green might symbolize. First, I began with the positive, naturally. There are many positive associations to the color green. Green leaves on plants signal that the plant is growing; therefore green symbolizes growth. Green leaves are the anticipation of things to come; green symbolizes hope. Plants need great care; green symbolizes nurture. In the Spring, plants begin to turn from brown to green; green symbolizes resurrection. In short, green renews and restores depleted energy. Well that all sounds really good, and while it’s just so much fun to concentrate on the pretty stuff, this little dreamer must consider the negative now.

Upon careful consideration, I have discovered that there are some pretty negative associations to the color green, unfortunately. The phrases “green with envy” and the “green-eyed monster” immediately jump to mind, meaning jealousy and envy. Green is associated with money, and therefore symbolizes greed, materialism, possesiveness, and selfishness.

Now, pause. You might be asking yourself, “why this sudden fixation on green and its meaning?” Well, that, naturally, has a little something to do with running, as everything in my life finds its way back to my running. You see, this past week, Boston Marathon applications were accepted. I, by a 21 second cushion, earned the right to submit my application, but it will most certainly be rejected, and I am completely prepared for this. Many of my hard working friends have been accepted, and I am thrilled for them. I am truly thrilled, but I am also dealing with this conflicting feeling of envy. I am, as it were, green with envy at the moment, and while it is uncomfortable to admit that, it is the honest truth.

So, lets back up a little here. If you’ve followed my story, you know that gaining entry into the Boston Marathon is most certainly on my list of long-term goals. This past year, my goal was to run a 3:45 marathon, period. I had no Boston Marathon goal set. I met my 3:45 goal with 21 seconds to spare. Success! The fact that this earned me the right to submit an application to run the Boston Marathon was simply an added perk. So, if applying for 2019 wasn’t even a goal, why am I suddenly saddened by the fact that I won’t be accepted?

Well, that is due to envy. Plain and simple. I look around and all I see are little Pacmen bolting around gobbling up PRs, age group wins, and BQs. These little yellow circles are constantly gobbling them up before looking for more. As soon as one is gobbled up, another target is thrown out instantly. It is very easy to get swept up in the ego of it all. Essentially, it sucks the joy out of running. With the help of writing and a good friend, I am starting to reconcile it all in my mind. I am reminding myself that I have a plan. A very systematic plan that I have been honing since 2013. I have gotten stronger each year and learned more, and I simply refuse to compromise my original intent: to use my passion for running to inspire and motivate others, and through this, become a better person myself. This small rejection is an excellent opportunity for me to motivate others. To let others know that it is normal to feel inferior and inadequate at times. While it’s a secret feeling that is impolite to admit, envy happens to everyone.

I mean, who hasn’t been touched by envy, right? The key is to allow the envy to be used as motivation and not as competition with another. The positive in envy is that it spurns ambition, enthusiasm, desire, and initiative. So I will use this envy to celebrate those that have been accepted to run Boston. I will celebrate them like no other; for, while I hope to one day join their ranks, that simply won’t be in 2019. It will happen, but I’m not sure when it will happen. I will wait in gleeful anticipation and know that my success will be counted sweetest after much hard work, dedication, and patience.

In Chinese philosophy, the yin and yang symbol represents two seemingly opposite or contrary forces and how they attract and complement each other. Neither side is superior to the other, as evidenced by the equal parts and small dots in the opposite colors. The idea here is that when one side increases, the other decreases, and the goal is for a balance between the two in order to achieve harmony.

So, yes, while green means envy, greed, selfishness, etc., (yin) green is also a positive color. It gives us the ability to love and nurture ourselves and others unconditionally (yang). It is the blanket of soft grass beneath our feet. It is the leaves on the beautiful, fragrant flowers we enjoy. Nature wears the colors of the spirit, and green is the color of nature. Perhaps green is the great balancer of the heart and emotions.

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Discipline is the Bridge Between Goals and Accomplishment

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I’m racing a 10K this weekend across a bridge. Now, it is important to note that this will not be my first experience with this race, nor this bridge. Oh no. This bridge and I know each other pretty well at this point. You see, I toed the line of this race five years ago when I was a beginning runner. At that point, I had about a year under my belt of running experience and I had consistently run 10K races at a pretty competitive pace. I was pretty confident going into the race. Definitely way too confident.

