Monday, October 8, 2012

Running solo

Photo courtesy of Tim LaBarge, a fantastic Portland, Oregon editorial photographer.
How did Tim get such a great photo of me? Oh yeah, because he didn't; that's Kara Goucher.
Dear lord...the lines of her muscles. Drool.
"That's the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success.They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is." - Kara Goucher
Why I chose the busiest time of the year to try to increase my running is beyond me. Don't be surprised if I start wearing a hair shirt and commit weekly self flagellation.
If only I could run as fast as Kara and get that body. Aich ee double hockey sticks, I'd just settle for one of the two. (Not sure "settle" is the right term--sell my soul to the devil?)

Here's the thing.
I am not a "legit" runner in the sense that I didn't do it in high school or college.
But being married to someone who has done it for most of his life, and is obsessed, I naturally caught the "bug."
And yet, the moment I started really getting into it, that whole pregnancy thing happened. Then it happened again. And then I got to the point where I felt it impossible to not only get back into shape, but also pursue all of those personal record goals I have penciled in my running log from 2007.
I've dabbled in running over the past *gulp* 5 years, but never felt like I was capable of feeling a runner's high again.
I read books based on running and motherhood.
I tried stroller running (now THAT will do nothing good for your running ego after taking time off).
I followed women runner blogs.
I was determined to become that reinvented mom runner.
And then I figured with my fitness in the crapper, I'd take my extroverted personality and start running with friends. If I can't run for races and PRs, I might as well do it for the conversation! Hey, without cable, I need someone to tell me who the Sexiest Man alive is each year.
See, I was never a group runner. Never, ever, amen.
So I started testing the waters of running with some other gals. Casual group runs not based on pace or course, but time.
And then I started weekly Sunday Runday with Eric and the boys.
And this is what I realized.
I don't like running with other people.
Women, husband, my children...
For me, the perpetual extrovert, I turn into an introvert when I run.
I can't explain it, but that doesn't mean I won't try in  3 seconds:
I think running for me is like this blog: therapy.
It awards me space and time to think and do all sorts of "izing": Hypothesize. Catastrophize. Ruminize. Imaginize. (Sorry, I really wanted to keep with the "ize" thing. My blog. My rules.)
 And I recently realized I do a lot of "mantra-izing" while running.
I remember back when Eric and I lived in a condo in another part of Atlanta, there was this road I ran down at the end of most of my runs. It was over a mile long, highly trafficked. I hated it. And so every time I ran that stretch, I would say in my head:
Who loves Briarcliff?
Nobody loves Briarcliff!
Who loves Briarcliff?
Nobody loves Briarcliff!
Rinse and repeat for the entire mile. Somehow, the mile never seemed as long or arduous when I did it.
And I'm pretty sure I wrote my entire Master's thesis on my runs.
When I run with other people, no matter how fast or slow the pace, my body is aware of each fast/slow twitch muscle firing. I'm aware of my cadence, how loud my foot strikes are, and if other people are breathing as hard as I am. Are my shoes squeaky?  Do I look at my watch and let them think I am in pain? But I am in pain...but do I let them know? Should I totally fake a lace untie so I can just take a break from all of this...PRESSURE?
I become too self conscious, and running actually seems harder.
When I am by myself, running is secondary to all the self-talk I do.
And I like it.
I like running by myself because I forget about running. Yeah. Seriously.
The other weekend while Eric, the boys, and I were at the Silver Comet trail for our Runday Sunday, I came to terms with the fact that I am, at the core, a better, and happier solo runner.
Scene: Eric is pushing 800lbs of double stroller while I am way too self conscious about my pace and trying to answer Miles's millionth algebra problem, "Mom, what is 100 times 10 times 100?"
A triathlete in a fuel belt runs by us. (You know a triathlete when you see them. Right?)
Eric quickly picks up the pace. This is like the biggest ego crash for him of all time. It doesn't matter that he is pushing a double stroller with 2 big boys, and pacing an out of shape wife. It was a personal assault on his character if you asked him.
I, myself, had no right to be running foot to foot with this guy, but I felt an inordinate amount of pressure to keep up. And I still had that damn math problem to answer to my probing son.
And my breathing was labored.
And I was getting a stitch.
And I was mad at Eric "just because."
The moment was just awful. My mind was too busy and I started tightening up. I was not having fun.
Felix lost a shoe (that kids has timing), and Eric and the boys stopped to retrieve and get a snack. (You know how hard it is to be a passenger in a stroller. Works up the appetite. Poor kids.) 
I kept slogging along alone. I started, without really being aware I was doing it,  "Mantra-izing":
Run, Mama, run.
Run, Mama, run.
Run, Mama, run.
I was probably actually going faster than before, but I actually felt so much better. In full disclosure, I was hoping the shoe search and snack would take a few more minutes so I could have more time with myself.
And then a 50-year-old woman in a running skirt AND a fuel belt AND a tennis visor passed me.
Run, Mama, run.
Run, Mama, run.
And no.
I did not catch her.
But I felt great.
All 11 minute pacing with myself.
And I started to compose a fantastic letter in my head to someone special in my life.
And I realized that the elusive running high was not out of my reach in my, seemingly, crippled post-two birth state.
I feel good about running again. I don't feel good about my shape, and know that this year is not the year to be focused on racing (I'm saving that for 2014--Boston, I will slay you before I am 40), but instead, focused on my therapy: running solo.
Addendum: After writing this entry and scheduling it, my bestie from mid-westy published this on her blog. It goes to show you that running is an amazingly personal experience.


  1. Great post! Love the photo (and Kara!)

  2. As you know, I don't run, nor am I an extrovert, but I can attest to the emotional value of walking (or running) solo as time to vent, work things through, enjoy one's surroundings, become inventive and more. I hope that you continue to find the value in the exercise and be true to yourself rather than holding yourself to others' standards. You go girl!

  3. This is a great post. I feel the same way. I am a very amateur runner but prefer to do it alone as I am not into the social aspect of it (for some). It's exercise, therapy, and "me" time (which doesn't happen often these days). It's my time to be selfish. And I love it.