When Running is Your Coping Skill

A conversation with my Dad this weekend zapped me out of a no-running funk.

I told him I was volunteering for a second race. They were three days apart.

Dad: “Have you run this week?
Amee: “No.”
Dad: Pause. “Are you still running?”
Amee: “Yeah.”
Dad: “Better stop procrastinating. Gotta do what you gotta do.”

I had to laugh. Months ago he was asking me why I was running so much! It had been 14 days since my last run. A week ago, I had a major panic attack at 3 a.m. I’m back on track now, thanks to being pro-active and reaching out to people as well as using different coping skills.

But I notice that lately if I’m in a bad mood or struggling to accept something, my friends and family ask about my running:

“Would a run help?”
“Have you run today?”

It’s sweet and reassuring. It means they’re paying attention.

It’s an alert that maybe running is more important to me than I even noticed.

And I’m starting to get it. If you lace up and go consistently, especially when you don’t want to– running becomes a vital aspect of your routine. It’s another source of stability in your life; something you do regardless of your moods or even if you feel a little ill.

Dory told us, “Just keep swimming.”

I want to be like her. In my case however, the mantra is “Just keep running.”

I’m so hard on myself. I need to stop comparing myself to other runners.

And when I volunteered at these races, my running friends were thankful for my support on the course. But they also made a point to ask why I wasn’t running it.

“You gotta get back to running!” one person told me.
“It’s great to have you out there cheering,” said another, “but you need to get out there kicking some ass.”

That made me laugh. Me, kicking ass at a circa 14 minute a mile pace? But I realized, that’s just my own insecurity.

I’m racing on a regular basis. In the pictures, I’m clearly working hard. I’ve got a good stride, I’m IN IT. I LOOK like a runner.

Even if I don’t always feel like one.

Tonight I was well-rested and got a lot done at work! I came home excited to run. I broke it in half: I ran to and from someplace I was going. It wasn’t quite 3 miles– 2.92 when I added up both distances.

But I already feel more sane. And going home was easier, I was faster.

I’ve got a 5k this weekend, and there are several races from September to November I’m planning. GAME ON, I’m ready!!

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Race Day Resilience

I nearly forfeited the 5k my work sponsors tonight because of a possible injury.

But I decided to buck up and give it a try: and I was fine! Two plus hours later, no pain.

Tonight I learned that our bodies recover when we least expect it, and to trust mine more when it comes to my running.

And I also had my first-ever race mantra:

“Protect my feet. Make me powerful.”

After running 7 miles (for the first time ever!!) Tuesday and two miles yesterday to prepare for tonight, I noticed some pain in my right foot last night and again this morning. It had been seven days since my last run prior to Tuesday. The pain felt like it was on the top of my foot where the toes themselves connect to my foot. I’m a toe-cracker (sorry if TMI!) and it felt like I had cracked mine too hard. Walking at all was painful, though not agony. Just uncomfortable. But since I’m a receptionist I luckily spend the majority of my day seated.

After doing some Googling and posting on the message board for my running club, I was terrified that I either had a stress fracture or “a complete tear of the plantar plate, where the toes connect to the ball of your forefoot.” The latter was suggested by another run club member who said she’d had the exact same symptoms as me and ended up going to a wonderful podiatrist.

But I wanted to participate tonight with my co-workers, clients, and running club friends.

On my lunch I bought my first bottle of Ibuprofen (normally a Tylenol girl)– because people had said my usual remedy is useless for inflammation. I went home and took two 200mg and grabbed a freezer pack and towel from home. Elevated my foot underneath my desk for the remainder of the day. After work I slathered Bengay on both sides of my foot and hoped for the best.

And tonight, I was fine! I walked a lot because I had to pee BAD. I was afraid to run the first mile, but then the urge passed and I was able to pick it up a bit. The humidity was still horrid, but there was a magnificent WIND and the course ran downhill around a curve too, so that was helpful.