Eager to race hard and win my medal, I took off like a rocket on that race course that Sunday morning in September. Silly, silly little runner girl, for fast starts are for fools! Lacking experience and knowledge, I was foolish. About halfway into the race, I realized just how bad that finish time was going to be and I completely bailed on myself. I allowed myself to walk. I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself. I allowed myself to feel hopeless. I begrudgingly collected my race medal after I crossed the finish line and had a sour attitude driving home. In the following days, I questioned my abilities as a runner. I seriously considered quitting. For, as a girl who struggles with confidence, I’d almost rather save face and not try over trying with all of my heart and failing.

Obviously, if you know me at all, you know that I did not quit running after that less than stellar experience. No, I tucked my tail between my legs, licked my wounds, kept my head down, and continued to work on my running. I consulted training manuals and read running biographies. I asked for advice from experienced runners, and I pored over all of the data my running app afforded me. I wrote about my individual runs, and every few weeks I’d go back and read what I had written and compare those earlier runs to my current runs. In short, I became a student of the sport. I rather like being a student. I’m the girl that went to graduate school twice after undergraduate school, and my life’s work has been at a high school. I love to learn and I enjoy being tested … but it really crushes my confidence when I fail a test. This 10K bridge run from five years ago was a test I failed. The reason I failed is simple: I did not study. I did not prepare for the test. I had no bridge experience. I went into the race with a bravado I had no business possessing. So, once I regrouped, I did what every good student does: I studied my ass off and I practiced. But, I have been a coward. I have been a coward because I have stayed away from this race that left such a bad taste in my mouth. The reason is simple: I have felt too vulnerable to try this race again. I have been hedging my bets. I have not wanted to commit myself to trying this race again, for fear of the outcome, but it’s time to try again.

All these years this bridge run has been in the back of my mind. This bridge has been my albatross. Certainly, the metaphor of the bridge is not lost on me. I truly believe that the metaphor of running is one of the largest factors in my running obsession, so the fact that it is a bridge run that has me all out of sorts is really quite appropriate.

Let’s break down the bridge metaphor, shall we? A bridge offers a connection. The phrase “bridge the gap” comes to mind. So, the bridge is a connection, but it’s also a sort of obstacle. What a conundrum. During difficult times we find solace in knowing that once we “just get over that bridge” we will be in a better place on the other side, with all that trouble being mere “water under the bridge,” but we have to go through that difficult time before we can truly put it behind us.  We often say “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” meaning, let’s not focus on that difficult obstacle at this point, let’s focus on our current situation, but alas, at some point we must face the issue. The bridge allows us the stability to overcome an obstacle and transition from a difficult situation to a better outcome, but it’s really freaking hard sometimes to cross the bridge!

I have avoided this race for many years and it’s finally time for me to face this challenge. I must cross this bridge. In life, facing challenges is how we grow, and regardless of the outcome, I’m ready to face this challenge.

 

Realizing Life While We Live It

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“Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?” Emily Webb from Our Town

What is the human condition? Obviously it’s the big things, like birth, aging, and death, but there in the middle part, it’s conflict and aspiration. It’s love and friendship. It’s that choked up, lump in your throat, overwhelming feeling that is all encompassing. That middle part is what makes us human, what makes us curious, what makes us feel alive. Those are the things that life is really all about. In order to truly understand ourselves, we look to the past and to those around us in the present as a way to understand the human condition.

I have had the distinct pleasure of finding a group of ladies within my running group that make me want to be a better runner and a better person. They inspire, motivate, and support me, and for this, I am truly grateful. I feel like we are a sorority of sorts, just as the early pioneer running women were. This is precisely what prompted us recently to recreate a photograph of the women who were permitted to race the 1972 Boston Marathon as the first official female registrants. We researched and dressed as these amazing pioneer women, and it was an extraordinarily uplifting experience.

This photograph recreation served as a way for us to honor the legacies of the past, through not only our connection to each other, but our connection with these women through time. For, these pioneer women paved the way for all of us to run with passion and joyful hearts. What better way to pay homage to them than to rally around each other in a concerted effort to achieve more? Reading about these women’s journeys has inspired and motivated us, and we have a renewed resolve to tackle this next round of marathon training.

