The first time I heard someone say they were going for a run…well, I can’t even tell you how old I was. For as long as I can remember, my aunt has gone to the park or the track to jog almost every single day. When I was younger, she was one of my favorite people to spend time with (she still is!) so hearing her say she was going somewhere without me was just not cool. 😉 Sometimes she would let me come with her and I really would run and try to keep up! But I never made it too far and my mom was always nearby to pick me up when I needed it. Even with my aunt’s inspiration, my running career didn’t start until high school. Occasionally I would go running in my neighborhood, which, by the way, was completely uphill no matter which route you took, and that was about the extent of my running abilities until I went on vacation. Then I was one of those “OMG I love running on the beach” people. But let’s be honest, the beach is a prime running location!
Senior year, I decided to take running a little more seriously. I joined the cross country team. Do you know why?
Because I wanted to be on a team.
I am not a talented team sport player, so I figured I couldn’t really mess up in cross country because I was only in competition with myself and the clock. I learned so much about running during that year and I still use some of that knowledge to this day! What shoes to wear (I got shin splints real quick), what to eat before and after a race, what not to eat before and after a race, how to breathe properly, how to stretch…some good stuff.
All of the seniors were recognized at the end of the season with a huge banner in front of their house. Remember when I said I wanted to be on a team? Hahaha
Then I went to college. I will spare you the woe-is-me-freshman-weight-gain story because there really wasn’t MUCH wrong with me at the end of freshman year besides the fact that I just felt gross. I had gained about 12 pounds and I ate and drank pretty much whatever I wanted but I had so much fun. Life is about living after all, right? The summer of 2011, I committed to being more healthy. I started going to the YMCA more often and Spinning became my #1 workout. I loved it so much that I spun my way through sophomore year and found myself in a certification class to be a Spinning instructor. 🙂
No one likes to Spin during finals week. 😉
During the summer of 2012, I worked in the one of the Education department’s offices at Duquesne (where I went to school). This meant I had to make a decent commute downtown from the suburbs and I kind of felt like a real person for the first time. Was I supposed to wake up early and workout? Or was I supposed to work out after work when I most likely felt like crashing on the couch? I settled on morning workouts and I would do 30 minute fartleks around my neighborhood (we moved…now it is flat, thank goodness). I had no idea I was even doing fartleks, I just knew I was running quickly for 30 seconds and then jogging for 30 seconds…or maybe I would sprint mailbox to mailbox. I was basically doing speed work for short distances just so it was over quickly and I could get to work. Then I went back to the beach and fell even more in love with my soul mate workout.
From the summer of 2011 to the winter of 2013, I typically ran 5 miles a day 6 days a week. I was starting to get really excited about how far I could go and how fast I was getting! On any given morning at 7 AM, you could find me running around downtown Pittsburgh. During holidays, family members joined me. In the warmer months, I signed up for races. It was a really great season of life.
By this point, I had run 2 half marathons, a 10 miler, a 10K, and three 5Ks. The half marathons were more “serious” races for me…I had a goal to finish under two hours, and I did that in 1:54 and 1:56. In the 10K, I wanted to finish in less than an hour and I just made it with a time around 58 minutes. The 10 miler and the 5Ks were just for fun (and yes, I realize how ridiculous it sounds to say I ran ten miles for fun but…). I did Color Me Rad twice and I ran the Jingle Bell Run during the holidays with friends. I have no idea what happened to me during the Jingle Bell Run but I was flying. I finished in 21:05 and that is honestly my favorite race to date because it showed me how much my body is capable of in the running world! But maybe you can see how with all of these races and an almost every day schedule of running, my body started to say no to running. I just wasn’t ready to listen. I was signed up for the 2014 Pittsburgh Half Marathon and I was convinced I was going to change my entry to the full marathon, so I started “building up my base”. Aka running more miles than I was ready for. And I ended up not even being able to lift my left leg to put pants on.
