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Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Of My (semi) Return to Running
I love how the title makes it sound like at some point in the past I was a marathoner. Not true. Hard to believe since I always move with such speed and grace. My husband probably just shot liquid out his nose while reading this. According to him our son gets his clumsiness from me, as if a thing like that could be inherited. Can it? Hrmmm. Anyways...
Running used to be really fun for me from the time I was little, as it is for most children. I was really good at track and joined the school track teams right up until Grade 8 when I got busy with other things like friends, guitar lessons and creating art. I didn't try distance running again until I was in my early 20's and then it was just something I thought I should do to get in better shape. Weight loss was not a goal as I was a rail until I hit the dreaded 30, I just figured everyone was running so why not me? I'll tell you why not - it hurt like hell! Running sprints around bases a few times a week while playing softball was no big deal, but anything that involved prolonged time/distance was completely out of the question. I tried different surfaces, tracks, trails, grass - nothing helped. Shin splints would pop up about 20 minutes into my run and last for days if not weeks. Stretching didn't really help, different expensive running shoes didn't help and running-specific strength exercises didn't help. So I gave it up and chose to do cardio on step machines, gliders and rowers. Living in rainy Vancouver meant all this cardio had to be done in a gym. I hate gyms. They suck my soul unless it is a gym used specifically by trainers and their clients - good trainers, not your random 24 Hour Fitness trainers. No offence to them, it's just more crowded in those places.
Moving to California triggered a chain of events that led me to rekindle my romance with running. The weather meant that I could go outdoors for my workouts and spend lots of time biking on the Bay Trail. A mommy friend recommended a running class run by a chick named Jen. While checking out her website, I noticed that she also offered personal training. Considering I was still packing a bunch of pregnancy weight I decided to hire her. Best decision I have made in a long long time. She is an amazing and supportive person, mother and trainer who seriously knows her shit. After a couple sessions she had nailed my weak spots and come up with a plan to strengthen my hips/legs and to correct my supinating left ankle by having me run barefoot, not only correcting the ankle but changing my stride from a heel strike to a mid foot strike. I started running completely barefoot doing laps around the soccer field next door and then went and bought my Merrell pace gloves (an excellent women's minimalist shoe with a Vibram soul). No bullshit - my strike changed and my ankle corrected in about 2 weeks. And best of all? Pain free. Heaven.
Then we discovered that my hamstring is goofed on my left leg as well, likely as a result of a gimpy ankle and repetitive strains over the years. But nothing that can't be fixed with a little time and attention. Since that has mostly healed now I'm about to embark on another C to 5K plan which will likely go fast, followed by a bridge to 10k.
I doubt I'll ever run a marathon. I admire those who can figure out their paces and train and race and do well. It's just not really for me. It's kind of exciting to see how far/fast I ran after the fact, but I just don't want to watch the clock while I'm out there. I play games with myself to see if I can sprint to that next rock, then jog to the tree, then circle the hill three times, then run over to check out that overlook there.
Running is now so completely joyful for me. If you have never run barefoot, I urge you to try it. Go out early on a sunny morning, while there is still dew on the grass, and run a few laps around a field. Don't think about running or your pace, think about how the grass feels, how it smells, how exhilarating that early morning air is. Think about how free you are. And then remember that feeling - remember the last time you had that. I'll bet you were pretty young. My advice? Get out there, get running, don't worry about it. Be a kid.