In my first post, I briefly mentioned that I have been on a self-imposed hiatus from running. My last run was on October 8th. That run was a 5 mile race that felt terrible from beginning to end, and I crossed the finish line with the realization that I had reached a breaking point. I was in a bad emotional space, flirting with burn out, and just generally miserable each week cramming in my training and fighting with myself not to skip workouts. The pride and success stories flooding out of that weekend’s Chicago Marathon only seemed to shine more light on what a rut I was in. I needed a break.
I hadn’t planned to stop running so soon, but it turns out the following week was a very busy and stressful work week as we prepared for our biggest fundraiser of the year. To preserve my sanity, I ended up taking the entire week off from running. Pulling off the event after all that work was stressful and exhilarating and when I realized how happy I was to be able to live my life without worrying about training, I knew it was time. I emailed my coach and to say thank you for all she had done for me, but I couldn’t do it anymore. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
The next few weeks went by and I continued to just live one day at a time, enjoying the opportunity to not have to worry about squeezing in runs or maintaining fitness, and gradually remembering that there is a whole wonderful world outside of running and that I am more than just a runner. I didn’t miss running that much and it didn’t drive me insane not to run, likely for two reasons: I really needed the break, and I knew I could come back to running any time I wanted.
It was important that I didn’t run again until I really wanted to. 3 weeks into my break, I thought about running, but I didn’t because the desire wasn’t there yet. That said, I knew that even when I am enjoying running, I won’t always feel like I’m dying to go on a run. I need to want to run, but I also can’t sit around waiting for the perfect moment; at some point I need to just seize the opportunity and go because I know it’s good for me.
That moment finally came this weekend. 4 weeks to the day of my last run, I took advantage of a beautiful (if slightly warm) fall morning and the feeling that it was finally time, and for the first time in almost a month, I went for a run!
I ran roughly 2 miles and felt good. But boy, did I lose some fitness! It was never hard, and I could have kept going a couple more miles if I wanted to, but it was obvious that I am out of shape. Within the first mile, I could feel my breathing start to get heavier. The last time I’ve felt that way was three years ago when I first started running, and as I ran the second mile, I thought about how easy it is for us to forget where we came from. When was the last time you had to really focus and push to get through 2 miles? In fact, when was the last time it didn’t feel like something you could do in your sleep? This run brought back memories of November 3 years ago, when it really did take a lot of effort for me to get through the 5K distance at a slow pace. I’m glad I got the chance to remember what that feels like. Going on the first run of my new running life, awash in memories of my humble beginnings, gave me hope that maybe I really can start over.
I didn’t have any groundbreaking epiphanies during the 20ish minutes I ran, but I have been thinking a lot recently, and many of those thoughts came to a head that morning.
I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding taking responsibility for my own unhappiness as a runner, and that needs to stop. Over the past few years, I got a little carried away and let too much of my self-worth get tied to my running times. That’s on me. It’s not anyone else’s fault. I can rant all I want about the obnoxious and borderline unhealthy aspects of the social media running culture, but the truth is that other people’s behavior wouldn’t bother me so much if I were more comfortable in my own skin. My incessant desire to improve and get faster and “keep up”is a result of my own insecurity as a runner and as a person. I thought other people were judging me by my running speed, but I was projecting. I was the one basing my self-worth on my race times.
I didn’t realize it until recently, but this is the heart of why I’m trying to reset my running life. It isn’t just because I’m tired of running feeling like a chore. It’s because I’ve learned that I need to be comfortable in my own skin before I can find true happiness in the process of training and racing. Competition and time goals are fine, but they have to come from a place of love, not a place of compulsion and insecurity. That’s what I need to work on, so that’s what I’ll be working on.
I may not be “not running” anymore, but I’m not pushing full steam ahead either. I’m going to play it by ear for a while and run when I feel like running. I’m not ready to push or force anything yet. I will likely also continue to do very short runs at a time.
My long term vision going into this year is to get myself back into the habit of running, so I actually want to run more often but keep the runs very short as I get back into a routine. Then I will gradually increase the daily mileage. I will be keeping my runs easy/aerobic and pushing the pace only when I feel like it. I won’t be tracking my runs or doing any kind of structured workouts. Running is no longer “training” for me; it’s just running.
I am trying to make the switch back to morning running. Running after work when all I want to do is come home and relax is part of what has made running feel like such a chore. Waking up early is harder than hell for me, but running in the morning has never felt chore-like. I want running to be something that helps me feel invigorated and ready to take on the day. Keeping my runs currently very short, easy and sporadic will hopefully help make this an easier transition than it’s been in the past.
From now on, running is going to be something I do because it makes me feel good, not because I “need” to. The word “training” will not be in my vocabulary until June, when I will officially begin doing it for the Chicago Marathon. I’m running a destination half marathon in March and maybe another in May, but my only goal for those races is to have enough of an aerobic base built up from my weekly running routine to finish the distance comfortably.
Welcome to Hanna’s Running Journey 2.0. It’s a little different, but for the better. Thanks for following along.