A long time coming

Someone taggged me on Instagram today asking me what goals I have for my running. The truth is, I have none. The truth is, I’m completely burned out. 

By my best estimation, I’ve been “in training” for the last 16 months. It seems obvious that I’d beed a break. But pushing through and continuing to pick races to train for has done even more damage. Not only do I not want to race anymore, but I don’t want to run anymore. I enjoy the 30-40 minute recovery runs because that’s the longest distance that feels enjoyable these days. If I do 10-12 miles on the weekend with a friend I’m fine, but I’ve lost the ability to do my long runs solo. 

Did I mention I’m signed up for a 10 miler on Sunday?

Did I mention I signed up for my first powerlifting meet yesterday?

Weightlifting has been a welcome break the past few months. I notice I feel similar to when I first started running. Enjoying the progress and the process. The people I’ve met have been incredible and welcoming. They’re sarcastic, funny and eat donuts with wreckless abandon. My people. 

Powerlifting has taught me to be more, not less. Own the space I take up, at the gym or anywhere else. You don’t need toapologize for  taking up space. 

Is it ironic I started Real Running as all these feelings were starting to surface? Or was it my way of throwing myself a life preserver? 

A side effect of weight lifting is, for the first time in years, I’m okay with my weight. It’s irrelevant. In fact, I know in order to reach my goals I’ll probably gain weight (muscle) and that’s ok too. 

I won’t know my race strategy until I wake up Sunday morning. My heart wants a PR. Proof that I still have it deep inside of me. Proof that all my hard work paid off. But I also want to have fun. After this race I only have one 10k scheduled, and this will likely be the last race of the year for me. I feel a twinge of sadness typing that out, like I’m leaving a part of myself behind, but the truth is, I’m relieved. I’m hoping this break will let me run for fun again, no plan, no expectations. 

I’ve spent the last 9 years of my life defining myself as “runner.” It feels strange to outgrow something that you were one so passionate about. I’m hoping that with a little break I can find a balance, and know that I am not defined only by one word. 

Letting go

I don’t race to bolster my ego or image. For me, ultrarunning is about self-discovery. I learn new things and get glimpses of what makes me tick.
–Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner

Here’s a post I wrote many years ago, but I still see so many of the same tenancies in myself now.
———–

A former coach once said that he didn’t understand me. I run controlled and precise, and I never let myself go. I am always holding back. What makes me tick??

The only thing I could think of at the time was fear. Fear of getting injured while sprinting, and to some extent fear of getting too fast. The fear of letting go and letting myself achieve my goals. That along with the desire to not draw any attention to myself, to just fade into the crowd.

On Tuesdays, I used to run at the track with my teammates, and the coach always had these crazy workouts for us. They were hard, and they were also kind of complicated. One specific workout was a few 200’s and 400’s capped off with an 800. Then do it again. This workout is so brutal, and hard to remember that the coach actually has a little song that accompanied it. (Not that it helped!)

Here are my times from the workout on August 2nd (2011):
200’s – 46 – 50 sec
400’s – 1:49 – 1:59
800’s – 4:06, 4:12

And here are my times last night (Sept 28, 2011):
200’s – 46 – 50 sec
400’s – 1:46 – 1:48
800’s – 4:08, 3:55

Interesting that the shorter distances stayed virtually the same, but as the distance got longer, I was able to shave more time off them. I must also give much thanks to Elyssa, my pace master for the 400’s and 800’s. She definitely pushed me and to the point I thought I was going to hurl.

For once, instead of falling behind and feeling pitiful and defeated, I pumped my arms, tried to “bounce” from my knees (sounds weird, but works,) grunted a few painful sounds, and held on. After every repeat I thought “My god, I can’t do another one” But I did. Again and again until the workout was over.

I walked a few blocks towards Union Square before flagging down a cab. I was barely able to climb into the back of the SUV. I massaged my sore calves while thinking about this workout. It feels like that was the first time in ages I had gotten the elusive runners high. I know one really good run doesn’t make or break a runner, but I think last night I was finally able to harness something that I have been trying to hide. I was finally able to let go.

When Winning Means Showing Up

Here is an article I wrote for Runners World/Zelle back in 2014. So much of it still rings true and resonates today. 


I won my first age group award in 2009. It was my first 4 miler, the day of the NYC Marathon (affectionately named the “We’re not doing the NYC Marathon 4 Miler”).

I ran it in 41:20, narrowly beating a 7 year old. I won my age group because I was the only person in the 20-24 group. I kept the medal and told the story once in a while because I thought it was kind of funny in a slightly self-deprecating way. Me win my age group? I’m the short girl, who in high school, took yoga as a gym class because the teacher would let us stay in Savasana for the last 20 minutes of class.

Since then I’ve gotten faster, but so has everyone else. In the big NYRR races, I’d place in the 50-56% range of my age group, always making me feel just average. I’ve had better luck in the smaller races, sometimes I’d place 12th, or maybe even 10th. Even then, it’s easy to feel like you’re good, but just not good enough.

One of my big goals this year was to run a 5K at a 7:5x pace. In 2013 I had run a few in the low 8:00’s, and I was dying to get that first number down to a 7. I thought about how much more accomplished I would feel as a runner if I could run a 7:xx pace for a 5K. I had run a few 5K’s this summer on a hilly course, and danced around my current PR, unable to break it. One day I came across a super flat 5K. Looking at past results for the race I knew even if I didn’t PR, I could do really well overall, so I signed up about a week before the race.

My first two miles were paced great. I counted the women that had hit the turnaround ahead of me: 8. Then I hit a nasty headwind. There was a woman running next to me at the turnaround, but I was fading. Nine women. Mile 3 was my slowest mile yet. I tried to use a trick that Lauren Fleshman wrote about just a week before; use positive words to tell yourself what a good job you’re doing, instead of berating yourself about how slow you’re running, or how painful it is. It kinda worked. I crossed the finish line with a 12 second PR.

I was happy to finally get a PR, though I know my pacing could have been better. I wanted to stay around for the awards, because if there were only 9-10 women in front of me, including each age group winner I knew I had a good chance to place. Or I’d just miss it.

When they called my name for 3rd place in the 20-29 age group my heart fluttered and my stomach dropped. Everyone was clapping! For me! I quickly texted my boyfriend, and then my coach, and almost started to cry. My first hard earned medal.

I know that in another race my time might not have gotten me a medal. But on that day I was the one who showed up and gave it all I had.

Just by showing up, I had already won.

Running Is Not Therapy

If you’ve been scrolling through photos on Instagram long enough, no doubt you have come across the phrase “Running is therapy.” A conversation with a friend over this phrase started months ago, but we both shrugged it off. Lately though, I’ve been seeing it more and more, and feel like I need to come out and say:

Running is NOT therapy.

 

Running IS therapeutic.


There’s a reason why I make this distinction. Too often people use running, and exercise in general as a crutch. And I’ve seen many people develop obsessive tendencies with their running, whether they are aware of them or not. Eventually when they get injured, (because they will rarely take rest days and ignore minor twinges and pains)  they literally cannot cope. Their one coping mechanism is gone, and the depression that tends to accompany being injured is amplified. There was an article in NY Magazine last July titled “12 People on Why Running is Therapy.” At least three of the runners interviewed mentioned “obsession” or “addiction” in their answer.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going for a run at the end of a stressful day, and running definitely helps clear my head and dissipate anxiety. Running can help you think through a problem. But in no way does exercise replace going to an actual therapist. There are some problems that you can’t outrun.