Thursday, May 7, 2009

uninspired unimaginative running

This gets better, I promise. I didn't know it would end well until I got to the end.

I run nine or ten miles a day, five or six times a week. This is my alone time, earned alone time since I am up at four in the morning to enjoy the solitude. I eat my cereal while reading a chapter or two from the Bible because I am trying to live a faith, not just think about it now. Sometimes I can hold those words in my mind for the day, remember small encouragements. Other times they fall like stones in a lake. I can't see them anymore. But I read, and then I run.

I plug my treadmill into a surge protector and flip it on, place the magnetic safety key. I turn on the fan and punch Start, accelerate to 3.5 for a short warm-up walk. My book is open; I might note the page number because I play games with page numbers. I run an 8:15 pace (or thereabouts), steady, for two or three miles before pressing the up arrow to settle at 7.4, about an 8:06 pace. Sometimes I'll end at an eight minute mile pace. Sometimes I'll dip below that. But I run, I read my book - currently Snow Falling on Cedars - whichever book has a big enough font or wide enough spacing between text lines, whichever book looks likely to stay open on the treadmill shelf. I mop my brow with a washcloth. Halfway through, a little more or a little less, I stop for a glass of orange juice.

It takes me about seventy-five minutes to run nine miles. About eighty or eighty-five minutes counting a juice break, or a bathroom stop. I used to have a rule that I had to run at least an hour a day. That was a long time ago and I never said that rule out loud but felt slacking if I didn't adhere to it, unless I was racing myself and my lungs burned as I checked my watch after a fifty-six minute eight miler. Then I spared myself another four minutes.

If I look at my running in isolation, I'm content. I am injury free, seeking better form, and stretching. My body feels good. I get to do two things I enjoy at once: plow my way through books, and plod my way through miles. And I do it all before Claire wakes up, before I have to go to work, before it's easy to say I'll do it later or tomorrow maybe. This is the way I enjoy starting my day. A run.

But now that I am injury free and running for its joy if not its glory; and now that I am not pregnant or completely exhausted with new motherhood - I want more. I particularly want more because I know others have more. I read new mom runner blogs and feel twinges of discontent that I'm not also the one charting out a training plan or signing up for races, that I'm not speedworking or tapering or icing, nevermind PRing. In my mind, I whine.

I've been hungry for a half or full marathon for over a year. I even contemplated running the Calima marathon, an out and back hilly course here, three weeks after Claire was born because, I figured, I could just run really, really slow. There aren't many marathons around here. The next one is a week after we return to the States. And I contemplated signing up for the Madison Marathon slated for the day after my best friend Kate's wedding in a couple of weeks. I'm flying home to Wisconsin anyway, why not sneak a race in that weekend too? Then I considered Grandma's Marathon, the first that I ran when I was twenty-one. Our flight out of Colombia is the day before Grandma's. We could fly into Duluth, I thought, and I could run the next morning. But our connections are tight as is and we'll be traveling with excessive excess luggage and no taxi can manage all of it at once and what if we miss our flight(s)? At best, I'd be running a marathon after a marathon day of travel and on four hours of sleep. Scratch that.

Since marathon seasons sandwich my time in the States, I looked at other options. I don't want to dump a lot of money traveling to the lone summer marathon I dig up online because we'll be dumping enough money just visiting family and friends. So I Googled "Middle East marathons." I actually found one in Abu Dhabi, hosted each January, and women are permitted to run it. I might still be in India visiting my brother and his family during the Abu Dhabi 2010 marathon. But it's always an option. Or I might look for a spring break 2010 marathon in Europe. Can I spend that much money just to run twenty-six point two miles? Or rather, can I justify it?

What do I want out of this anyway? A finisher's medal? To feel like a real runner? A race story to tell? What if it's a disappointing story? Training, airfare, hotel, and entry fee are a lot to sacrifice for a lousy race day.

Maybe what I need to do - yes, this might be it - maybe what I need to do is sign up for some summer 5 and 10K races. I am terrified of both. They sound painful, demanding. Like I can't putz around for a few miles before kicking it in to race. So maybe I should do that then: race those Chamber of Commerce sponsored fun runs and see what happens. Or don't race them but run them a little faster than my usual pace and revel in being part of a pack of runners enjoying a summer morning the way it's served best: with a run. The point is, I'm grateful for my time on the treadmill, glad to be chalking up miles. I feel better for it. But sometimes the miles feel empty, just dashed on the board to be counted. Marked off to allot for a big piece of chocolate cake. So I need to find new running challenge since a marathon won't likely play out soon. I need to shake it up a bit.

You heard it here first. I'm aiming for a bit of inspired running this summer.


N.D. said...

you're fast!! theres something about marathons that are just affirming. But you make good points. I don't knowwhat to tell you! follow your heart!

Angela and David Kidd said...

I never raced 5Ks until this year and I love them. It's a totally different kind of pain than marathons but completing a shorter race knowing you pushed yourself is just as rewarding. Embrace the shorter stuff!

And how do you read on a treadmill? I'd narf everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I ran my first marathon last fall (it was my 26th birthday gift to myself). I don't love running, but I love race day, enjoy meeting the people around me, running for all different reasons. Now that I'm hugely preggo, I don't run, but search through Runner's World and crave them Do whichever ones you can find, because you seem to love it! (you are crazy-fast, by the way.) :)
Brielle Reicks

Clare said...

i think we all have "blog envy," for lack of a better term. i PR'd, but you run 10 miles a day at 4am! i guess it's good to want more, not be too complacent. but yeah, planning is tough!

DC Running Mama said...

Maybe think outside the box of running and tackle other sports? Swimming? Yoga? Weight lifting? I don't know how feasible these are in the middle east, but you could embrace this off time to expore other sports or aspects of your life. There is a whole world of interests outside of running......

jsmarslender said...

I'm planning to buy a pair of goggles this next weekend so I can return to swimming a bit. Mix things up. Probably good for body and mind. And both Justin and I have started a habit of stretching, using some yoga poses, three or four times a week. We might find some good dvds to take with us this summer. Will likely check out the MTV yoga dvd you use, DC Mama.

I still very much enjoy running and usually feel okay that a marathon(s) isn't fitting into our schedule right now. I'll keep with it, find one or two small races this summer, and shelve marathons for a bit. And, in blog world, Clare's right: it really is all relative. Just looking at my running by itself, I'm fairly happy. A little hungry, but that gives me much to chase after.

DC Running Mama said...

I really love the Kristin McGee yoga videos! I hear you about wanting something more....I look at these triathletes and wish that I could be doing more. And, I've been in your shoes...unable to train b/c recovering from an injury or surgery or ttc...You have to find a happy place where you accept the terms you are dealing with. That being said, a little hunger is a good thing!