But, truth be told, all of this respect we’re paying to these amazing women has me taking a good, hard look at my interactions with other runners. I’d like to think of myself as supportive and encouraging to all of my fellow runners, but do I sometimes feel insecure about my running? Yes. Do I sometimes feel jealous of another runner’s success? Yes. Do I sometimes wish I, too, could run the 2019 Boston Marathon alongside the best runners out there? Yes. Do I sometimes feel like I truly don’t belong on the starting line? Yes. Do I sometimes worry my days are numbered with this whole running thing? Yes. Do I wish I could run faster for longer? Yes. What do all of these thoughts tell me about myself? Well, probably just that I am human. I am human. I make mistakes. I say and do the wrong things sometimes. I feel insecure and unworthy at times. But I also feel happy for all of my running friends’ successes. I am thrilled for those running Boston in 2019. I will be the first one to tell another runner “I am proud of you,” and I genuinely mean it. I do. I want the best for all of us, but that doesn’t preclude me from feeling all of the yucky things I mentioned above.

I guess the best thing this photograph recreation activity has done for me and my friends is made us appreciate and admire those pioneer women’s courageousness and it has made us strive to continue their legacy through our offers of support and encouragement for each other. We may not all run at the same pace for the same distance, but we are all out there fighting that good fight. We are all courageous in that we try. One foot in front of the other, we run. We aren’t always motivated to start, but we find a way to muster up the desire to run. We resist that temptation to quit and we keep fighting. We are inspiring to each other and to the next generation of women that are watching us juggle all areas of our lives and still train for our sport. We are athletes and athletes cheer for athletes. Our duty is to lift each other up and we are committed to what Sara Mae Berman (F1) said, “…We never had any animosity with each other. We just all tried our hardest, and figured the winner would be the one who had trained best or had the most talent.”

So that’s our takeaway from this photograph recreation: train hard and support each other, not just in running, but in life. Celebrate the human condition by realizing life while we live it. If we can manage that, we will all win.

1972 Boston Marathon Female Entrants

F2 Nina Kuscsik 3:10:26 aka Ana Lira

F6 Kathrine Switzer Miller 3:29:51 aka Liz Horton

F3 Elaine Pederson 3:20:25 aka Kimberly Etzel

F5 Ginny Collins 4:48:32 aka Maria Anker

F4 Pat Barrett 3:40:29 aka Dendy Farrar

F10 Frances Morrison 5:07:00 aka Priscilla Fierro

F1 Sara Mae Berman 3:48:30 aka Ileana Sepulveda

Valerie Rogosheske 4:29:32 (not pictured) aka Anh Hunter

Are we running or are we talking? Why not both?

I recently had a conversation with a beloved runner friend about talking while racing. You see, at my last marathon, January’s Chevron Houston Marathon, I talked, off and on, for 20 miles with my group. It was very nice. Not long, drawn out discussions or anything, just funny little observations on the race course, quick questions of my comrades, just kind of passing the time and the miles, waving at spectators, “run dancing” with the belly dancers that were out entertaining runners and spectators, you know, having an awesome time.
 
But, if we’re racing and we’re talking are we expending too much energy and wasting our breaths, as it were?
 
Hmmmm. Well, here’s the long and short of it, at least according to me.
 
The largest first portion of the race I need to remain calm and in control of my pace. I do NOT need to attempt to run on “feel.” Oh no, big mistake. It feels great in the beginning! No, the largest first portion of the race needs to be restrained. I have to be checking my watch and making sure I am not going out too fast. I need to ignore the excitiement of racing I’m feeling and ignore all of the runners around me that are zipping past me. I need to ease into it. Talking is actually a very good test of my intensity. I need to be relaxed and talking for the first 20 miles of my marathons. Now, the last 10K, no, I’m not talking then. I’m gradually increasing my speed as I get closer and closer to that finish line. The last two miles — I might be able to smile at you, but I will not be able to talk to you.
 
People say all the time that distance running is as much mental as it is physical, and I couldn’t agree with this more. I have gotten too much into my own head, for lack of a better phrase, that I have ruined my own race. It has happened. I have also ruined my own race by disregarding my training and starting my race out too fast. I’ve actually done that more than a few times through the years, and I have finally learned my lesson. Being able to utter words and phrases here and there to nearby runners during a race is a good thing, in my opinion. As a runner who lacks confidence at times and can tend to either be intimidated by other runners, or to get distracted by faster runners around me, it is good for me to relax, maintain the pace I have previously set for myself, and to remain calm and in control. Chatting up nearby runners helps me with this.
 
