One of the challenges of distance running is finding time to fit workouts into life. Or life into workouts. At one point in my life, I lived the latter course. My workouts took priority in my life. Often, I chose to run instead of going out with friends or family. Running was focused on training for the marathon. Miles on the road, hours spent alone; reflecting on life, or grinding through the brutal and lonely miles 18-20. I ran with a purpose.
At times, I ran when I really did not want to and was not enjoying the process. Marathon running takes discipline. In order to succeed, I had to run even on the days it was the last thing I wanted to do. However, in discipline there is balance. Wise runners learn to listen to their bodies. Training is a balance between activity and rest. Rest days are as important as training days. At times it is difficult to tell if hitting the road is a matter of discipline or is not running a matter of rest? Allowing myself to not be ruled by the training, I brought new life and enjoyment into my runs.
Since my injury, everything has changed. There are times I am confused and uncertain about who I am today. My body feels different. Between not being able to run for several months, creating a shock of inactivity, and having the eating habits of a marathon runner, I gained almost 15 pounds. My sense of balance and self in world were different. I often don’t feel connected to my body in the same way. My personal energy sense changed. In a way, when I started running again, I wasn’t the same person. I had to relearn balance and stride. My stamina for activity is much less.
It has been a rewarding experience in some ways. I learned about myself and where I placed my priorities. I experienced having to ask for help for even the basic things like shopping, cooking, and cleaning. I became a stronger person through my vulnerabilities. I now have several close friends in my life.
Running is part of my therapy. I literally have come miles since my first shakey, wobbly running steps on the track. Last weekend, I completed an 8 mile run. I’m slower but I keep going. As I improved in running, I noticed changes elsewhere. My stamina for othe activities increased, my balance improved, my ability to turn my head without falling returned. I lost 9 pounds! My apetite is appropriate.
Running is freedom. Understanding that I physically cannot manage marathon training currently opened up a new world of running to me. I released the self-imposed demands of time and distance. For months, it was about just running. As I progressed from track to road to (easy) trail, I noticed the world around me more. Yesterday, I watched as two deer leaped across the road in front of me and into the woods. There is a new baby goat at the farm. Goats climb trees. Running into a strong headwind stinks. Well, I knew that already. I also get to choose if I run. On days I feel fatigued, I don’t feel guilty about resting. Now, I am starting to track distance and time again. It’s not the same “Garmin Insanity” that I experienced before. It’s not a desparate race against my self expected time and distance. I am charged by realizing I nearly died and yet here I am running. Running 8 miles is an accomplishment. Last year, it was just another workout. I didn’t recognize the achievment. For most people, 8 miles is a long run. I took for granted the gift of health necessary.
I took up the challenge of running a half marathon this July. Right now, my body is “stuck” at 8 miles. The transition to 9 or 10 is painful. Perhaps my brain is not ready for that distance as yet. I am experiementing with nutrition on the run. One of my doctors mentioned that I may be more sensitive to blood sugar levels and hydration. While in the past, I ran 10 miles easily before needing nutrition, my brain might not accept a lowering of its fuel level as it recovers. This weekend, I’ll try using a gel or some carbs at mile 6 and see how it goes. The 13 mile half marathon is my rum of hope. It is my run of accomplishment, heart, and determination. It is a symbol of resilience and healing. The preparation process is freeing. While the race is still a challenge, the preparation is not as onerous and time consuming as the full marathon. Yet, with my injury, come additional issues and difficulties.
Another blessing from the injury is my acceptance. While there are days I am frustrated by the fall out of the injury, most of the time I am content. I adapt my activites to the changes in my body. I seek alternatives. I strive toward healing and improvement. And, sometimes, I just accept that this is the way it is, right now, today. Tomorrow might be different. Even if this is the best I ever get, my life will be full and rewarding.