Why I Run

66a3845b84efdef5c7328dbb772ddf4b.jpg

“Why Do I Run?”

It’s a question I probably ask myself more than others ask of me, and my answer changes depending on the day. Sometimes, I’m convinced I run because it relieves my stress. Other days, especially on painful runs, I’m not so sure. I don’t even really remember exactly when I decided that I’d keep running except that it was sometime between my first day of Freshman year of college and when I started experiencing pain in what would become tendonitis due to overtraining that I decided I liked running.

I started slowly. I remember running for a minute and that minute feeling like an hour. It was a true breakthrough being able to run a whole mile without stopping to walk. I had no idea what my pace was, or what my heart rate was, and I probably wasn’t even wearing proper running shoes. But I do remember that sense of accomplishment I felt after running a full mile without stopping. And I think that’s really what keeps me coming back day after day.

Running is hard. It’s not something for which I can thank my genes for providing me any talent. When I was in elementary school, I ran an 18 minute mile (jokes on the 7 minute milers, I thought, higher numbers are always better, right?) I participated in sports, basketball, soccer and tennis, but running was never the part that I enjoyed. Walking was much more my pace, and something that did help to reduce my stress during the thick of high school. (I’m still a huge believer in walking, and walk just about everywhere that I can.)

But nothing makes me feel like running does. I enjoy working my butt off and experiencing the return of a faster pace, or a farther distance, or simply not feeling so awful the next time. It forces me to tune in to my body. There’s nothing else there to blame (besides the wind, damn you wind) when something doesn’t feel right. It’s a trial and error sport, and the puzzle of figuring out how to get better is so satisfying – when it works. When running feels good, it feels amazing. Running outside is the best. Breathing in fresh air and getting up-close-and-personal with all the corners of my neighborhood helped me feel at home much quicker after moving to a new city. There’s no better way to learn the lay of the land and the feel of the city than by foot.

Running in races is the cherry on top of an accomplishment sundae. When I felt comfortable enough running and walking a few miles, I signed up for my first 5k. Even at that small county festival race, the feeling of being amongst other runners all preparing to accomplish the same goal was electric. When I finished, I felt like I had just climbed a mountain, but I was already thinking about running another one.

So I kept running. I joined the organization Girls on The Run as a volunteer assistant coach because I identified with the mission to introduce more girls to running at a young age, and met some amazing women. One of the coaches was an Iron Man finisher who told us she had started running a few years ago just doing a lap around the block. I think now she’s completed another Iron Man and countless other Triathlons, and is a true example of simply “keeping at it because you like it and just look where it might take you”. Coaching with GOTR was a huge lesson for me in my own running journey. I learned that running was much more than simple exercise – it opens the doors to a supportive community and builds so much self-esteem it’s ridiculous.

Running can hurt. Like, really hurt. So much that you have to use crutches and walk with a limp for months on end and realize you had been a horrible person your whole life for not understanding what a blessing it is to be able to walk anywhere at the drop of a hat without pain. Running made me realize that it’s not all about running. It’s about everything else. It’s about eating food that makes me feel good not only when I’m eating it, but three hours later when it’s pushing me toward that next mile. It’s about understanding what I can do now, and loving that, but wanting to do more. It’s about getting really good sleep and taking really cold showers. It’s about being realistic. It’s about knowing my own vulnerability, and thanking my legs, and feet, and heart, and lungs, and eyes, and really every single body part for working together to perform small miracles every day.

I run because the constant challenge keeps me focused. I have a goal, and the goal is me. It’s me against myself, only I’m building myself up not breaking myself down. I’m learning more about my own body and mind than I ever have before, and I finally feel confident and able — and that confidence seeps into other areas of my life too. I’m more outgoing now. I trust myself and my own decisions. I fight back when I feel pushed down.

I sign up for a marathon. (And I will finish it)

13dc7a96396f6869de9caccb01354b2d.jpg

Week 6 Training Recap Here

Why do you run?