But I really felt like a runner today. Instead of getting all in my head and skipping the race to go to quick care, I just took practical steps to treat the pain and showed up determined to at least try. I had to laugh at myself– I’ve become the very stereotype of a runner who seems to live in total denial of an injury, obsessed with racing.

I’ve already missed one race in April, that 10k that I trained two months to run only to be saddled with such a sever cold I couldn’t get out of bed that morning.

I just want to get the money’s worth for my entry fee! Today I felt bad ass. And beyond that, the thought of having to miss races or even just a few days or a week because of injury made me… surprisingly sad. I had no idea what I had done to cause this pain. Even the possibility felt so UNFAIR!

And along with a several other vendors, there was a physical therapy tent. After the race, I asked a woman to take a look at my right foot. She had me take my shoe and sock off and examined me. She said there was no bruising, nothing seemed broken– I have a healthy foot and the flexing was normal. Relief! She attributed the pain to upping the mileage AND trying a new route simultaneously.

Glad to know I’m back in business! I’ll tape it up to be on the careful side tomorrow, and ice it a few times this weekend. Seemed it’s just pains of adjustment.

Which means I’m making headway as a runner. Which makes me happy.

The biggest gift is proving that I can take care of myself and that my body can heal faster than I anticipated. To not get hung up on “what-ifs” and solving a problem that isn’t even necessarily a definite problem yet.

I’m usually so solution-oriented and sometimes I need to just RELAX.

I get why running is such a mental sport now. It’s all about grounding yourself in your body, whilst also getting OUT of your head.

Prior to racing, we all were lead in some yoga. I was cracking jokes to my co-worker about how UNSUITED for yoga I am. He was laughing along until he just quit the stretching all together, when it was my turn to laugh!

Tonight I allowed my heart to lead, and my feet followed.

Knee Pain and Discipline: I Did It!

This morning I ran my fourth consecutive Sunday!

Sunday Runday is now a thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

And met up with a new friend from our local running club. Bless technology! Someone else posted last night in the facebook group about running in the morning and we both responded. We had met once at previous group run but didn’t have time to chat. The OP didn’t show but she and I met and had a great time!

I was about seven minutes late because at first I went to the wrong trail entrance on another street. But luckily she’s patient and didn’t bolt. It was the first time I ran with someone who didn’t have a route all planned. We just made some suggestions and tried it out.

It was 28 degrees this morning at 7:30 a.m. I started out with a knit hat and a gaiter, plus a base layer and windbreaker. Light pair of gloves. After the first mile, we looped back to our cars both shed some layers. I got rid of the hat and gaiter. It felt GOOD to be without a hat, feeling the wind on my neck. I feel like I’m getting more robust. My body seems to be acclimating to the cold and I can run comfortably with less layers now.

Right away, my knee pain from yesterday showed up. But I was determined. It was bad enough that I was slow, but having to walk so much of it was mortifying. She wanted to get in 6 miles and so did I. We ended up with 4.24 miles, and she said we could stop.

She ran with me at times and ahead at others, and I was fine either way. I was just grateful she didn’t cut the run short. Although I suppose an injury does deserve some compassion-it probably helped that I didn’t complain and did my best to run as much as possible. She could tell I was trying.

Would I have tried without someone else to consider? Probably not. Woulda gone home.

But that’s the great thing about accountability. Today I learned that having another person to run with not only motivates your pace, but makes you want to be a better runner, period. I didn’t want to get in the way of her goals. There was mutual respect.

Since joining this club I’m discovering that runners are generally reliable people.

I was a little anxious about oversleeping but got plenty of rest and woke up refreshed.

I was glad to make it today after missing the group run yesterday. I felt back on track.

I’m convinced that my knee pain is due to lack of running this week. My knees haven’t been this bad since I ran the Cinco de Miler last year– after seven MONTHS without training beforehand. Except the night prior.