So, while I get that we are all different, and that is what I truly enjoy about humankind in general, chatting during long distance races is a good thing for me. It forces me to relax and remain in control and it keeps me happily distracted from this monumental task at hand. Now, I’m the first to admit that I am still learning about running, and I’m also the first to admit that my opinion on this topic could very well change, but for right now anyway, a little chatting during a marathon is THE BEST!

Running is so very difficult in the summer, and the winter, and … well, it’s just difficult, period.

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This past summer I wrote about how very difficult summer running can be because of heat and humidity. Houston, Texas is a real sauna in the summer, believe you me. This past summer, I would have said that unequivocally, it is hardest to run in the summer months. However, after the cold snap we experienced where my feet were feeling the coolness emanating off the concrete and my hands were going numb from the cold, maybe winter running is equally difficult. It is certainly not an extreme cold that we experience here in Houston, Texas, but running in colder temperatures for several hours will certainly wear on a girl, regardless.

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So … which is more difficult … summer running or winter running? Or is it that running is just difficult in general?

Honestly, I guess it might depend on which month it is when I try to decide. If I were asked in the summer which was more difficult, I’m quite sure I’d say the summer, and vice versa. In life we tend to struggle with the here and now difficulties. We focus on what is hard for us at the moment and we believe that once certain circumstances change, we will be afforded great relief. Then said circumstances change, and while we enjoy some relief, we find there is a new set of difficulties plaguing us and we reflect back on that earlier time. The earlier time suddenly seems less awful in comparison to our present hell. In other words, we romanticize the past and overdramatize our present struggle. The same is certainly true in running.

Running is hard. It is hard because the runner is forced to keep going, even when his mind tells him he should stop. Even when his muscles tighten and burn and his legs become extraordinarily heavy. Even when he gets emotional and sheds tears. Even when he becomes hungry and feels weak. Even when his jelly legs cause him to slip and fall. Even when his feet feel raw and blistered. The runner keeps running. One foot in front of the other. The runner keeps it moving. Keeps going forward. Just when it seems there’s no possible way the runner could run any more steps, behold, the finish line appears.

Setbacks and struggles are inevitable in life. They just are. We must persevere through difficult times and learn from them. In retrospect, these tough times were mere blips in time that passed. It always passes. Additionally, we are grateful for the good times when we experience the bad times. Would we even think to recognize the good times if it weren’t for the bad times?

Running is challenging. Period. It teaches us about ourselves. It challenges us. It frustrates us. It invigorates us. It makes us feel alive.

Post Marathon Reflection

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So this year I finally decided to try the Hansons Marathon Method. I had looked into the plan several times after seeing the success of so many of my running idols, but I was always intimidated by the amount of weekday miles it included and the absence of super long weekend miles. I was very skeptical, only because it was not what I was used to.

Now, it should be noted that I have never been formally trained by a coach, never been given a “training plan,” never run for a team, etc. For the first five years of my running I scoured the internet for training plans, read books and articles, and experimented with my running. My training consisted of a hodgepodge of various training plans leading up to my first three marathons. And, every time I went out for a run, I was trying to see how fast I could go. I did not have “easy run” days or true “speed workouts.” How silly I was! Varied workouts with different goal paces is the way to go.

It wasn’t until this past training cycle that I not only decided to fully commit to training the Hansons way, but I also joined an advanced marathon training club where I was instantly surrounded by coaches and other hard working like-minded runners. Again, this was different than what I was used to. I completed nearly all of my runs solo before joining the group, so this took some getting used to.

I very quickly began to love the camaraderie and support I received from my coaches and newfound training partners. Before too long, I considered these people close friends. I can honestly say now that I would do anything, within reason, for them.

The main thing I learned through my training this year is the thing I read over and over, but never really followed:

Don’t go out too fast.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? Ease into it, then go fast at the end. Use that energy you’ve been saving up to blow through that finish chute and throw those arms up as you cross that finish line!

Doesn’t that sound fun? It really is.

You see, I have learned, through my personal running mistakes, that you can sort of “fake it” with shorter distance races. 5Ks, 10Ks, even half marathons. You can go out a little too fast with those and still salvage your race. But the marathon, that is a beast of a race. Those that are walking or barely jogging at the finish line are most likely doing that because they started out too fast, left nothing in their tanks, and are now suffering. I know that’s what happened to me at the conclusion of my first three marathons.

