Sometimes the hardest thing about being a runner is that people expect you to run. Like all the time. They don’t expect you to ever take a break to try something new. No mini vacations from the redundancy of pounding pavements. Sure, you can dabble with yoga or take a spin class here and there for the novelty of a new activity. But people assume that you’re still out there running for the majority of your workouts. I really can’t blame them. After all, Webster’s first definition for runner is ‘a person who runs’. Not ‘person that used to run’. So what happens when you decide to take a break?
After training for the half marathon this past year and sadly missing my goal time by 4 seconds, I was a little burnt out. Training for a race is very methodical and if you aren’t careful, you can lose the passion you have for the sport. No longer running just for the fun of it, it can start to feel like a job. Feeling drained and missing the love I once had, I decided to take some time away. Try some other things until once again I felt a yearning to run. The question you never ask yourself is how long can i take off before i cease to know how to run anymore? You never think you’ll lose all that you gained.
My hiatus lasted longer than I expected but recently I felt the pulling. The call of the run. I started out with high expectations. Just like riding a bike I thought. Then I quickly tried to erase that thought ( I had discovered a couple of years ago that I had in fact lost all my bike riding skills!). No, it wouldn’t be like that at all. But once doubt creeps into your brain, it’s hard to curb it.
As I took off for my first return run, I felt weird. That’s ok, the first mile always sucks… just keep at it. But as I kept going, I started feeling worse! My legs felt tired so quickly, my breath was ragged and then to my complete horror, a side cramp attacked me. I just barely made it 2 miles and I had to stop. 2 miles!!! What the hell?
Now, I know they don’t have actual rules to being a runner but it’s pretty much expected that you can run 3 miles on any given day. In runner’s world, it’s just not that far. Not when people are out there running 26.2 regularly. But here I was walking (WALKING!) down the street. Shaking my head in disgust at how pathetic I probably looked. It’s shameful that i’m even wearing a Garmin. It was beeping at me now and flashing speed up . Shut up! I can’t! I felt dejected. I convinced myself it was just one bad run. The next will be better. But then it wasn’t. The one after that, just as crappy. I was managing to increase my distance but I still felt off. Run after run, they were miserable.
I had lost my mojo. That certain je ne sais quoi that runners have buried deep inside them was gone. I missed it. I longed to feel that high I used to experience. Maybe if i hang out with runners, i’ll catch it again. Like scabies, except i’ll be itching to run. That had to be the solution. Beer runs, running with Traci. I confided my dirty little secret to her and she assured me it’d come back. Right, i’ll be like stella. I’ll get my groove back. But how much time does it take? How many terrible runs can you have before you’re over it? I suppose that depends on how badly you want to claim that title again… Runner. It sounded almost mythical to me at this point. Fake it ’til I make it had become my new motto.
This morning, we went out for a 4 mile run. The Good Form Running techniques that I’d learned Thursday fresh in my mind. I’m not sure why exactly but almost immediately, this run was different. Maybe it was the tips on good form. Maybe it was that my mind was busy concentrating on how my feet were striking, the way my arms were swinging. It was busy and couldn’t analyze every 3 seconds how I was feeling. I don’t know. What I do know is that for 40 minutes, I got to feel like a runner again. And that feels pretty freaking awesome.