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Monday, May 05, 2014

Running: A history

Cap City Half Marathon, May 2014
Let's just get it out there: This was a craft blog once – it still might be as I have lots of wedding projects from last year I could post – but lately I've ignored the biggest things in my life: travel and running. So, I suppose, in the interest of the blog, I'll update when I feel like it and no longer stick to specific subject lines! As always, blogging feels very strange and attention starved when I dissect it, but I follow 100+ blogs about fashion, life, crafts, and art and I love every update and never think less of the author for sharing their world.

So, with that said: welcome to a running post. Some background:

Junior High & High School:
I ran cross country for a few years. Poorly. I was so slow and never practiced. I would hang around with a running buddy and we'd either walk/run around or go over to Dairy Queen for a while, then meet up with the team. I struggled to run 2 miles my first year. I regret not trying so much now. By season two, I went from a 20 minute two mile to 15 minutes! Without TRYING. I'm serious. I magically ran faster in the last few meets. Oh, to be young again.

I also ran track and had greater success in the 800m. But still, I didn't really make an effort and eventually lost interest and quit after two years. I just figured some people were naturally fast and while I was pretty good at the 800m, I didn't want to run the mile (which I was forced to do), I hated running in circles, and since I wasn't breaking any records it was time to move on. Running was hard and I made probably a 45% effort during practice. It was difficult watching some teammates naturally excel without making an effort. Thing is, they probably ran 30+ miles in a month compared to my 10. They did make an effort, but it just seemed effortless to me.

So, I quit and focused on marching band (nerd) and ski club. I did well in those. Occasionally we had to run a mile or laps in band and I was usually the first or second girl to finish. I felt pretty awesome, but not enough to go back to running. High school cross country was scary: I tried it, but the girls were fast and sexy in their sports bras, and I felt totally out of my element...

Flash forward: I tried to run outside on the epic bike path at OU. I went maybe 3 times. Again, hindsight is 20/20: it was a gorgeous path, a lovely route, and just because I couldn't run 3 miles straight out the gate, I quit. It wasn't easy, so I was over it.

During my junior/senior year I became really close with a girl who loved the gym. We went a lot and I started with the stationary bike. It wasn't scary, it wasn't hard, and I could ride it forever. Eventually I tried the indoor track. 10 laps = one mile. It was so much easier than running outside (but maybe that's because I was in better shape overall during this school year!) and the confidence boost from running 10-15 laps was amazing. It didn't matter that it was "only" 1 mile, it felt far!

After graduation I didn't do much of anything. Years passed. I wasn't as chubby as I was during freshman/sophomore year of college, but that was due to my food intake rather than activity level. (I didn't eat as much crappy food once I had to buy and prepare it myself!) I've always enjoyed being outside and hiking / swimming (laying around in a pool), but I prided myself on not having to exercise. Honestly. I remember feeling smug once because I didn't need to diet or exercise to remain pretty scrawny post-college. (I know, what a jerk.)

Race for the Cure, 2008
Around 2008, my friend Greg started to see a trainer and run. I agreed to sign up for a 5k and we'd run together at least once a week. He had a training plan and I just followed him. I remember getting very tired on our runs and he'd keep me motivated, but I'd still punk out and walk. When we finally ran the 5k I was so tired by the last half mile and I really wanted to walk. He didn't let me. In the end, we didn't break any records. It was over 30 minutes. Alex (my then boyfriend, now husband) ran it, too, and finished in, like 22 minutes. So, while Greg and I did a great job for us, I felt pretty bummed that Alex went out and ran fast without any training.

Greg went on to run half marathons and marathons and lost a ton of weight. I am so proud of his running journey and think of him when I need inspiration.

Running with friends: 
A few years ago (2011?) one of my closest friends started running regularly. I was in awe. She was running far! She kept talking about the benefit of taking it slow. That's always been my problem: I try to go too fast, get discouraged, and stop running. I kept repeating this cycle and hated running. 

Around the same time, another close friend moved back to town and had the desire to start running. We decided to give it a go. And before I get too far, I feel like it needs to be said: If I didn't have a friend who kept me accountable, I would not be a runner today. 

We started at the local high school track and she had a plan she found online (maybe a couch to 5k, but I'm not sure in those early days). We started with VERY short distances. We'd run 1/4 of the track, then walk the rest of the lap, and repeat this 4-8 times. I can't tell you how many weeks we did this. I wish I'd kept better track because while it was very little running, it was enough to make us feel accomplished. And it got easier.

