For the past few months (if I’m really honest, for the past year), I’ve been struggling with running. I started having a persistent issue with my piriformis and glute in my right hip. I changed my workouts and slowed them down some. It finally got better only to be replaced with pain in the front of my left hip. DAMMIT!!!! I texted to my coach. I never have pain – I know how fortunate I am – and the nagging reminder that something was wrong was driving me nuts. But I realized on my run Saturday that it wasn’t just the pain in my hip that was bothering me; there was something else happening. I wasn’t enjoying running. In fact, I hated every step.
When I first started running in my late teens, I loved it. I felt free. I ran as much as I could. This was long before information was readily available about balance and avoiding injuries. I ran because I felt in charge of my world and my body when I was doing it. I eventually got injured, and I stopped. I started back in February 2002. I ran my first half marathon in Memphis that December. I was so grateful to be running again and enjoying it. Over the next few years, I struggled with my love of running. I was in a failing marriage, and at times I had energy to run. Other times, it felt like another thing I had to endure. I told a wise friend that I would go out for a run, and I’d get angrier and angrier at my husband while I was running. I kept replaying our issues and conversations over and over in my head. By the time I got back, I was so angry with him I was seething. She asked me why I kept running if it was causing me such problems. “I don’t know. I feel like I have to,” I answered. “It’s what I do.” She wisely advised me to stop running until running drew me back. It worked. In a matter of months, I was hungry to run again for the sake of running.
My coach, Jessica, talks about her relationship with running. She says it’s very complicated, and it has its ups and downs. I guess over the years, my relationship with running has had its ups and downs too. A highlight was running my first marathon and the journey of a year and a half that it took me to get there. Running literally saved my life. It pulled me out of depression, gave me a social life and kept me healthy during a very difficult time. My friend Elizabeth remembers when I first started training, and I would balk when somebody asked if I was a runner. I wasn’t sure if I was or not. She loved watching the journey of my becoming a runner. Now, I have no hesitation in saying I’m a runner. It was a committed relationship over the past 11 years.
So, you can imagine how I’ve felt this last few months when my relationship has started to fall apart. I am no stranger to divorce, and I know the loss of losing something that gives me a reason to get up in the morning. I also know that sometimes I just have to change my perspective … my expectations … my mind about it. So, I’ve tried that. I’ve tried to go places that are more scenic. I’ve tried to balance it with yoga. I’ve tried to listen to my body and rest more. I also know that there are times when I just have to let go. Saturday, I started to let go. It was a mental and emotional battle during my entire run on Saturday. I finally stopped and walked the last mile as I said to my running shoes and my heart, “I’m done.” I let go of the next two races I have scheduled. I let go of my desire to make the long run my favorite part of the week because it hasn’t been that in awhile. It hurt, and, when I got back to my car, I cried.
I told Jessica that I may be able to run shorter distances in the future, but, for now, I just want to let running rest. I called my friend Gretchen, and she’s on a similar journey with her exercise program. We talked about focusing on strength-training for awhile instead of so much cardio. Strength training is so beneficial to the body. I already know that it is VERY important in the aging process. As much as I hate it, I have to think about the AGING process now. Saturday night was hard. My life is changing. Running has driven my schedule and the way I feel for so long that it feels like a huge loss. I also know that with every loss there is a great gain, and I know that change is good.
I moved here in July, and, in a lot of ways, not much has changed. My routine has stayed the same. Jessica was my coach in Memphis, and she was my coach here. The running routes changed, and the gym location changed, but much stayed the same. My personal goals were still fixed on future races and running improvement. With technology, my friendships have stayed much the same. There are adjustments, but the framework of my routine has not changed much. Running was a hingepin, and, with its loss, my routine morphs. Saturday also felt like a huge relief. I’ve been fighting so hard to make it work … to bring it back to what it was … to MAKE myself feel differently ... that it was a relief to let go of my hold on it.
So, Jessica has agreed to get me on a strength-training regimen during the week with kayak, hiking and biking adventures on the weekend I’ll also walk with my dog most days and catch a yoga class once or twice a week. I’m excited about having my weekends back. The long run demanded an energy focus on the weekend that ruled out a lot of the other activities that I love. I also know that I will learn a lot about how my body responds to a different set of challenges. I love that look of a lean, muscular arm and shoulder. I can’t wait for that! I know that my diet will change some, and that is always a challenge. I’ve already been told to eat eggs after a weight workout because I need the protein. I also know that having strong muscles will help me lift my kayak onto the roof of my car, carry kitty litter into the house and hike further. My friend Jo Ann is tempting me with a kayak race in the summer, and I have my sights set on a mountain biking and hiking Women’s Quest in Vermont next fall. There will be no shortage of fun.
Last night, I dug my old weightlifting gloves out of the basket where they have been gathering dust for years. I went to the gym on a Sunday night with my list of exercises from Jessica. I told her I would commit to four lifting days and maybe increase to five if I like it. The workout went fast, much faster than a long run. In the middle of my workout, this young bodybuilder type came up to me and said, “Hi. I just wanted to say that whatever you are doing, keep doing it.” I laughed and told him that I was just ending my marathon running habit, and I felt like I was losing something. He assured me I wasn’t losing anything. I looked at his hard body, and I thought… well …. maybe not. Instead of the long, lean look of runners, maybe the scenery will be much more buff. I kind of liked the look, and, to be honest, no runner has ever walked up to me and said something like that. I got the thought that maybe I need to find a workout partner! That’s what gym people do, right? Haha ….. Next ….. Life goes on.