Whenever I tell people I’ve run a marathon, they say “oh you must be a natural runner.”
Anyone that saw me in PE when I was goring up knows that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve always been active, but never athletic. In middle school, I did martial arts and spent a lot of time falling over. In high school, I didn’t do much until senior year when I played varsity badminton (I know, I’m a badass). Near the end of high school I also hit the gym pretty regularly, but that was more out of wrestling with body image issues than anything else, and I spent most of my time on the elliptical and doing crunches.
My freshman year of college, I was an overachiever and gained the freshman 40 – in my first quarter. Apparently the excitement of starting fresh erased my body image issues, because I wasn’t particularly self conscious about the weight gain (and I was underweight to begin with), but a friend dragged me to a tae kwon do class and I was hooked. The class had big payoffs physically and socially (hello to all my TKD friends, and oh, yeah, my fiancé).
Eventually, I incorporated yoga and the gym, and spent the rest of college getting my sweat on regularly. But my runs were always on the treadmill, and never more than three miles. Then I graduated and we moved to San Francisco and suddenly I was motivated to run. Even though we lived AT THE TOP OF A HILL, which meant the last mile was all up a steep incline, I regularly dragged Alex out at 5 am to get runs in. They were short and they sucked – we never ran more than two miles at at a time. But I caught the racing bug after my first 10k, and after my second, I was hooked.
While I admire the bloggers I read who do long races (half and full marathons) often, my relationship with running is a lot more variable. After my marathon in October, my longest run was at Thanksgiving for a 10k Turkey Trot. After that, my mileage dropped to 20 minute treadmill interval sessions and two mile runs outside. My energy this winter has been focused on 1) sleep 2) relaxing and 3) strength training and yoga.
So it’s not surprising that when I signed up for a 10 mile race and started training, my endurance wasn’t quite where it was over the summer, when a normal Saturday run was in the double digits. Despite this making total sense, I’d been operating under the impression that I’d run a marathon – do I really have to train for a race that’s a little more than a third of the distance?
The answer, my friends, is YES. I haven’t morphed into a natural runner. There are (plenty of) days where four mile runs feel endless.
But then there are days like yesterday, where I rocked my longest run since the marathon – 8.5 miles! It wash’t a speedy run and included plenty of walking breaks, but it reminded me that I am capable of longer distances. The benefit of taking a break from running is being able to come back to it with a more appreciative attitude – I don’t take my runs for granted. I pay attention to how my body feels. I run with purpose and focus. The benefit of runs being challenging is that I feel accomplished when they’re over.
It helps when you get to run through beautiful Golden Gate Park.
Plus, then we treat ourselves to a delicious brunch of eggs, toast, and hash browns, eaten in the sun while sipping green tea. I couldn’t ask for a better Sunday.