So, all of that being said, I chose to reflect on my marathon race with the Hansons “Assessing Race Success and Determining Future Direction.”

Was I able to complete all of the training as scheduled? If not, did I run more than scheduled or less?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except when I had the flu. Yes, except when I was out of town, got turned around, found my way, and chose not to risk losing my way again and skipped a couple of miles. So, I guess this is a no. Can it ever be a true yes? Maybe I can find out next year.

Was I able to hit all of the prescribed workout paces? If not, were there specific workout types that gave me trouble?

  • Yes and no. Yes, except for when I almost passed out after taking too many salt pills. Why was I even taking salt pills? I don’t even sweat that much. There’s an example of me trying something unnecessarily and then suffering. Stick to what works. Stick to the plan! No one told you to take salt tablets! So, let’s try for a resounding yes on this one next year.

Did I run any of the workouts, easy days, or long runs faster than prescribed?

  •     Yes. I’ve already been yelled at about this. I get it now. I won’t do this again.

Was this training cycle at a higher level of weekly mileage than usual? Higher than I’ve ever done?

  •     Yes, and hell yes!

Was the goal pace faster than I’ve ever run? Was goal pace too aggressive?

  • Hell yes! Not too aggressive. I finished right under my goal time. Yay!

Were my goals appropriate relative to recent performances and fitness?

  • Yes. Even though it seemed lofty, my goal was right in my wheelhouse.

How well did I execute my race plan? Did I start too fast? Too slow?

  • Excellent. I started out easy & opened it up after mile 20 for the last 10K. I can finally say that I did NOT go out too fast! I’m so happy to report that I trusted my training & ran according to my plan. Everything fell in line perfectly.

Did I have people to race? Was the crowd support good?

  • Interesting question. For the first 20 miles I ignored everyone around me except for my awesome running partners, and concentrated on my goal marathon pace and not going any faster. I sort of put blinders on, as I am ever so tempted to pass people in the beginning. As far as racing people during the last 10K, it honestly wasn’t even like that. I’m so happy to report that I was simply finally able to open it up and drop below my goal marathon pace, and that just meant I passed everyone around me. I can’t even count how many people I passed during that last 10K. The crowd support was amazing. Houston never disappoints.

What was going on in my life during this training cycle?

  • Just life. The same old, same old. Full time job, married, two children who participate in extracurricular sports and need help with homework, transportation, etc., household chores, shopping, strength training. weight lifting, cross training.

Was my life more stressful or less stressful than past training cycles?

  •  I would say it was the same amount of stress as past training cycles.

What was my pre-race routine like compared to past cycles?

  • It was the same. I like to get to the convention center early, check my bag, use the restroom, and attend Mass.

Did I get sick during this training cycle?

  • Yes, with the damn flu. It was horrible.

Was I dealing with any injuries this training cycle?

  • Nope, but strangely enough every year in the past I did. I ran more miles under a more aggressive plan, and stayed injury free. I’m going to give all the credit to the Hansons plan. That was the only thing I did differently from past years.

What was my sleep like this training cycle?

  • I’d say it was about the same. I went to bed a little later on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but still got my requisite 6 hours of sleep a night.

What was the weather like this training cycle? Did I adjust for weather?

  • It was standard Houston weather. Muggy and hot for most of the training cycle. I de-rated for humidity as suggested by my coach.

Last year’s post marathon reflection was sad for me. I missed my goal … by a lot. I regressed from the previous year. It was disheartening, but I learned a lot from it. Had last year’s marathon not happened, would I have trained as hard as I did this year? I’m not sure.

This year was different. This year I ran my fastest time yet and managed, by 21 seconds, to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and made me realize that my dream of one day running the Boston Marathon might be closer than I thought. Could I run 2-3 minutes faster and creep into Boston Marathon acceptance? I’m going to try my hardest to find out.

Runner Principles to Live by

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As I embark on the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about my running.

This whole running journey I’ve been on for the last five years has been a wonderfully difficult ride. The first year was spent building a base for running. In that first year I really wasn’t expecting much out of myself, for my goal was to run a 5K. For a non-runner, running a 5K is a monumental feat. The first six months were very tough — I truly thought that I might have to give up on running. I made slow progress, though, and I stuck with it.