My last attempt was Tuesday morning– for class we were inside the local athletic club on the treadmills. We were told to “dress accordingly” but since I never go to gyms, I was over-dressed. I was so hot indoors on the treadmill all I could think about was feeling gross and over-heated. I definitely held back. Now I’ll know that indoors means a t-shirt, not a base layer. And shorter pants.

Hours later, my knees still throb.

Tomorrow is my rest day, thank God. I’m understanding why we need them now.

But Tuesday I will be back in training, pain or no. Maybe I’ll get some Bengay tonight.

I’m proud of myself for hobbling through this– that was bad ass!! I never brought up quitting. I was open-minded about where she wanted to go. I did the best with what I had.

I discovered this morning that I’d rather be struggling with knee pain, practically hobbling, than cut a run short or ditch it all together.

Why?

Because I am a runner.

Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed. ย It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste ย of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.

Outta My Own Head: Running for Real

I’m struggling with running since I decided to get serious about it.

I signed up for a training class leading up to my first 10k race and also joined a local run club, to motivate me and better prepare.

I noticed that on days when there were group runs, I was stoked! One day last I even ran before AND after work.

These people are hardcore. There is a calendar of scheduled runs and races and they run no matter the elements! I love that. I’ve run in a thunderstorm once years ago, it was hella fun!

Adventure is in my soul, I just need to unleash it.

While it’s awesome to belong to a new organization, it’s also reminding me how much of a beginner I am. It’s good to be surrounded by such accomplished veterans, from whom I can learn so much. But it’s also hard to be the slowest kid in the pack.

Freshman year of high school, I gave up at this point. I gave up because I was the slowest. I also remember it was hell on my lungs. I tried out for a play and never played sports again… until I returned to running as an adult.

But there’s more motivation this time. Also, my body seems more resilient.

It’s not even just about wanting to be healthy and challenge myself physically and emotionally.

There are friendships to be made by doing this. These people are encouraging.

I can ask them all the questions I want. But I have to prove myself, too.

I set ambitious race goals for myself– my next three will all push me in a different way.

The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle has a time limit– my first of that type. If I don’t finish in 1 hour and 15 minutes, I don’t count as a finisher. I typically need 1 hour 30 minutes for five miles– the length of this race. (It’s called an 8k.)

But instead of backing out, I doubled-down and registered. I will do it!

Most other members are running this race as well and I’m on a team within the club!

I WANT this. I will make it happen. And hey, I’m Irish! That’s gotta help. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve received nothing but encouragement. But I can’t psych myself out.

I just haven’t wanted to get up and GO this week. But if I make weather excuses now, it will be no different this summer when it gets humid and hot.

I want to run farther, faster. I want to run with strategy and goals.

The only one who can do that is me.

No one else is going to make me faster. Only I can push myself to run farther.

Until now I’ve just raced to complete them and have fun. But now it’s a new level.

And I need to become accountable to myself– not just a class or a group run.

I will keep going! But I also need to be less harsh on myself.

This is a big lifestyle change for me, transitioning to early morning runs rather than afternoon and evening runs when it’s convenient.

I haven’t missed a class– that’s something.

I also need to learn to eat better, for fuel and so I can achieve my goals.

But one thing at a time!

Getting my feelings out and admitting them IS accountability. I’ll blog myself through it.

I Did Run (5.37) Miles!

This afternoon I ran in a t-shirt and shorts!! Circa 65 degrees.

I’m not going to beat myself up for not running earlier like I planned. I still ran!

I decided I would run five miles today and set that as my goal on my running app.

And I did it! In 1:36:42. My pace is still slow, but I hit my “long-run” goal!!

I can tell I’m changing, because my attitude about goals has changed. I used to set them about half a mile under what I wanted, in case I didn’t make it. Now I’ve raced enough that I know I can finish three miles.

So I upped the ante! I expected that I would make it happen. My confidence is growing.

