A Heaping Helping of Humble Pie

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great!”
-Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

Truer words were never spoken.

In the almost month since my return to running, I have had to put my ego aside, swallow my pride, and remember: I’m starting over.

I have been away from the very activity that brought me such joy for so long now, that it became time to finally admit that I can’t just pick up where I left off a few years back. I’m starting from ground zero, square one, back at the beginning.

The body isn’t where it used to be, physically or mentally. At times, it’s a slow and arduous task. Other times, I savor the endorphins that wash over me with each and every smooth step. Yet I only have to look down to remind myself how far removed I am from that last marathon or that last training run. The mind desperately craves what the body simply cannot provide right now. The mind wants to keep running, but the hamstrings and quads protest loudly. The art is finding that place where the two can coexist peacefully.

Yesterday that place was 5 miles on the treadmill.

In an effort to appease both the mind and the body, I’ve decided to focus on consistency and lower mileage in these beginning days. As much as I long for those long runs out-of-doors, honestly, this body simply isn’t ready for that. I think it’s safer and smarter to focus on building that base that I lack. I know what I need to do. It’s just a matter of telling myself that there’s a bigger picture here.

The bigger picture is a healthier, albeit older runner. A runner who simply cannot beat herself up over the amount of time that has passed since consistent running held an important place in her life. A runner who realizes that the body she peers down at today won’t be the same body that carries her across the finish line of the next race, the next marathon.

Until then, I keep running.

And pass me another slice of that humble pie.

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Never Say Never

It sounds so trite. So full of shit, but there’s never been a more accurate three words to sum up this post.

Never. Say. Never.

I must admit, I’ve been in full-blown denial for the past few months.

I miss running. I miss feeling my legs move forward, back and forth, back and forth, increasing with speed and feeling lighter each time I set out on the road. I miss the mental challenge that running provides. I miss the solitude. I miss pushing the limits of my body, with each passing mile. I miss training for a race. I miss the way this body felt as a ‘runner’.

I have been watching others run for months now. Friends on Facebook sharing their personal victories, running stories, and I remember a day when they first laced up their shoes. It’s akin to watching your child grow before your very eyes. A great feeling, but one that left me feeling a bit sad.

That used to be me.

I long for that feeling again. I long to stretch my legs. I long to lace up my shoes and go outside and just…..run…..Run for no other reason than I can. I can run.

While I have been dealing with some cardiac issues that have since been mostly resolved, there were no other obstacles in my way. There is nothing standing between me and my running shoes.

This past Monday morning found me reading running posts by my friends, smiling as I looked at their recent race photos. I could feel myself changing as I scanned the photographs and reading the race reports. It all suddenly clicked with one text message that came through from James:

“Now go get on the treadmill and sweat a little, and test your heart a bit!”

Boom.

It hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was going to run today. The thought hit me so hard that I began to laugh, then cry.

I immediately got up, changed my clothes and grabbed my running shoes out of the closet. I peered down as I laced up my shoes. I took a moment and just stared at my two feet and my two legs.

These unlikely partners have taken me to places I thought I’d never go. Six marathons, three half marathons, a 100K trail relay, countless 10Ks, 5Ks, a healthier, leaner body, and most importantly, a healthy mind. A happy mind. I am in the midst of a beautiful honeymoon with my running shoes again, and our reunion has never been sweeter. I don’t claim to be the fastest runner, and I never will be, but one thing is for certain: I may be the happiest runner right now, and for me, that’s much more important than speed. I have had a few false starts over the past few years, but for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, I do believe this return is gonna stick. I’m hungry for it. I need it. I want it back.

Back in 2006, I treated myself to a little inspiration in the form of a necklace. It was a $25 purchase that I cherished more than any other piece of fine jewelry. I never, ever, took it off, until a few weeks back prior to my cardiac procedure.

After the procedure, I remember staring at my pendant and thinking, “I’m not really a runner anymore.”

