Friday, August 30, 2019

Rediscover Running

We all have had periods of long time where we were not able to run. 

I am not talking about a weekend when your in-laws are in town or it rains cats and dog for three days making outside running difficult.  I am talking about the times when it is weeks, months or years since you have run.  This might be because you can't run, like coming back from an injury -- or times where you just don't want to run because you've lost the desire. 

If you are in this state right now, I'd like to suggest that you rediscover running today. 

Let's look at two examples that define what I mean. 

During my competitive running career, I went through periods where I struggled to find motivation.  One particular time I recall was when I had plateaued with my race times and no matter what I tried, I just couldn't take that next step with my time goals.  I still ran every day, but I was just going through the motions.  Living in Alabama, you literally can train year round because even the winter weather is tolerable.  I had been training nonstop, year round, for 5 years with no break.  I felt like I was in my peak years for fast times, so I was unwilling to take a break and lose any fitness.  I knew that unless something changed, I was going to ultimately burn out and either walk away from running, or risk injury and not be able to run.

I knew that I needed to rediscover running.  Not that I had forgotten how to run, but I had forgotten what I loved about running.

So, I started to trail run, much more often.  I still did my quality running on the roads and track for temp and VO2Max workouts, but on most other days I could be found in the woods on single track.  For me, being alone in the wilderness is just about as good as it gets.  It doesn't matter if I am crushing a hill climb, working on my footwork on a technical downhill or just on an easy jog with my dog, I feel so alive when trail running. 

I noticed that my joints stopped hurting so much from the less from the softer surface of hard packed trails.  My road running quality actually improved because I wanted to make the most of my actual workouts.  And for once in a very long time, I actually started looking forward to running again.  It just took a change of where I ran to mix in more trail running, and I was able to rediscover why I loved running so much.

I was able to rediscover running and it changed my life. 

Fast forward nearly a decade to present day.  I have been retired from competitive running since December of 2016 when I went out on top with a Boston Marathon qualifying time at Run CIM in Sacramento, California.  But with medical issues, I really have not been able to run (fast) since hanging it up. 

There is an old saying that reads "If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it's yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be."  Well I didn't let running go, I had to walk away from it, even if it was on my own terms.  But the yearning for it was so much greater because I was still at the tail end of my prime and I knew that I had more quality miles left in my legs.  How can you continue to do something that you love so much, but not at the same level you could once?

I knew that I needed to rediscover running.  Not that I had forgotten how to run, but I had forgotten what I loved about running.

I quickly learned that I needed to redefine what running was for me.  Because it will no longer be repeating quarters on a track at sub minute miles or going out for 3 hour long runs.  Running is now closer to jogging than running.  Running is taking the dog out for an hour where I rotate running for a minute followed by walking for a few minutes.  Running is being in a new city and exploring on foot pre-dawn to experience new places.  Running means something different to everyone, and can even change what it means for each person over time. 

I was able to rediscover running and it changed my life. 

With winter fast approaching, if you have been on a break with running, now is the perfect time to rediscover it.  Start slowly to avoid injury or burnout, but build up a routine before the snow flies.  Depending on where you live, you have 1-2 months before it gets really cold to create a new habit of running, 

Be sure to understand that what running was to you before you stopped may be different than what it is to you when you start again.  Maybe once you rediscover running you will actually enjoy it more (or differently) than you once did. 

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.