Is there something else you do that makes you feel this way? I’d love to hear about it 🙂

Week 6 Training Recap

 

 

IMG_0534

Training Plan 🙂

Sunday: 30 minute recovery run, heart rate under 160

Decided to walk this one instead of run after my back-to-back running extravaganza that was last Saturday. My legs (and body) felt very sore, so using my 45 minute walk back from work as my “workout” here was appropriate.

Monday: Rest Day!

And did I ever rest. I woke up feeling extremely lethargic and like I couldn’t get out of bed – a pretty rare feeling for this early bird. Thankfully, I was able to rearrange my work schedule so I could stay home (after a brief visit back at Mass General to speak with the current dietetic interns about RD Exam tips) and took a FOUR HOUR NAP. Insane. I felt miles better after I did this though. I think I snuck in a yoga sequence before bed.

Tuesday: Group Run

Another hiccup – I had planned to FINALLY run with the local Runfellow group of runners after work. Since it was their two-year birthday celebration and the route was a shorter 3 miles, I decided to sneak in a good 4.5 mile loop that morning before work just to make sure I ended up with a decent work out. Didn’t pay enough attention to my heart rate on this one and it ended up on the higher side for the most of the run. Thankful I did squeeze this in, though, because my stomach started bothering me at work and I didn’t feel well enough to join the group. Slowly but surely learning that eating an entire quest bar in one sitting does not make my tummy happy – but darn it if they didn’t seem like the perfect “tide you over until the 7:30pm run so you can eat dinner after” snack. Deception.

Wednesday: 1 Hour Cross Training + Core Work

Hit up the med school gym for 30 minutes of hills on the stationary bike, followed by 15 minutes of heavy resistance elliptical. + 3 sets of core exercises. Simple simple.

Thursday: 800m Repeats

Oops I did it again – this week was the week of training plan fails, but DAMN this was a hard work out. Hiked over to the Harvard Track for this one bright and early in the morning in an attempt to beat the climbing temps — by 7:00 when I think I officially started this it was already in the 80’s. FUN. Basically the gist was warm up for 20 minutes, run 6 repeats of 800 meters (2 laps around the track or ~.5 mile) as fast as I could, with 90 seconds of rest after each, and then jog/walk two laps around the track for a cool down. Speed work. Well, I misinterpreted that as run 800m and then jog two laps… then run 800m then jog two laps… so that by the 4th 800m repeat it had already been an hour and I felt like something was definitely wrong. Finally realized my mistake and ran the last two repeats with a 50 meter break in between. I had approximate time goals (3:50-4 minutes) for each 800m split, but I just tried to push myself for those two laps and ended up running an average of 7:30 minute/mile pace for each. My right glute felt especially tight during the whole work out, which I figured was probably because of the squats/stationary bike the day before. At the end of it, I ran just about 7 miles and I was beat. Went home and foam rolled and could definitely feel buildup of lactic acid in my booty. Cute, right?

Friday: Spin Class

Went in the evening after work. This ended up actually being an amazing class. I’ve found spin studios to be hit-or-miss depending on the instructor, and this girl didn’t mess around. She was hardcore and motivating without being too abrasive; I was conscious of trying not to overdo the anaerobic stuff so my legs were still functional for my long run the next morning. Still felt like I entered hell and returned a stronger human — the 90 degree weather definitely played into this. Rehydrated like hell, and followed up with hip opening yoga before bed.