I haven’t made it to five miles since 5/27/16, the Cinco de Miler race in Chicago. I remember I seriously considered quitting three times. I could barely run to the finish line.

I only did it because my friend Lisa asked me and encouraged me to run it with her.

Benny & Joon have nothing to do with this, I just like the song and video. ๐Ÿ™‚

Today I just decided to go for it! I ran in a totally new direction, though I generally knew where I was and felt safe. I had time allotted, I was in no hurry.

I really enjoyed just seeing the trees and the paths. I made sure my phone was charged. I ended up exceeding my goal! And even with no bathroom breaks or water.

Then I went home, changed, and went to a party. My legs were sore, but I was happy.

It was so awesome to get there and mention, “I ran five miles earlier.”

Maybe a TAD obnoxious, but I earned it!

 

I Get It : Finally!

I’m really good at keeping busy.

I like helping out and doing things for others. But this year I’ve really noticed that without even realizing it, I was still putting myself last.

I’ve been “single” for years. But most of that time, I was actively dating or looking for ways to meet someone. Wishing. Praying.

I was fine doing things alone– going to dinner, the movies, staying home and enjoying it.

And I kept so busy.

I was singing in the choir at my parish. I was attending political fundraisers and meetings, phone-banking, canvassing. My Sunday mornings were for Mass.

I was always there for my friends.

But the best friend I’ll have is myself. Why am I so quick to change my plans for others?

Slowly this year, I’ve been clearing my schedule of those obligations. Even Mass. I’ll go when I feel like it, but am not allowing myself to feel guilty if I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to run as much as I’m able. That’s my priority.

I’ll meet God outside, and worship him in motion.

Like any adult, I know how to push myself. Through fear, confusion, sickness, exhaustion.

But have I ever truly set an ambitious goal and believed?

No.

All I saw were obstacles. I won’t say they were excuses–ย I was terrified to fail. So I would just not even attempt it. And sometimes depression crept in, manifested in over-sleeping.

But running is a natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are real!

My initial reaction is one of caution. I get that from my Dad. He’s wonderful, but he’s not the best at encouraging me when I want to try something new. And it’s understandable. He’s suffered a lot of loss. I’ve battled health problems all my life.

But I’m changing. I’m realizing that’s just the way he’s built emotionally- and it makes sense for him. And that I don’t need his approval to motivate me.

I was in this mind-frame of asking for permission.

But now I’m giving that permission to myself!

I don’t need to even tell him. I can just do it.

I can do what makes sense for me, even if he doesn’t get it.

My dreams are bigger than his: and that’s okay.

A friend at work approached me about a race yesterday. He knows I run… sporadically. This friend is a consistent runner– even in the winter! He has a training regimen.

Months ago, I had approached a different friend about running this race with me. She wasn’t game– I just gave up on it.

I’m going to sign up for it: the Solider Field 10 Mile in Chicago on May 27.

So what if I don’t finish it?

I can still do my best. And I’ve finished every race I’ve run thus far.

Instead of sleeping in on weekends, I want to go bed earlier.

I want to rise and run.

I usually like to sleep in on weekends. But if I had a date or some fun plans, I’d get up.

What if my fun plans were running?!

And now I get it! The true FREEDOM of being single: constructing my life 100% around ME.

Without obligation or guilt. I will never have that kind of freedom again later in life.

Just what I want to do. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

I deserve this!

Even with casual dating, you have to block out time for this person. You talk to them after work, they may text you to check in during the day. You plan dates– you invest hours and days and weekends getting to know each other.

In taking this time for myself without dating on the table, I’m putting ME first. I’m saying that the biggest priority is what *I* want to accomplish.

I won’t let myself feel guilty about saying “no” to social invitations. Or going home early.

I can still make sleep the priority– by regulating a bedtime and schedule.

I’ll build socializing into running. I’ve got three months to train.

I have no idea how, but that’s the adventure.

And I’ve got running friends to support me.