Taking a Break From Running

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I have a confession: with the exception of a treadmill 3-miler turned 1.5-miler when I realized that my very sunny gym was over 70 degrees and I was getting dizzy, I haven’t run for almost 3 weeks. My last marathon was 3 weeks ago, and it was an exhausting one. It was also at the pinnacle of a very exhausting year– not to mention I was training during the holiday season and in bitter cold winter temps that I haven’t been exposed to in five years. Overall, I think my emotions were split all over the place. It’s not that I’m a basket case– running is as mental and emotional as it is physical, and I just couldn’t focus on running when I’d have rather been still and quiet to absorb the shock from a  crazy year without trying to cover things up with a Band-Aid 5-miler. I needed to hear myself think without counting cadences or monitoring my breathing.

And so for the last three weeks, I have done just that: I have been still and quiet. I have crocheted two large scarves and I’m starting on my third one, a yellow and gray striped one that I plan to give to my youngest sister who thinks it looks too cool to care about the less-than-perfect color transitions in the stripes. I’ve curled up on the couch with my new Kindle Fire HDX under a blanket reading Paul Theroux’s latest travelogue and listening to the cold winter prairie winds howl outside and cursing to myself that I didn’t weatherize my windows on the last warmest day of the year. I obsessively checked Twitter and Instagram for updates on the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, wishing so much that I could be there, but having a Disney movie marathon to help cheer me up (for anyone who has the winter blues, I highly recommend this). Once in awhile, I got off the couch and did my favorite workout DVD. Sometimes I stopped in the middle when I got the urge to just be done already. I went to the gym and cranked some mileage on the spin bike, I decorated my apartment on my Amazon wish list, I bought a blender so I could make my banana spinach smoothies again, I applied for jobs back in DC but also some in Denver, Chicago, and Bismarck, I learned how to refill the antifreeze, oil, power-steering fluid, and fuel filter cleaner in the Hyundai that I bought in DC last September and am still getting acquainted with.

But the most important thing I have done in the past three weeks is reconnect slowly back to the sport I love. It’s a slow progression, and not one that I necessarily needed— my rational mind tells me that I love the routine of running, I love how it keeps me skinny like no other exercise, I love the trustworthy rhythm of my striding legs and my labored but relaxed breathing, I love listening to music as I go. This past weekend, after finally taking up BuzzFeed’s suggestion that I should get into “Orange is the New Black” (the jury is still out),  when watching the scene where Piper is about to go for a run on the track that the prison reopened, I realized that I missed the feeling of just starting out for a run, especially a run with no agenda– no pace goal, no distance to meet, no intention except to just run. There was something freeing about the way she and the former track star prisoner (forgot her name, sorry!) were wearing government-issued sweats– not designer fabric, brand-name tailored running clothes– to go for a run. Not that I plan to start running in sweats, but in that scene, both girls were just happy to have a place to run after not having a place to run for awhile. Even down to the clothes they wore, there was no pressure to do it right. They just ran because they could.

Still, the urge was not strong enough for me to lace up my pink Mizunos and go. I’m not completely ready to get back into running and, while I am terrified that I’m losing my base and that my first run after this hiatus will be brutally difficult and humbling, I’m more afraid of what will happen if I don’t pause and take an emotional break from running. Burnout is dangerous. And I am looking forward to a truly exciting year of races, so I gotta get my heart back in the game.

But first…I think I will finish crocheting this scarf.

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