I started my training for my year of racing months before I really had to, running 8-9 miles for my long runs just for the sheer hell of it. Generally, when average folks train for a half, long runs become true long runs close to the event. For me, I have found that I genuinely love long runs just for the hell of it. However, it has been years since I have run this aggressively and my body at 29 does not seem to be holding up as well as my body at 25. In my height of running I experienced: black and blue toes, toe nails that fell off and wouldn’t grow back, deep bruising on my legs, constant cramping and spasms as well as horrifying terrible shin splints. In the height of my issues with my heart while running I experienced: random blacking out, labored breathing, and spots in my sight that would last for hours. When you take some time off from a sport, these “problems” tend to fade from existence, making you love it all over again. It’s like child-birth, no one would have more children if they remembered clearly what it was like the first time. I mean, it’s one of the worst things ever. You would need to bury it deep to want to return to it. My point is not that running is ruining me. Because it’s doing the opposite, it’s making me feel really strong and confident. But there are definitely downsides to distance running. As human beings, I’m not sure we were absolutely meant to run for absurd amounts of time. And, I’m only concentrating on half marathons, I can’t even begin to imagine how marathoners feel. My bodies reaction to distance running when I was younger made me feel accomplished, now I’m feeling a little different about it.
My body right now just feels a little tired. I take more rest days than most, running an average of 4-5 days a week and anywhere between 20-30 miles. Some people only take like 2-3 rest days a year. Those however, are people who are running to win. I’m running to prove something to myself and not to anyone else. As you all know, running is deeply spiritual for me. When I was 15 and I was told to stop because of my heart, I knew even then, it wasn’t going to happen. I can’t survive without it. But right now, I think I need to listen to my body and take a day where I need a day.
Lots of runners get so entangled in their “training” that they forget to listen to their bodies. Your body is the smartest device around. Aches and pains are its way of asking you to pay attention. When I was younger, I ignored it, now I think I need to watch closely. My GPS watch and my training plan on my fridge shouldn’t dictate how I feel. But as I said, it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the schedule. Let’s be honest, no one ever died because they took an extra day off. And no one’s running ever suffered from letting a more organic plan take course. If you get that focused, the fun gets removed from the running. Then, you are running because you have to, rather than because you want to. That’s a dreaded eventual for me and I don’t want to ever reach that point. So, I’m going to start taking better cues from myself. Example, my toenail is seriously about to fall off one of my toes and the whole tip is black and blue, perhaps I should allow myself to take it back a notch. No one looks attractive without toenails.
As we all race towards our goals, we have to remember to revisit the why, at least every once in a while. Why am I running? Why am I holding myself to impossibly high standards? Why am I not rewarding myself for a job well done when it’s well done? All runners do this, we look at our GPS watches or our tracking devices and we sigh after a run. We could be two seconds off our pace and we beat ourselves up for it. How about this: you made it outside and you ran, who cares how long or how fast. There are people out there that would die for that chance. Let’s just be glad we did and we can. On this blustery weekend I am going to run for the sake of running and give my body the room that it needs to breathe. I am going to high-five myself for a great year. And I am going to take a moment to look around at the things that envelop me, like I once did. Do the same. You all deserve it.