I have not been running lately, due to an injury I sustained training for the Tunnel Vision marathon. You can read about it here and here. I have this to say about that: running is way better than not running.
Yes, I am doing physical therapy, dutifully performing my exercises twice a day at home and visiting the therapist twice a week. I can do the elliptical, so I have a way to maintain fitness.
Funny story: I never climbed on an elliptical machine until last week. On Tuesday, after not running for nine days, I was so happy to discover that the elliptical did not cause any pain in my hip, I stayed on it for an hour. My calves were so sore the next day, I couldn’t do the elliptical for another two days. To say that I tend to overdo things is an understatement.
I, understandably, have some spare time on my hands, due to the vacuum left by the absence of running, so I have been thinking: what other talents do I have? What else would be fun to do (at least temporarily) to substitute for running? Then I realized, my running talents are modest at best, and that was a freeing thought. Something loosened inside of me.
I have been running for most of my adult life, but only fairly seriously for about 15 years. Before that, a friend and I would go out and jog three miles three times a week. We had a route that we almost never varied from, starting from her house and circling our town. We talked the whole way about our families, our team (we played on the same volleyball team), religion, relationships, and whatever else popped into our minds.
It was fun, a way to have thirty minutes of adult time when all the other minutes of our days were taken up by our collective seven children. It wasn’t until my youngest son graduated from high school and I was feeling lost and adrift that I started running competitively.
There are plenty of women who have more running talent than I. Even though I often place in my age group, that is due mostly to two reasons, and neither one of them is talent.
One reason is simply attrition. By the age I began racing, in my mid-forties, many other women have already hung up their racing flats. In the small high school I attended during the 1970s the cross country team was a male-only sport. Title IX had not reached us yet, and it was thought that high school girls could not withstand the rigors of running a 5k race. I was a sprinter on the track team, running the 100-yard dash and anchoring the 440-yard relay (we didn’t have meters back in the 1970s).
It never crossed my mind to try to run longer distances until much later in life. My running career was still on the upswing when women who began running in their teens and twenties were long past the age of personal records.
The second reason is hard work. And determination. My husband calls it stubbornness, I call that particular trait determination. To-may-to; to-mah-to. I was always willing to run a lot of miles to train for a race. While friends of mine could run a much faster marathon than I with one 18 or 20-mile long run as the pinnacle of their training, I often ran several 22 or 23-milers. I once even ran a marathon to train for another marathon.
I ran in every kind of weather. Heat, snow, rain, even ice didn’t stop me. Only thunderstorms did. I often ran at 4:30 a.m. so that I could get a long run in before school, because I knew that I would not be able to run after school (I was too busy and exhausted). I loved the feeling I got from doing track workouts, speeding breathlessly around the track in the dark, then taking a recovery lap.
So why is realizing my lack of running talent freeing? I think it is for this reason: I am mostly responsible for my (very modest) running successes. Talent is dispensed by God (and genetics). I have no control over how much talent I have, but I don’t have to have a lot of running talent to be a successful runner. We all define success in our own way. I am free to write my own definition of success.
I once ran a race in which Olympic marathoner Joan Benoit-Samuelson was in my age group. I don’t care how hard I trained, I was not going to beat Joan Benoit-Samuelson and win the age group. Joan had been the speaker at the pasta dinner the evening before the race.
This race was one of my favorite half marathons, a mixture of flat stretches and rolling hills, roads and park trails, exactly the kind of variety I love. Runners even cross a covered bridge at mile 11 in which a harpist plays soothing melodies.
I felt very good the day of the race. I started off fast and maintained a good pace throughout. I never look at my watch during any race, so I didn’t know what my time was until the very end of the run. The end of the race was run on the local high school track. As I came around the last turn, I saw that I had a 3-minute PR (personal record). Did I beat Joan? No! Not even close. I wasn’t even in the top three finishers for my age group, but I was successful that day. I got to define success my own way.
At this point, I am going to define success as just getting back out there and finishing a race pain-free. After that, who knows? I get to change my definition if I want.
My 79 year-old friend, the amazing Heidi, who I wrote about here, is running 20-mile training runs for her upcoming marathon in Greece. She recently told me that for her “rest week” with no long runs scheduled, she competed in a 10-mile race on Saturday in the stifiling heat and humidity of a late-August day, then ran a 5k, just for fun, on Sunday. When I have Heidi for inspiration, who can blame me for thinking the sky is the limit?
I am linking up with Deb Runs for her Wednesday Word. This month’s word was “talent“, Running on Happy, Crazy Running Girl, and Coach Debbie Runs for the Coaches’ Corner, Nicole and Annmarie for Wild Workout Wednesday, Random-osity for Little Things Thursdays, Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday 5, and Sharing a Journey for Wellness Wednesday.