At some point I gained fitness, conditioned my body, and I started to believe I could do this whole running thing. As time went on, I’ve made bigger running goals and achieved them. There was a period of time there where I was improving at a very rapid pace and it was wonderful. Now that I’ve done quite a bit running wise, I am experiencing diminishing returns — I am not enjoying big improvements, only slight improvements. I know, realistically, that I cannot continue to expect huge gains, and I simply need to be patient and concentrate on how far I have already come.

This made me realize that I am at the point where many runners burn out and quit. I can’t let that happen. I must remember why I started running and why I continue to run.

So, in order to better do this, I made a list of the runner principles with which a runner should abide:

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1. Run for yourself.

Remember that you are living your own story and it is a great story. The famous Teddy Roosevelt quote “Comparison is the thief of joy,” holds true here. When we compare ourselves to others we discredit our hard work. Competition is great, but instead of fixating on those that are better or stronger than we are, we should focus on beating our own best records. The magic is in each one of us runners, not in our paces or distances. It’s in us. Each one of us.

 

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2. Don’t forget to love running.

Remember that you do not run for a living and it is okay to make mistakes and take your time with your running. This is a hobby. This is for physical fitness, recreation, and mental health. Sure, focus on your form and technique. Do your speed and hill work. Complete your long runs. Practice your mental toughness during runs. Do all of these things, but don’t forget to love the run. Enjoy the wonderful running community. Enjoy the beautiful scenery during runs. Love the childlike feeling you experience during runs. Love the freedom. Do what you love. Love the run.

 

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3. Don’t put yourself down.

Don’t discredit your hard work by telling people you aren’t fast or strong as a runner. You are fast to many people. I think when we say to people “I’m really not that fast,” We’re telling them that because we don’t want them to be intimidated by us, and we also don’t want them to expect anything spectacular from us. Even if we are average, but we don’t quit, that is amazing. That’s truly what makes a great runner. This is spectacular and we should be proud. We should all be proud of our running.

 

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4. Accept advice, praise and motivation from other runners.

Remember that runners are pretty fabulous people. They don’t judge other runners, for they know, all too well, what it feels like to fall down. Runners struggle on a regular basis. It’s either the humidity, or the snow. An injury, or a lack of motivation. A hectic schedule, or a life change. It really could be any number of things, but the point is that we struggle and we support other runners. Take advantage of the community.

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5. Don’t get discouraged.

Don’t think about how far you still have to go to reach your ultimate goals, think about how far you’ve already come. Every day is a test. Will we be strong enough to continue fighting? Every day that we continue to fight we are stronger. Focus on that. Don’t be discouraged by a long term goal and how insurmountable it feels. Keep crushing those smaller goals.
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6. Don’t quit.

Please don’t ever quit because you feel like you are not progressing fast enough. Be patient. So much of our running success is dependent on our confidence and positive attitude. Accept that you will have bad runs. Accept that you will not always be excited to go for a run. Accept that you will lack inspiration and motivation at times. Accept these things and just keep going. Just don’t quit. Keep running.

So, as I gear up for another Chevron Houston Marathon, I am taking the time to commit these runner principles to heart.

Keep running, everyone.

 

 

 

House of Pain

The general consensus among people today is that pain is bad and should be treated with medication. Sit through one television show without skipping through the commercials and you’ll likely encounter at least one advertisement urging you to “ask your doctor if [insert drug name here] is right for you.” This usually happens right before the rapid-fire listing of possible side effects, but before the close-up of the beautiful, pain-free person out in a sunny meadow laughing.

Now, it should be noted that I am of the opinion that every individual person should do what is right for him. I am not a person who harbors some grand opinion about pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical companies and their evil ways. Do I pop an Aleve every now and then? Yep. Did I opt for epidurals during my labors? Heck yes I did. Has my husband been successful treating his high blood pressure and cholesterol with medication? Yes, he has. I think most of us would agree that if a person can manage an affliction without the use of medication, that is the way to go. Sometimes, however, medication is necessary.

But I digress. This entry isn’t about medication. Back to running. As a distance runner, I am quite often in the dark grips of pain. I know, from experience, that I will be hurting while out on a run. I’ve been to that desert on a horse with no name. Yet, I continue to do it, knowing the pain will indeed come. I am, in essence, inviting the pain into my life, welcoming it, even. I’m greeting it with arms wide open. I say to pain, “Hello darkness, my old friend.” So, in this sense, I’m training my mind to cope with pain, to push through the struggle, to fight the urge to quit. I’m training my brain to think of pain in a positive light.
For most people pain triggers negative thinking. I mean, how can it not? But for us distance runners, we have conditioned ourselves to think about pain in a more positive manner. We will overcome this present pain, we’ve got this, it will get better, we’ll keep going. This has to help us out in the real world. I mean, pain is inevitable, right? It is how we cope with our pain that really matters. Negative thinking will result in a higher perception of pain.