I put the pendant away. Out of sight, out of mind, right? (Another trite saying).

This past Monday as I was preparing for my run, I opened the drawer and found my pendant. I smiled. Countless family, friends, strangers, patients, and patients’ families have looked at that pendant over the years and asked, “What is that? A runner? Are you a runner?”

Yes. I am.

 

Runner Girl

“Are You A Runner?”

Runner Girl

Yes.

I am.

This question has been asked of me countless times, and it’s usually the result of the necklace I wear constantly. I purchased this necklace almost four years ago during the midst of my marathon training. I loved its simplicity, symbolism and meaning. From the time I put it on back in 2008, I can literally count on ONE hand how many times I have taken off this necklace.

It has come to define me. You see, it is literally in almost every photo taken of me:

Lisa and Runner Girl

So, yeah. The necklace has been with me for some time now. I don’t see us parting anytime soon.

I get the question a lot from friends, family, strangers and patients: “Are you a runner?” To which, depending on what phase of running I’m in, I’ll answer either, “YES!” or “Well, I’m on a bit of a hiatus right now, but yes.”

The bottom line is always the same.

I. Am. A. Runner.

I’m not fast. I’m not going to break any land/speed records. I’m not particularly competitive on the race course. I run for a myriad of reasons, none of which is placing in the top three in my age category.

In 2005, I found myself severely overweight and decided to finally do something about it. Friends at work were training for a local race and convinced me to join them. Prior to this, I was always the person who would say, “Yeah, I’ll run if someone is chasing me.” That statement soon changed, and within a few months, I had shed nearly 50 pounds and was entered into my first race. A 10-mile road race, no less. I was eating better, feeling better and completely transformed my body and my life.

I always look back on that time fondly. That time reminds me of where I am today. Still a runner, albeit not as consistent, but still a runner nonetheless.

Recently someone close to me inquired about a hamstring injury that I suffered as the result of overzealous attempts to waterski this past August. The hamstring is tender, torn and stretched, but as the result of the concern shown, I finally went to the doc to have it checked out. (FYI: nurses truly ARE the worst patients). Turns out the hamstring will get a little PT, an ultrasound and perhaps a little electrical stimulation to see just how damaged it is. Honestly, if the inquirer hadn’t been so persistent, I would have most likely put off any visit altogether, but there was always that little voice…..

“We need to get you healthy, so you can run again and keep running.”

Only when I view myself through the eyes of those closest to me do I really get it. Yeah. I AM a runner. It IS what I do. It’s not about a stupid necklace, but about a state of mind, a state of being and a lifestyle that means more to me than anything else. This body has endured six marathons, a handful of half marathons, 15Ks, 10Ks and 5Ks. I can’t let her down now. She has more left in the tank. There are more marathons just waiting to be tackled.

So, I suppose if I’m gonna continue to wear my beloved necklace, I gotta walk the walk, talk the talk and

Run the run.

 

 

 

 

 

23 weeks and 26.2 miles

And so it begins.

Today is day #1 of marathon training. Not just for me, but for my boyfriend. My 7th marathon. His first.

Decided to set out earlier this morning to beat the impending heat. Did 5 decent miles. My boyfriend decided to wait until after he woke up from his sleep, as he worked night shift last night. When he hit the road, it was a balmy, cool 85 DEGREES. I was skeptical to say the least.

He left the house, and gave me strict instructions to come fetch him if he didn’t return within an hour and 15 minutes. I looked at the clock, kissed him and wished him well.

He was off.

I sat down at the computer and busied myself with some various mundane web surfing, keeping one eye on the clock.

The door opened. I glanced at the clock. “he’s only been gone about 45 minutes”, I thought. I was indeed correct.

My boyfriend strode in, sweaty, looking tired, yet accomplished.

His very first day of marathon training: 5.13 miles in 47:30 with a 9:15/mile pace.

Let the games begin.