Friday, June 22, 2012

How can running be unhealthy?

Many years ago before I considered myself a runner, someone told me that running was an unhealthy activity because people who chose to run were, at least symbolically, running away from their problems.  This statement has stuck with me over the years as I have evolved as a runner and as a person.  Even Runner's World has considered this question with a recent article on how much exercise is unhealthy. 

I started running a little over five years ago in July of 2007.  In the months preceding my not-so-auspicious beginning, one of the dearest people in my life had passed away, I defended my dissertation, got a new job, moved into my first house, changed my relationship status (for the better), and had surgery for the first time.  Although there were a lot of positive changes in my life, so much crammed in to such a short period of time was incredibly stressful and I had consumed a lot of oreos along the way.  Blessedly, I had moved close to an experienced runner who was getting back in the game.  On that first day I don't even think it I made it a mile before I was tomato-faced and clutching my side, gasping for air.  Since then, I've taken some very small breaks from running, but never really quit being a runner.

Over the years, there have been times that running has been an unhealthy thing for me.  It's been unhealthy when I used a three-mile run as an excuse to eat whatever junk food in whatever amount I wanted.  It's been unhealthy when I have let comparison steal my joy by watching leaner, faster runners and wondering why I cannot or do not do the same. 

And, yes, I have also used running to "run away".  I run away from the middle schooler that I was who was ridiculed by a track coach.  I run away from my own limiting concept of myself as someone who is not an athlete.  I run away from the part of me that is shy and finds it a challenge to be in new social situations.  I run away from weakness.  I run away from letting fear keep me from trying something new.

In really analyzing just how unhealthy running is for me, I fall on the side that running has made me healthier in mind, body, and spirit.  I run toward a better version of myself.  I eat to fuel my body for a good run.  I run in the summer to absorb the golden nature of Texas heat and run in the winter to feel the cold in my lungs.  I run with friends, old and new, and rejoice in their fellowship.  I run alone to heal and think.  I run slower than some and faster than others, but I run, and, despite the naysayers, I will continue to run.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The First Day of Marathon Training: Back to School

My new year's resolution was to run 12 half marathons in 2012.  Here in the middle of June, I've logged 5 halfs on the way to that goal.  On June 10th, I completed the Wounded Warrior Half Marathon in Las Colinas, Texas.  The race started at 7:00 am and it was already 78 degrees and my weather app was registering a whopping 80% humidity.  Here's what went right with that race: I finished and I had the opportunity to contribute my racing dollar to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to support those injured in post 9/11 combat.

There was a lot more that went wrong with that race.  I hadn't done a long run since my last half marathon at the beginning of May.  We recently got a treadmill and I've been enjoying my miles indoors in front of the TV.  It was humid and hot and I was not acclimated for the time outdoors.  All of that resulted in my slowest half marathon time EVER.  How did I let that happen?  And, what can I do about it?

I let it happen by not training properly.  Since we moved away from my get-your-butt-out-the-door running buddy, I am more than reluctant to go for long runs alone.  So what does any logical, clear-thinking person do immediately following an epic fail half marathon?

Yep, that's right.  Sign up for marathon training.

So this morning, I put on my sassy new kicks and went to my first training run fueled with a lovely petit filet from last night's dinner at Artin's Grill, oh yeah, and maybe a glass of cabernet or two. 

Starting with a new training group is a lot like the first day of school.  Is anyone going to talk to me?  What if everyone else knows everything already?  What if I'm not allowed to use the bathroom?  Very quickly, those concerns disappeared and we were off for a warm-up, drills, and a 3-mile evaluation run. 

This is not my first time to train with this organization, but I have never completed a season with them.  I usually get bogged down with my own agenda of how the training should be going.  For example, those drills before running wear me out. Seriously drive me nuts.

I've decided that this year, I'm going to heed the plan of those who run stronger and know better.  I'm going to put only one thing on my agenda - run the plan.  We'll see what happens.  I can guarantee there will be a lot more running, a lot more eating, and a lot more in between in the coming months as I chase the elusive marathon medal once again.