Ever been asked by a healthcare professional, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain?” I have and I always have the hardest time answering this question. How does one answer this? You don’t want to be all dramatic and say 10, because shouldn’t that mean that you can’t even walk or talk due to the amount of pain you’re in? Pain is so subjective, isn’t it? Pain is truly in the neurons of the beholder, and we distance runners continually practice managing pain, and the endorphins released while running are natural pain relievers.


So … running causes pain, but it also cures it?
Well, that kind of puts things into perspective. It also begs the question: why engage in an activity that causes discomfort only to require more of that very action to bring relief? I mean, isn’t that the very definition of addiction? But perhaps the pain is the solace. When confronted with a difficulty — a throbbing foot, high humidity, overused muscles, overwhelming stress — we runners “run through it.” We keep going. It’s more than just running “through it” it’s running “past it.” Certainly, running is for people who aren’t happy just staying in their comfort zone, they not only run towards pain, through pain, but past pain. Naturally this is best done with a well-conditioned body, but we all know that the real engine of the runner is the mind.

Running does not have logic on its side

If you are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been asked the following questions a few hundred times:
“So what exactly are you running from?”
“Do you get the runner’s high?”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”

Am I running from something? Well, yes, most definitely, I am running as a means to escape life’s difficulties, this I must admit, is completely true. We all find avenues of escapism purely as coping mechanisms. No matter how perfect our lives might be, we all experience conflict in one form or fashion. Life is messy. Relationships take work. It’s hard to be a parent. The workplace can be a stressful place. Balancing a family budget is rough. Managing a family is no small task. Resisting temptation is a constant battle. Being a successful adult means fighting through all the hard stuff and loving those around us. It’s all about honoring the spirit of whatever task is at hand and being passionate about the end result. So, yes, I’m running from my problems.

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 Do I get the runner’s high? I’m out running, and thinking, and problem solving. I’m getting my blood flowing and releasing serotonin, thereby elevating my mood and reducing my stress and anxiety. So do I get the runner’s high? Well, yes, I guess I do. With all my blood circulating so well and all of that there serotonin I’ve got going on, yes, it does produce a sort of high in me. This is most clearly demonstrated when I come home from a run to greet my basically still-asleep husband in the kitchen and I’m talking 90 to nothing and he responds with mild irritation. That’s when I think to myself, “yeah, you’re a little fired up right now, Dendy, aren’t you? Chill out a bit.” That’s when I proceed to clean up, eat, and get on with my day. I’m able to get ready very quickly when I’ve got that runner’s high going.
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Do I get bored or lonely? No, never. I consider myself to be a sociable person, but I’m also quite introverted. I enjoy the quiet solitude of my runs. I like to be alone. I like my “me time.” Long solo runs are my absolute favorite. It’s just me and the road or trail. I set the pace for the run, I pick the soundtrack to accompany my epic run, I stop and take selfies if I’m so inclined, I pick the route. I’m in total control. I like to be in control. Naturally, not every run goes according to plan. I struggle on runs at times. Some runs, however, are nearly effortless. I, alone, however; am responsible for the run. I don’t have to apologize to anyone, I don’t have to wait on anyone, I don’t have to feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone. It’s just me. I have to answer to no one but me. This is about me and my running. This is about me strengthening not only my body, but my mind. No one else will carry me over the finish lines of my races, I will have to do that for myself.
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 So maybe the reason I don’t get bored or lonely on long solo runs has to do with the fact that I am an antisocial control freak. I mean, I do display those characteristics. But more than that, I am out there thinking and getting stronger. The runner’s high I experience is an added bonus, certainly, but most importantly the time alone and the increased blood flow do wonders for my overall mood and my ability to problem solve. The clarity with which I see difficult life situations while on a run is uncanny. I have solved more problems than I can count while out on a run. This is, quite possibly, the most constructive use of my time possible. I’m maintaining my physical fitness, carefully considering life situations, and improving my overall mood.
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I mean, I get it, running does not have logic on its side. There’s no ball we’re running after, no reason to run around in circles, and it just seems pretty pointless. I guess I should be flattered by the questions I’m asked by non-runners. They are in awe of me. They cannot fathom why a person would want to wake up before the sun and fuel for a run. They can’t possibly grasp the concept of running for 2-4 hours straight. They worry they would get bored or lonely if they attempted to do what we do each week in the name of improvement. Not everyone is willing to put in this hard work.