We went farther... eventually. I think it took us at least 1-3 months to run a full mile. We both ran cross country and ran a bit in college, but we needed a fresh start. I think we both tried the run too fast, too soon thing and would get disheartened. Somehow this plan clicked. It kept us in check, but without any boredom or feelings of failure.

At some point we ventured out onto the road. We were running in an area with giant (for central Ohio) hills. Sometimes we had to walk up the hill, but even after 3 or 4 runs we were able to jog up slowly... and then a few weeks later we could maintain a constant pace. We started aiming for time goals: run 18 minutes, then walk. At our best, we got up to 30-35 minutes. Because we ran similar routes Tuesdays and Thursday, we had measurable progress via distance and time milestones. It felt amazing!

We were supposed to run a 5k in May 2012, but I think she had to go home that weekend so we put it off. Then our schedules didn't match up as well. I think she was juggling school, work, and a side job (while I was a bum and only had work), so finding time to run became tough. Somewhere along the line she joined a great gym and really got into the classes there. As I have no hand/eye coordination, I started to run on my own...

July 4, 2012
TIP: Map Your Run: 
Besides Meredith and Tricia (the friends mentioned above), Map My Run has been an integral part of my "success." I am a Type-A person (I'm trying to be more Type B all the time) and I love charts, graphs, and gold stars. Map My Run allowed me to see my month-to-month growth. In my first month using Map My Run (April 2012) I ran 17.16 miles. In April 2014 I ran 70.89!

 5Ks, wedding interruption, and beyond: 
My first 5K post-running-renaissance was July 4, 2012. My goal was to run it in under 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it was the hottest freaking day ever (90-something by the time the race began) and I finished with 30:43 (9:55 mile). And here's where another challenge emerged: comparing myself to others: especially Alex! Alex and another male friend ran insane times. They almost won. I felt so lame. But let's look at the facts: Alex works outside all day long. (By comparison, I sit hunched over at a desk.) He is in amazing shape and is built for running. He could run 5 miles without effort. The other friend ran multiple half marathons prior to this 5K. But in my mind I thought, "I'm so slow no matter what I do. Sigh."

Running became less of a priority for a while. I couldn't coordinate with Meredith and I lost interest after my "slow" 5K (whatever!). Life was getting a bit full, too, and I wasn't much for running in the winter. At the beginning of 2013 I ran a total of 36 miles over 4-5 months. In April, Alex and I got engaged and planned our wedding in 5 months. It was extremely stressful and I needed an outlet: so I started to run regularly.

Running alone was really hard. I don't think I ran more than 2 miles at a time for months. About a month after our wedding we signed up for a 5K. It was the first in a string of events and suddenly I felt really into running.
November 14, 2013

November 2013: After a few 5Ks my pace was improving and I was feeling cocky so we signed up for a 4 miler and a 5 miler. I think I may have run more than 4 miles at one point in my life, but honestly, I'm not sure. The 4 miler was my second 4 mile run ever. Same with the 5 mile Turkey Trot. Needless to say, by the last mile it was really tough. But I powered through and ran respectable times.

Unfortunately, something hurt after the Turkey Trot. It continued to hurt until January (so my first 5K of the year wasn't great). At the same time– despite this injury– I looked into joining a training group. Getting from 1 to 3 miles took a year, but somehow getting from 3 to 5 seemed relatively easy. I went to an informational session, a trial run with the group, and I decided to join for the entire 2014 year.

I've been plagued with a small foot injury (fixed with Superfeet insoles) and IT band syndrome for the past few months (remember to stretch!), but I just ran my first half marathon (more to come).

The future: 
My 5K time is down around 28:00 (9:05 mile). Alex and I started to run together (unheard of before!) I can't keep up with him at his speed, but he doesn't have to run as slow as he would have last year. He's agreed to run one 5K race with me in hopes that I can get my time under 9 min/mile.

There's another half in my future, but until then (October?) I'll register for a few 5Ks and a quarter marathon (6.55 miles). I don't know if I'll become a half marathoner, but I know I'll continue running until I can't.

I don't consider myself a runner yet. So that's something else I need to work on!

  1. Find a friend with a similar pace/goal or join a training group that offers multiple pace groups.
  2. Set small, achievable goals
  3. Keep walking / running and track it! You'll feel such a sense of accomplishment looking back at all of your entries. It doesn't matter the time or distance. It all adds up!
  4. Do not compare yourself to others. I have the hardest time adhering to this. But really, it's unfair to compare yourself to someone who has run 10 marathons or got a scholarship to college based on their running skills!
  5. Slow and steady! Do not try to go too far, too fast. Remember, it took me months to go a mile. 

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