It was never a catastrophic injury…meaning I didn’t fall over while I was running or feel a great deal of pain. On New Years Day 2014, I went for a run around my neighborhood. Just 3 little baby miles to start the new year off on the right foot (or sweat out the alcohol…you will never know;))! But less than a mile into the run, my left hip just felt weird. Not pain exactly, but enough to make me say “enough” and turn around and walk home. I didn’t feel defeated because I was listening to my body and I honestly didn’t think anything serious was wrong…until this pain continued to happen every time I went running. I took a few days off (because who needs doctors) and then I paired up with my best friend Elliptical. Nothing seemed to be helping this pain/ache heal, and when I could feel the pain during my favorite hip hop cardio class, I knew something was actually wrong. I finally made an appointment at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine. I was not messing around. After a few appointments, a bunch of x-rays, and a prescription to continue not running (I was secretly dying inside), the doctor informed me that I had a tiny tear in the muscle in my left hip. This is an injury that typically isn’t surgically fixed unless you are a real athlete…which I am not. I do not get paid to run. I am not in the Olympics. I just really, really like it. So my job was to go to physical therapy and not run. After that, we could talk about running again. The doctor promised it would be possible, but it definitely wouldn’t be the same as before. I may have actually sobbed and yelled at him while he was telling me all of this. I am a really great patient. 🙂
Six weeks and many hours of Netflix+elliptical later, I was cleared to run. I legitimately left my doctor’s appointment and went straight home to change and get outside. It was so fun! But I was really surprised at how different I felt. It wasn’t as easy as it used to be and I didn’t feel motivated to get out there and run again the next day because I was too scared.
Instead of changing my half marathon entry to a full marathon entry, I tore a muscle in my hip. The worst part of the whole injury was that I essentially did it to myself. I added too many miles to my schedule too quickly and my muscles weren’t strong enough (as in I really only ever picked up weights if it was raining or something equally as silly). I spectated my first race last May…and it was actually really fun. I thought I was going to be really depressed watching everyone do what I couldn’t do, but it was fun to be so supportive, especially because I knew so many people running! I ended up selling my race entry to a teenage boy (our moms work together) and it was his first big race so it was a great feeling to know I could give him that! And even though I wasn’t officially running, I still had a tight schedule to keep as I ran to different places on the course watching my friends! The most exciting moment was finding my best friend at mile 24 and running next to her for a few seconds to give her a pep talk during her first marathon. 🙂
Running and I have an interesting relationship these days. My brain wants to be invincible Kylie of 2013 and my hip is always quick to remind the rest of my body that I cannot, in fact, run every day. I have to actually follow training plans now (which I should have been doing all along…sigh) and I have to actually cross train, strength train, and stretch. All of those things that us runners sometimes slack on because we are so excited about just the running part.
I ran a “Hat Trick” this past fall…a 5K and a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. I think it’s safe to say I’m back in the game. But really, I don’t feel that way all the time. Many, many days when I step outside, I have the mindset of my old running self (which is great for motivation) and then I actually start moving and I remember…my body is different now. I don’t feel like I move as quickly and sometimes I don’t even feel like a “real” runner because I’m not out there being hardcore on the daily.
Really, who decides what a “real” runner is?
I’m deciding for us.
Real runners are people who run. PERIOD.
And take selfies. #realrunner
I’m currently on week 6 of a training plan (I’m training for a 10-miler) and I am frustrated that I am this far into the plan and running every day is still not an option for me. Example: last week I ran on Wednesday, so on Thursday I should have done no running at all. And I didn’t. I had plans to go to the gym and lift. But the gym is 0.7 miles from my apartment…so I thought…what if I run 0.5 there and walk the rest of the 0.2…and then run the 0.5 home and walk the rest of the 0.2…
THIS IS WHAT RUNNER’S BRAINS DO PEOPLE.
THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NO RUNNING ON THURSDAY.
So I did that ridiculous bit of running which really did what? Add 1 mile to my day and get me to and from the gym a tiny bit faster? And then I woke up on Friday and immediately knew my run that day was not going to feel good. It’s times like these that make me secretly hate the people who can run every day and take it for granted OR don’t use their gift. Yes, I call it a gift. But I have to remember that I was one of these people once. I don’t get to be upset with other people for their abilities. I just have to focus on my own. And that is hard. I get frustrated and want to stop trying. But I never will because running is my most favorite thing ever and I will do whatever it takes to make sure I can participate in the sport for as long as I can. If the day comes that I really do have to hang up my hat…well, I’ll probably cry first, but then I’ll have to find a new passion to pursue. I know there are MANY people who do not understand the thrill of the run. But for me…it’s relaxing even when it’s hard, it’s rewarding, it helps me focus, and it relieves stress. I get to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets and I get to do something good for my body.
In the meantime, I’m focusing on trying to enjoy the running that I am able to do, and I’m going to try to take better care of my body. Because I only get one body and I beat it up pretty badly before. Plus, there is a bright side to the whole I-can’t-run-everyday thing. It gives me time to Spin and lift weights and go to yoga and do all of those things I felt like I didn’t have time for before. Now I just need to practice appreciating those things. Because usually, I’m wishing I was outside looking like this.
Run happy, everyone. 🙂