For about 10 years now I've considered myself "a runner." Not necessarily a great runner, but I considered myself a runner nonetheless. I feel I've earned the title. I've completed eight marathons, countless shorter races, been stuck in a walking cast with a stress fracture, and weathered a foot surgery that required walking with a cane for about a month (and left the right side of my foot with no feeling). I paid my dues.
It (the running) all started when I was about 30 years old and needed to drop the weight I put on in grad school and in my sedentary job. I was living in the D.C. area and wanted to sign up for a bootcamp program that was popular, but it was just too expensive. Then I came across an ad for a beginning women's running class offered by the Washington Runhers. It only cost about $20. Sold!
I had always admired the people I saw running down the street. I wanted to be like them. I'd put on my exercise clothes, go out the front door and run down the sidewalk. By the end of the block I would be huffing and puffing so much that I stopped and walked back. It never dawned on me that there was a right way to run--and I definitely wasn't doing it right.
The class taught you how to SLOWLY build up your running endurance, along with proper form and attire. At the end you graduated by running a 5k. After the 5k I was hooked. I trained for a 10-miler and then my first marathon.
Running and I have always had our ups and downs. Injuries have put me out for awhile and it felt like starting from scratch when I got back in. But my constant struggle in running has always been my pace. Simply stated, I am not fast, yet I have always refused to accept that. Every race must have a better time than the one before! Must! But at my peak (my fitness peak, my ideal weight, my running peak), I was a 9:15 mile. Folks, a 9:15 mile will never win a race.
Then came the foot surgery. It took months after the surgery just to learn to walk normal again (with no feeling on one side of my foot, I had a terrible limp until I learned to adjust). And once I started running again, I just never got back to that 9:15 mile. I tried--repeatedly. I'd run sprints, focus on pace instead of distance for awhile, try to drop weight. But I never got back to being under a ten-minute mile.
Even during the past year I gave it another whirl. I wanted to at least be a "middle of the pack" runner again. Plus, I've put on some weight with my current desk job. So for about eight months I ran sprints. All winter on the treadmill I focused on the sprints. Guess what the result was? I learned to dread running. I didn't drop a single pound. I maybe took 30 seconds off my already slow mile and I hated every minute of it. I always felt good after the workout, but never during.
About a month ago we had a really pretty early Spring day. I came home from work and decided I wanted to go for a run outside--the first outdoor run of the season. I put my favorite running songs on and headed out the door. It was so nice outside that I just decided I would run slow and enjoy the weather.
You know what? I enjoyed my run. I enjoyed running for the first time in a long time. And when I thought back to the days before I packed on this extra 25 lbs of chunk, it was when I was running distance and didn't care about my pace. I'd just go out on a Saturday and run for hours.
So I made a decision--I'm letting go of time. I'm going to enjoy running again. I'm going to enjoy taking my time as I run on trails in the park. I'm going to smile at the dogs and cats I pass when running through the neighborhood. Sometimes it's hard to let go. Someone will sprint by you (maybe someone who looks like they are in worse shape than you) and that old competitive spirit creeps back in--you pick up the pace--try to catch them. But then the fun starts to disappear again.
This morning I ran a 5k sponsored by the Ohio River Road Runners Club (which I recently became a member of) . I put my music on and settled into my comfy pace. It was nice. I actually enjoyed a 5k (I've done many 5ks, but rarely have I enjoyed them). In the final stretch there were two ladies keeping about the same pace. The husband of one came up and encouraged them to sprint it in for the last half mile. They took off ahead of me. It hurt my ego a little, but I was happy doing my pace. I finished the race in 35:45. In the past I wouldn't even tell anyone if I finished a 5k in that amount of time. I would have been embarrassed. But I'm letting go of time. And when I met Mark at the finish (he had finished several minutes earlier) I realized that I really enjoyed the race. And I'm going to enjoy next weekend's race just as much.
I may be a tortoise at the back of the pack, but I'm a happy tortoise. And, if I'm happy with something I'll keep doing it. And to me, that's what's important.
- J.J. Kunkle
- I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.
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