I ran today. I actually f’cking ran. And man, it was not pretty. On any level. But I did it. I finally put on my big girl pants and laced up my long-retired running shoes.
If you read my last post: Joyless January, you might remember that I was flirting with the idea of getting back to running. Maybe, putting it out there, in print, pushed me to do it. Dunno. But I’ve been a long time avoiding it – like years.
My Running History
My sister-in-law goaded me into running over 20 years ago. She bought me a heart rate monitor (the antique version of a Fitbit or Apple watch) for my birthday that year. Not so subtle. But it was the kick in the ass that got me to start.
My first run was awful. I was a bit hungover, and it was an early start: 7:30 a.m. After scarfing down a banana to try and settle my stomach – we were off.
At the time, I was pretty fit (still in my 20’s), but not a runner. We ran for 30 minutes and that bloody banana roiled in my stomach with every step. Not sure how I managed not to be sick, or how I even kept going. Anyway, I made it. Barely. Note: Don’t run when hungover. Definitely don’t learn to run hungover.
Completing that first run was a big confidence boost. The heart monitor kept me at a manageable non-gasping pace. My sis-in-law’s great advice at the time was:
When tired – don’t stop or walk unless you absolutely have to. Slow down to a crawl, let your heartrate come down, and then slowly build your pace again.
The above doesn’t work for everyone. Some people like the walk/run method. Whatever gets you there.
I continued to run for the next few years. Participating in some 5K runs, and the odd 10K. I didn’t love it, but I kind’ve craved the endorphin kick. Yep! That’s a real thing. I ran in between pregnancies, and finally after my third child – I decided I needed the challenge of a half marathon. Most runners will tell you if you can run 5K, you can run 10K, and then eventually make the leap to 20K or a half marathon. So I signed up to run the Miami Half in South Beach.
The training is a pretty solid commitment. I don’t have the dedication required to train for a whole marathon. Long training runs eat up too many hours. Plus, I can imagine only a few things grimmer than 26. 2 miles, 42 km 5 hours of grinding it out. Not for me. But a massive accomplishment to those who do it. It definitely ain’t easy.
I downloaded a training schedule and followed it pretty religiously. Two weeks before the run, I caught a bad cold and fell off my schedule.
The day before the race, I took the short flight to Miami from Freeport, collected my race kit, and headed to my hotel. I felt like crap as I was still hacking up a lung. But I was not bailing.
The race was early on a Sunday morning like a 6:30 AM start (need to beat the Florida sun). The first 15K went okay, the sun came up over South Beach and lit up a beautiful day. There were loads of people lining Ocean Drive to cheer the runners on. – I remember a lot of drag queens being in that mix. They clearly hadn’t been to bed yet, and with make-up-smeared faces and wild club hair – they hooted and hollered and cheered louder than everyone else. It’s a fun snapshot engrained in my mind.
By 18K, I was falling apart. I started coughing, and my throat was ridiculously dry. I also was in unchartered running space. Due to my cold, I didn’t train past the 18K mark. I started to feel like I might not finish. And then miraculously, I rounded the corner to find volunteers slinging Florida oranges. Those volunteers and those delicious, juicy oranges totally saved my ass. I crossed the finish line sucking the life out of an orange. Not a pretty finish. But a finish nonetheless.
A runner once told me:
To alway keep 5K in the legs.
So, I tried to do that. But I eventually lost my mojo. I ran a bit and did the occasional 5K charity run with the kids, and then about 7 years ago – I stopped altogether. I should have listened to that dude, because once that 5K muscle memory leaves you – it’s damn hard to get back.
I tried to get back into running a few times but it never clicked.
I basically put it out of my mind until I saw a promotion for La Champenoise a few years ago. It’s an 18K run through the Champagne Region of France. It’s considered a festive run. Costumes and champagne tastings are encouraged. Obviously, it called to me.
Then Covid happened and ruined everyone’s fun for the last couple of years. I’m thinking next year is my year to run La Champenoise. Sign-up starts in July (for next year), and is limited to 1700 participants. I have some work to do.
I finally bit the bullet and ran. It was slow and dreadful at first. But, I plodded along. I purposefully left my earphones at home. Just me and the sound of my heaving breath, and shuffling feet. It didn’t feel familiar. I was also aware of the extra jiggle that was definitely not there a decade ago. Humbling.
Running is hard. Really damn hard. If it wasn’t, more people would do it. It takes an immense amount of discipline (physical & mental) to keep putting one foot in front of another and drive yourself to keep going. It’s a personal war – You Vs. You. Your pace, your route, it’s all driven by you. If you finish, if you don’t, or if you start at all. Your lungs, muscles, and heart are being stretched hard. Your rational brain wants you to stop, the feral part pushes you on.
The last few minutes of the run improved slightly. My legs felt less heavy, and I remembered “that feeling“. The one you get after you’ve done something hard and been pushed out of your comfort zone, and found it didn’t kill you. It’s a weird melange of self-pride, euphoria, and power. We are all stronger than we think. Our bodies are capable of incredible things. At all ages.
I’d been fearing going back to running because I lacked confidence. I didn’t believe I still had it in me, and I didn’t want to face that. Hey! I still don’t know if I will ever run La Champenoise. But, I’m going to give it a go. As long as my knee holds up (pain-free, right now), and the rest of the body holds itself together. I fully intend to give it my best shot.
It’s been 12 years since that beautiful January day when I huddled up with thousands of runners in front of the American Airlines Arena in Miami. Standing in my running bib, feeling like shit, and not knowing if I could even complete the 13.1 miles in front of me. But I did. My time was slower than slow: 2 hours, 24 minutes – no pasa nada. I’m totally cool with being the tortoise, and not the hare. I wasn’t running for a quick time, only a dignified finish. Not sure if sucking on an orange whilst crossing the finish line qualifies as dignified. But that’s how it went down.
Today I set out to run for 20 minutes. I didn’t wear a watch on purpose. As I didn’t want to be checking it constantly. I’m pretty good about gauging distances & time. I was back in 17 minutes. Pretty close to my mark. I’ll try to build myself to 30 minutes over the next few weeks, and then hang out in that space for a while. I’ve got loads of time, and I know the difference between pushing myself and hurting myself. It will be a slow process to get to the Champagne run in France next year. But after today, I feel like it might just happen. Tomorrow, I might feel entirely different.
As always, thanks for reading.
Love, Kate x
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