I’ve been called a pessimist before; however, if that were true, would I be sitting at my computer, writing a blog post about how much I love running while I’m icing my knee because I went running? No. I have found the positive in a sometimes painful personal sport.
The personal part is what I first learned to appreciate about running. When I run, I think, clear my head, and concentrate on the beauty I am generally surrounded by when I run (I saw a dolphin last weekend as I ran over a bridge over the intracoastal waterway). I was never a team sport kind of girl. In fact, I was never a girl who did anything resembling a sport when I grew up, and I despised running…with a passion.
A challenge was thrown out that I run in a crazy 200 mile race (Ragnar Relay) as a fundraiser for my favorite organization that works to fight human trafficking (Love 146). I weighed that option for a good while before I agreed to rise to the impossible challenge.
At 32, I began running, for the first time in my life. I worked out already and thought, “How hard could this be?” I set out one morning to run a mile down our road (which meant another mile back). I seriously thought it would be do-able.
It was not.
I made it about a quarter of a mile and thought I would die right there on the road behind my house. I walked then with spurts of running in between. Pathetically limited and short spurts. I made it to the end of the road and realized I had to get back. Grr! More of the same walking with short running intervals, an encounter with a weird bug that would not leave me alone (I’m not generally an outdoor girl), and the Florida heat and humidity of a June morning all but discouraged me. Had I not already invested money into the Nikes I found on sale for $20 (I’m cheap), I would have called it off right away.
But I didn’t.
I continued almost every day in a similar manner for the next two weeks until I made it the mile to the end of the road without stopping. Then I stopped and walked for a reward. When I began to run again that day, my knee began to hurt in a way I had never felt before. Research told me it was my IT band. I had just started and would already have to take some time off. I just knew I was not meant to be a runner.
I researched how to “fix” the injury and found I needed to do good stretches and work all my leg muscles through cross-training in order to strengthen what doesn’t get used in running. Ice also helps.
At that time, I felt it was my chance to give up. Who would have blamed me, right? I just wasn’t meant to be a runner and it was something better left for those more equipped. But then I remembered why I had agreed to run in the first place, and I decided to go back out there, into the hot Florida summer’s oppressive humidity, for the kids that could be rescued and protected by my fundraising and awareness efforts. So in the moment I made that decision, two passions began in my life.
Running got better for me, and though I often get discouraged still, I keep doing it. Even after I had to take off a few months because I was having issues with my ITB again. I think about those kids, my health, and now I also get support from our fantastic local running community. I’ve gotten faster and my endurance has increased.
Now, it isn’t just a personal sport for me anymore. I try to mix it up by running a few times a week on my own, doing speed work with a group one evening, and then putting in miles with a group early on Sunday mornings.
I feel I’m becoming a more well-rounded runner, and other than the pain I occasionally feel in my ITB, which I’ve learned how to take care of (as long as I put in the time), I love the way I feel when I’m done. If I run in the morning I feel amazing all day.
I’m learning to give myself personal challenges and not to compare myself to other runners. I can do the running in community, but it is still a personal endeavor as I am the only one in my head and body. I can do it physically, if I can just get my brain to believe it too.
Another cool thing about running is the excitement of races. I’ve earned medals for just finishing, and even a few prizes for placing in my age group at a few races (1st in my age group at the last race I ran).