Tuesday, April 22, 2014

running is FUN!

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm currently training for my first 1/2 marathon.  Since the Flying Pig is coming up in just a few short weeks, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on why I'm training for this race and why I'm just having so much fun doing it!

Like one of my best friends and running inspiration, MegD, I used to HATE running!  In fact, we would go for long, energetic walks where we would talk about how terrible running was.  When I found out that she was becoming a legitimate runner, I realized that I should probably give it a shot.

The summer before grad school, I was taking an NEH Summer Seminar in San Diego.  We were in class three hours a day and had about 4-5 hours of reading each evening.  I did not have the time to walk the 6 miles that my mom and I walk every single day of the summer when I'm home, so I started jogging.  By the time I got home from my 6-week stay in CA, I could run 3 miles.

As grad school and teaching got to be more and more overwhelming, I found myself running more and more.  I didn't have time to sleep (sorry students), shower (sorry sleep-time), do laundry (thanks, Mom), eat (did that in the car a lot), see my friends or have a life (grading papers on the couch was my "relaxation" time), but I made time for a run 4-5 days a week.  As I got into my second year of grad school and began writing my thesis, I became more serious about it: I invested in some Under Armour shirts, a nice pair of running tights and some fuzzy Smart Wool socks that cover my ankles and I ran through the winter.  I trained for my first 10k and ran it!  I made a lot of rookie mistakes and actually went through a great deal of pain because I unknowingly ran with a torn ACL for 6 months, but running is what got me through that terrible time of teaching, thesis-writing, getting over a terrible broken heart and missing my friends.

Red-faced, sweaty, sore, but a 10k finisher!!

Unlike work, I couldn't piss anyone off while I was running.  I wasn't going to have a class of students mad that they still didn't have their test back, or an upset parent email.  I wasn't going to let my classmates down by not holding up my end of the work or disappoint my professors because I wasn't fully prepared for class.  Running was something I could fail at.  I got to set the goals, the rules, the time frame, not someone who was holding my grade or paycheck over me.  The time I spent running was the only time that I didn't have to multi-task.  I became a very good multi-tasker in that second year of grad school, which meant that I was only 1/2 good at everything I did, but not running.  As hard as I was pushing my mind to make sense of all the archival materials I spent hours sifting through two days a week after school and reading an entire love-seat full of monographs, I was pushing my legs just as hard out there on the trail.  Having a physical manifestation of my daily mental exertion was energizing and liberating.  I often came up with good solutions to research issues while I was out on my runs, or I thought about nothing, or I just kept telling myself to put one foot in front of the other.  I didn't matter what I looked like or what I sounded like.  I looked terrible and I sounded like a walrus, but I didn't have to preform or impress anyone.

After that 10k, I had to stop running and get my ACL repaired, followed by 8 weeks on crutches, 3 months of PT, countless hours at the gym on the weight machines, doing wall-sits and lunges, dancercize classes to get my coordination back, spinning classes to get my stamina back and two different braces.  I started running regularly again this past fall.

This brace did more harm than good, and I'm still struggling to iron out the kinks it left in the back of my leg.

I had been thinking about running a 1/2 since I got hurt, but I didn't really give it much thought before I signed up for the Bob Ronkers Running Spot Training Group as if that was what I had been planning on doing all along, which I really hadn't.  I put in so much work, building my legs into the muscular strangers that that are to squander all that away.  I worked hard enough that I rarely ice my knees anymore, and then mostly just out of paranoia than actual aches.  I deserve 1/2 marathon glory, I've earned it!! There have been some challenges along the way: I was actually hurt when I started training and had to cut back and go on steroids for a week in the middle of training, but the pain is almost all gone now, thanks to a really smart PT and some more dedicated work by me and LOTS of foam rolling. (If I had a dollar for every leg lift I've done in the last two years, I'd be able to retire!)

Every morning before our long runs, I show up and start asking people if they're excited to go run 8 or 10 or 12 miles.  When we get back from our weeknight runs,  I will normally ask if anyone wants to go do it again.  They look at me like I'm nuts, and maybe I am, but I'm just so darn happy to be out there running after I couldn't for so long.  Now, I'm just running for me, for fun, for joy, for sanity, for clarity, for cookies and ice cream, for personal glory and for God's glory.  Everything I've been through in the last 3 years, the emotional roller coasters, the break ups, the disappointments, the grad school and all the good stuff, the new friends and the self-love that I've discovered is all poured out in those miles that I've logged these past four months and all that's left is the most happy, confident, fast and strong Kelli that there ever has been!

This is a picture someone took on our 12-mile training run last Saturday at the Eden Park overlook.  This was the 6th time climbing that hill in the past three months... it's easy now! 

I'm so excited for the race to come and I'm sad that we have to start tapering and running less the next two weeks.  I'm looking forward to running all 13.1 miles of the Pig course and I'm hoping its so much fun that I'll want to go back out there and do it again and again!!!