Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

Why Do I Do This, Again?

About once a year, I reach a point where I think, “Now I’m getting serious about running.”

I know that to a layperson — aka a non-runner or “normal person”– that sounds batsh*t crazy. How can someone who writes a blog about running think they haven’t been serious??

Well, it’s not that I don’t think I’m serious at any given moment. It’s just that each year I achieve some landmark that makes me stop and think, “Oh wait, sh*t just got real.” Here’s my rundown of increasingly obsessive running:

  • 2001 — Started running.
  • 2002 — Ran a 5K.
  • 2003 — Trained for a marathon.
  • 2004 — Ran first marathon!
  • 2005 — Bizarre detour into weight training. We’ll throw this one out of the average.
  • 2006 — Signed up for the Austin Distance Challenge!
  • 2007 — Major ITB issues take me out for a year. Becomes “the year that must not be named”.
  • 2008 — ART and orthotics finally work! Return to the roads!
  • 2009 — Ran 2nd marathon, first post-injury! Started Running Fiesta to celebrate. (The race was in San Antonio, so the name made sense at the time.)
  • 2010 — Joined Rogue, started getting up before 5am to run, ran 3rd marathon, decided to actually tell people about Running Fiesta.
  • 2011 — Kept running all on my lonesome in Germany. Ran 4th and 5th marathon. PRed in Düsseldorf. Joined Coach Chris’ group — learned a new level of pain. 
  • 2012 — Ran 6th marathon. Destroyed 10K and half-marathon PRs. Set out on year-long plan to PR in the marathon in Spring 2013.
and finally…
  • Right Now — Executing year-long plan. Running 6 days per week. Consistently averaging 40+ miles/week. Incorporating core strengthening. Started ditching orthotics for some runs. In other words,  sh*t got REAL.
I gotta tell you, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but moving from 5 days a week of running to 6 sure feels like a lot. And then there’s the fact that my weekday runs, which used to average 3-4 miles with maybe one around 7, now average 5-6 miles with at least one as long as 8.
Shoot, next thing you know I’ll be running doubles.
(Normal people: That’s running twice a day.)
As I’ve been putting more time and effort into this blog lately, I’ve been trying to think about what differentiates me from the thousands of other running bloggers out there. I’m not a pro, like Lauren Fleshman or Kim Conley or Shalane Flanagan. I’m not a mom like Kristin Armstrong or Kelly at Secrets of a Running Mom. And while I was an overweight kid and am getting married in 3 months, I’m not on any particular weight loss journey. 
So what’s my schtick? Err, niche?
I guess it would be this: I’m fit enough to impress non-runners, but with enough “trouble areas” not to be hated by them. I stay up too late and drink too much wine and eat too much chocolate. I also log all my miles, complete with the shoes I ran them in, in a Google spreadsheet. Basically, I’m on the slow end of really really obsessed.
Which naturally begs the question, why am I doing this?? 

Sure, we all ask ourselves this question from time to time, but I happen to ask it ALL the time. I think it’s because in my running group (where I bring up the rear and know all the names of the elites but never actually talk to them because they’ve gone home by the time I’m halfway done) I really am the back of the pack. Even though I see visible improvements each year, the people around me keep improving too. Great for them. A little tough on my self-esteem.
Case in point: I had a particularly tough quality workout this past Wednesday. The concept was simple enough. 1 mile warmup, 4 miles at “steady (sort of like marathon) pace”, 1 mile cooldown. And don’t forget the drills.
Well, the first 2 of those 4 miles were fine. We ran about 10:20 — roughly what I’ll need to do if I’m every going to actually run 4:30 for a marathon — and I felt challenged but relaxed. Then we hit the hill at the end of mile 2. As usual, Emily pulled away with ease. As we turned around to head back, we caught sight of all the people who usually run about our pace…all strung out ahead of us. Without even meaning to, we began to pick up the pace. A 10:04 mile 3, and a sub-10:00 mile 4. I felt like I might collapse. At this point in time, there is NO WAY I could keep that pace for a marathon.
To top things off, I caught a glimpse of myself in the windows of the Sheraton on our cooldown back to Rogue. My shoulders were hunched, my stride was labored. Every step looked heavy.
I came home tired and a tad depressed. How can I be working so hard and have running still feel SO HARD?
It didn’t really help matters that when I got home, I decided to peruse an old issue of O that was lying around. As I flipped the pages, I came upon an article on the virtues of quitting. That’s right. Quitting. It was all about a woman who decided to take up piano as an adult, realized she was terrible at it, and finally found relief by quitting.
Sure, it’s easy to say she didn’t like the piano as much as I like running, but if anyone’s ever asked you why you like running, you know just how hard it is to come up with an articulated answer. What’s so different about my running and her piano playing?

She hid from friends and family when she practiced so they wouldn’t know how bad she was. I “round” my mile splits when talking to faster runners so as not to seem quite so pitiable.

She feared embarrassing herself at a piano recital. I fear giving it my all and turning in another 5 hour marathon. 

Why did quitting help her, when it’s so unimaginable to me?
In other words: Why do I like running? 
Well…I just do. I like routine. I like goals. I like tracking progress. I like not being as fat as I should be given all the crap I eat. I like reading about running and talking about running and writing about running. I love my running friends. 
Most of all, I like having “runner” as my identity. If I stopped now, I don’t know who I’d be. There’d be a gaping silence whenever someone said, “Tell me about yourself.”
Maybe I’m crazy to work as hard as I do for something that I’m quite frankly not very good at. But if you’re crazy like me, I’m here to tell you that’s okay. Or at least that I understand.

If you try something and you hate it, yes, it’s okay to quit. But if you try something and love it, it’s also okay NOT to quit…regardless of your actual talent (or lack thereof).

Run on, friends. I’ll be right behind you.

4 comments on “Why Do I Do This, Again?

  1. Emily
    July 27, 2012

    Ok, I don't know where to begin…is it wrong to start with how much I love the line, " I like not being as fat as I should be given all the crap I eat."? I'm so glad that when you think I'm pulling away with ease, I'm thinking how you're cruising along steadily with no problems and I may keel over? This is why we make great partners! As hard as any week may be for us, we're both in for the long haul! Thanks for helping me accept having runner as part of *my identity* and being grateful I have you by my side (or kicking out 18 miles in front of me). Next stop, Olympics!

  2. Emily
    July 27, 2012

    Also, just saw a quote- "You must be consistently good to become great" keep that mind as we slog along 🙂

  3. Robin
    July 27, 2012

    Trust Oprah to ruin everything. An article on quitting?? Seriously! Maybe she should quit being a billionaire to really put her money where her magazine mouth is. 🙂

  4. Jeanine Swanson
    July 27, 2012

    I don't think I do one thing in life that I have a natural talent for – unless that is eating chocolate and drinking wine. BUT, I really like all the shit I do too! 🙂 Well, most times – when it isn't the run from hell on a 100 degree day. ya know….

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2012 by in being slow, motivation.
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