Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 40 of 365: Determination

After a solid week nursing a cramped hamstring, I finally got back into running. It was only a "light" run (5 miles), but I'm happy to finally get things back into routine again. And -- hopefully -- after the housewarming party, I won't feel such a manic need to unpack everything now now now and I can devote more time to prepping for the Ashland Half-Marathon.

Last Thursday, I had finally broken the 9.5 mile mark. Not only that, but my pace was faster than any other pace I have had in the last 3 weeks, even during smaller runs.  Slowly but surely,  Ashland is feeling less and less like an elusive giant and more and more like a beast I can conquer in due time.

I remember talking about running with one of my former coworkers.  She told me, "I could never do something like that."  When I told her that anyone in decent-to-good health can do it, she shrugged it off, pointing out that I'm more athletic than most.

There are few things that irk me as irrationally as when people try to dismiss my accomplishments on "good genes".  I'm tall (which will naturally mean I will need more calories, as an SUV will burn more gas than a coupe), and I have a good kinesthetic intelligence (meaning I learn physical activities a little quicker than average), but the good DNA stops there.  Truth be told, if I ate the way I wanted, zero limitations, and never exercised, I'd be a solid 25 pounds heavier than I am now.

Not to mention I am training for a half marathon on a natural run.  This is something I started doing this year.

A natural run is essentially the run we would've learned how to do, had we never worn squishy running shoes. Instead of striking the ground with your heel and rolling to the balls of your feet, you hit the ground with the balls of your feet and spring up (with your heel barely grazing the ground). It's a more effective run (you lose a lot of potential energy when you do a heel strike) and it reduces strain on your knees and shins. I knew I needed to switch over to natural running, but it wasn't until last November, when I got shin splints so painful that I would hobble down the stairs, did I make the transition. And even then, I waited until February to finally get things into gear.

As you can imagine, the transition was quite difficult. This type of running creates a completely different strain on your legs. I tried to winging it, only to cramp up so terribly in my calves that I'd have to avoid running for weeks on end. I finally found a Couch to 5K regime and used that as my base for transitioning. This meant that I started going for 30 minutes "run/walks," when you run for a minute, then walk...then run, then walk... I don't know what was more excruciating: the pain in my calves when transitioning or the mind-numbing boredom of walking every other minute.

It was hard. At my peak before transitioning, I could run a solid 5 miles. Now I was cramping up over jogging intervals. But I kept at it. I went from someone who would be in agony over jogging for a whole minute to my current milestone of 9.5 miles. And it wasn't because I'm tall, or have a decent metabolism, or have good kinesthetic intelligence. It's because I worked at it. I ignored that lazy little voice who gave me every reason under the sun why I should stop running. I ignored the procrastinating voice who tried to convince me that I could always run tomorrow. I ignored that cynical voice who doubted why I was running in the first place.

I've seen success stories of every shape and size. Dads who never even jogged around the block to being able to perform triathlons while holding his disabled son (incredible story if you have the time to Google it). People who were morbidly obese and on the brink of death via a heart attack who learned to change their eating and activity habits and got into better shape than their peers. And that's why I cannot take, "Well, I'm just not athletic," or "Well, you are more athletic," as feasible excuses. Because it's not about the body. It's about the mind. Excuses hurt no one but yourself.

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