If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

So, the purpose of this blog has never been to go on a ranting spree or a rampage about things that are external to me and/or out of my control. Some people may think it’s the habit of a push-over to let things go, but honestly, sometimes I don’t care to waste my energy on things I can’t control or that I know deep down don’t apply to me. But I am subject to the human condition, and I can’t lie that I’m not as strong of a runner, emotionally, as I want to be right now, so things that accumulate tend to affect me a lot more than a random comment from someone who just doesn’t know any better.

I’ve been battling some sort of condition or something that keeps me from running the paces that I’ve always been able to run, ever since December. The last time I ran under 9:00 during one of my routine training runs was when I was doing speed work this winter and running a pace of 8:34, which used to feel totally normal to me, but felt like an elite pace.  Training for Marathon #5 did not go the way I wanted it to, and as a result, I have to miss out on ANOTHER race because of injury. It SUCKS.

What happened? After Run for the Ranch in December, I took a month off from running in January and started training for the Minneapolis Marathon the first week of February. I ran on the treadmill a LOT– either because it was snowy outside or too damn cold (definition: 30 below 0 wind chills). I changed training plans during week 6– I knew not to do that but I did it anyways. I haven’t been walking as much as I did when I lived in DC and I haven’t been doing as much rigorous yoga and strength-training as I did when I was living there and had a happy gym that I loved attending. And I have seen that impact on my running.

So, basically, the last 5 months of running have been full of pointing fingers at various culprits— it’s the treadmill’s fault because my strides are too short, I bought the wrong shoes, now I need shoe inserts— experimenting with core and balance work, strength-training, stretching, a LOT of rest, all on my own and without the direction of a trainer or instructor. Even with all of that, my runs were no faster than 10:30 per mile. While I just joined a gym to get back into yoga and strength as well as cross-training like HIIT and swimming, nothing is working– or at least nothing is working fast enough– so I need to call in the big guns and get to a medical professional who can put me back together so I can run the paces I know I am capable of and, most importantly, get back the quality of life that running gives me. I’m not even going to talk about how hard it is to find a medical professional who understands that I am a runner who has a lot of miles in her legs and the will to get there. (Given that my job right now is in improving patients’ experiences with hospitals and medical groups, it would be wise for the medical community to listen to my concerns as a runner and treat me like a stakeholder in my own care and not as someone who needs to be scolded for pushing myself— especially when I haven’t even started yet). 

Training for Chicago 2014 starts in two weeks, and I am NOT blowing this race off.

And I know– I KNOW ALREADY— there is more to running than pace. Running is about finding joy in movement, appreciation for what your body can do, and a sense of accomplishment that comes from pushing the limits– however you define them. It’s someone’s alone time from their kids as much as it’s someone’s catharsis from work or caring for a sick parent; it’s how one runner stays ready for skinny jeans and swimsuits and how another runner stays ready to compete in and win another marathon to pay the bills that allow them to inspire the rest of us with their greatness. 

I find joy in feeling my body move fast. I appreciate myself much more when I knock out a pace that I can be proud of. And of course that gives me a sense of accomplishment and control over that accomplishment, especially right now when my life right now….well…..it kinda sucks. Running is THE ONLY thing I have control of in my life, and when I can’t run well, that means I have lost complete and total control of everything I have going on. It feels, to me, like I have no purpose to be here on this earth except to just survive. I’m going through a rough patch— I have been for almost two years now. And when I can’t even control how fast I go, it makes me feel like a fool for even trying to get out of said rough patch because running is my only source of confidence these days, and now I don’t even get a say in the kind of pace I want to run. Running fast gives me a purpose and a reason through this rough patch to stick it out because I am someone who finds joy in always getting better, in always striving to be more than I thought I could be. That’s where I derive my confidence from: by pushing the envelope. So, when I run pace times that I didn’t even start out running as a beginner in 2007, maybe you can understand why running 10:30-12:00 paces feels like a death sentence in my running life. Running paces like that makes me feel like I have peaked, or that all my hard work has been for nothing. I can’t find joy in it because, frankly, I am way too damn young to have “peaked” when I read articles about people who found running much later in life than I did and have run more races at faster times than I ever have. It’s bullshit, and I don’t buy it.

But whatever I am going through with running and injury and life, I will figure it out. There is a tangible solution– I just haven’t found it yet. In the meantime, however, hearing people suggest that “it’s time to find something else to do” or “you’re pushing it too hard” makes my blood boil. Whatever happened to just supporting someone through the ups and downs of doing something that they love? Whatever happened to a simple, “Good luck, I hope you find the answer to what you’re going through!” Why do we have to be so competitive with each other when someone tells you about something they did that you yourself can’t imagine doing? Why do we all have to go THERE with our “that’s crazy!” “You’ll never make it!” “Why would you do that?” Why is that our first inclination as a society— to automatically think that someone and his or her reasons are worthy of judgement? Why can’t all of us just make a conscious effort to realize that we don’t know the whole story and make the most blanketed, neutral, objective comment that we can make?  Because what you called “crazy” could be someone’s lifeline, and now you’ve just shot a hole right through it. And that person has probably heard it a hundred times before now, too. And you are #101. 

Every runner I know has gone through a rough patch of some kind that is more biological than it is psychological. People have lost legs and made stunning comebacks in running. People go through major life traumas that impact their running only to come out with faster pace times than before. Runners battle injury to their bodies and egos all the time and constantly rise above.

Getting out every day to run is still a battle with me, even when I used to run fast. That in itself is an accomplishment but I sometimes don’t see it that way and need all of the encouragement and validation as I can get from the people around me.

So, bottom line, if you can’t say anything nice to a runner, keep your trap shut.

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