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:
- 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.