So, we runners should embrace our unconventionality. We are unique. We are runners, and … running certainly does NOT have logic on its side.

Reckless abandon is fun … until you get caught.

I love music. I love to sing to music. I love to listen to music while I run. Often, it serves as a sort of background soundtrack to the internal monologue I have going on while I run. Running is certainly my time to think and hash things out, but it is also my time to feel free and happy. I have a wonderful life, don’t get me wrong, but I also have daily stresses and issues that cause me to worry. I mean, who doesn’t? Am I fulfilling all of my obligations as a wife, mother, daughter, librarian, and friend? Am I doing enough? Will I look back on my life years from now wishing I had done things differently? Am I selfish? Do I show my family enough love? Do I work hard enough? Running is my escape from all of this and a chance to hash all of this out in my mind. It’s where I reconcile things and make plans. It’s where I pinpoint the areas I want to change and celebrate the things I’m doing well.

It’s also where I sing with reckless abandon and embarrass myself as others encounter me on my run.

The run always starts out innocent enough. I don my headphones, start up my music, and ease into it. I look around and enjoy my surroundings. I remind myself to relax. Breathe. Relax those shoulders. Relax those arms. Let those feet softly land on the ground with an easy stride. Use those arms appropriately. Relax. Then I start to feel good. Happy. I’m running. I’m traveling by foot. Getting exercise. I’m doing this thing that I love. I’m doing this thing that has brought me an immeasurable amount of joy and satisfaction. I’m going to have a great day. Look how sleepy this town is right now, but I’m out here gettin’ it! This is fun. It’s like I’m accessing a secret portion of the day that others don’t know about. I know something they don’t know. I’m feeling free!

This is when I start singing along to the music pumping through my headphones. Now, I promise, I don’t realize sound is coming out of my mouth. It starts out as lip syncing. I’m enjoying the music so much that I want to sing, but I know that to a passerby that would be weird, so I stifle the sound from coming out. Until I don’t anymore. I actually don’t know when it happens, but I know for certain that it does happen because about seven different people on seven different occasions have told me that I sing as I run. Many of these people were strangers at races. How embarrassing. It’s just like finding out that you talk in your sleep, which by the way, I also do according to my husband and my childhood friends.

So, this whole notion of trying to stifle the song is fascinating to me. Apparently, I have a real urge to sing once I’m lost in my run and completely enjoying myself. The sound just escapes. I don’t exactly realize that I’m making sounds, but it also doesn’t exactly surprise me when I’m told I do this. It just embarrasses me. The fact that I get so wild with reckless abandon that I sing like some maniac is kind of cool to think about … for someone else, but very humiliating when it’s me who happens to be the wild, reckless, maniac.

All of this has made me realize the real reason I run. I think I can finally, maybe, answer the “why do I run?” question in a succinct manner. I run to get out of my head and feel free. You see, I over analyze things in my day-to-day life. I love to analyze things. This serves me well in most situations; however, the constant thinking and dwelling on things does not always improve my mood or well-being. Enter running. When I get in that “zone” while running, my mind is wandering and free. I think about things, but then I jump to other things, and then I get lost in my music. I’m still analyzing things, but I’m doing it in a haphazard, disjointed, wonderful way. Then, at some point, I’m not thinking at all. I’m just moving, enjoying music, and, apparently, singing aloud.

I guess singing, like running, is natural. We can all do it. It’s in our genes. It’s human nature. Singing, like running, opens up a range of emotion and is a wonderful release of passion. Feeling makes us sing and singing makes us feel.

Also, as someone who lives in her head too much, singing while running is where I completely let go of my inhibition. I am fully present in my run. I am a lioness, or a lean, hungry she-wolf, unbridled and free. The running rouses an enthusiasm in me that makes it necessary for me to sing.

So, while it’s embarrassing, if I run near you and I’m really feeling my run, chances are you will hear me singing.