Saturday: 2 hour 15 minute Run

I went into this run pretty worried about the weather, honestly. The last thing I wanted was to pass out or become road kill on the side of the Charles, and running out of water on my last long run sucked, so I was anxious about that, too. Checked the forecast obsessively and saw that it was supposed to hit 80 by 8am, so decided that I’d wake up around 4:30 to eat a light breakfast and plan to hit the road by 6. At this point, it was like 79 not much degree saving could be done. Thanks to the weather, I forgot about being self-conscious. Not only did this run end up being my farthest ever, it was also the first one I completed wearing only a sports bra (and shorts, duh). Caring about my flabby abs was the last thing on my mind, to be honest. I filled up my water bottle half way with water the night before and stuck this in the freezer on its side so there would be a good amount of ice in the morning that I hoped would last more than 5 minutes on the run. I tried my Skratch Labs hydration mix for the first time, and put one full scoop in. I also brought a package of Clif Blocks that were formulated with extra sodium, and ended up taking one every 20-30 minutes to try this whole “consistent fueling” idea. I was able to refill my bottle of water at fountains along the way which was a lifesaver. Even though it was hot, I ran in the shade and the breeze honestly made it feel not-so-bad. I noticed a HUGE difference in this run just solely keeping hydrated and making sure I took one of those blocks every half hour. I never really felt “out of gas,” though by the end of it my legs did start to feel tired. I couldn’t believe my watch when I checked it right before my cooldown — 13.4 miles. The whole thing ended up being 13.75 including my walking at the end. Officially crossed the half-marathon threshold!

  • 1 hour warm up — listened to Lindsay Hein’s podcast I Want Another (highly recommend for a funny, laid back and conversational podcast with a healthy dose of running, motherhood (not that I particularly identify with this topic), and being a girl in a big big world). Ran 10:11 pace
  • 20 min @ 165-70 –> ended up running 8:53 pace with an average HR of 161 – thought it was weird that my HR stayed low despite the heat.
  • 5 min jog/walk
  • 20 min @ 170-75 –> 8:38 pace with average HR of 169.
  • 5 min walk/jog
  • 10 min @ half-marathon effort –> 8:41 pace with average HR of 167. This one also included a random sub-8 mile right after I chowed down the last two clif blocks. Can anyone say energy boost?
  • 15 min cool-down walk/jog

Total Miles for Week 6 = 28.3

5F3E7956-E2D4-415A-B19B-FFB1960BF5DA

Surprise Yourself

IMG_0469

Well, there’s been a few too many days since my previous post to consider this a weekly update (thanks July 4th!) But I couldn’t stay away for too long. A lot has gone on in the country and the world that has left me feeling a little uninspired about the trivialities of my own life. Sometimes when you focus on things so much larger than yourself it’s hard to come back down and address your own feelings. In terms of feeling full of good energy and free from the sludge, nothing has been more effective than yoga for me. Just did this flow last night for probably the fifth time the past few weeks and it seriously makes me feel so FULL of good energy. Crazy how a few specific movements can reset your mind and heart. I challenge you to try it – for me, this always stirs up some uncomfortable energy at first but if you focus on breathing it out, you’re left feeling amazingly refreshed. Roll out a mat and get to it!

 

My holiday weekend was lovely fitting in a few shorter runs (even my longer run was on the shorter side, thankfully) to be able to hang out and see Boston from a tourist’s eye with my parents, grandma, and Aunt who had flown in from MN and WI. It was a packed weekend and we did quite a bit – enough for me to come home every day out of gas and ready for sleep! That feeling didn’t quite seem to leave me last week and really caught up with me over the weekend. Every afternoon I’ve felt ready for a nap and usually have been able to sneak in a few hours of sleep. You’d think I’d be able to sleep in if I’m so sleep deprived, but for some reason like clockwork I wake up raring to go at 5:30-6 each morning and coffee only seems to take me so far. I’m blaming the cloudy and dreary weather that’s been rearing its head over Boston the past few days, and thankfully I was able to take yesterday off from work to catch up on a little more sleep. Hopefully I’m good now, body?? That would be nice.

13533264_10209998728308858_2945328817811616644_n

Training-wise my runs haven’t been too exciting, which is probably a good thing! I still look forward to them every day and this weekend I was especially looking forward to my long run, which had me running 1 hour at “a comfortable pace for me”, after 30 minutes of warm up and followed by 15 minutes at 8:30. I listened to Amy Pohler’s book (Yes Please) for the first 30 and then amused myself with a new Spotify Summer Party playlist for the next hour while I took in the Charles and the cool morning (I was geared up for a rainy run but thankfully Boston decided to stay dry for most of the day! This ended up being a huge blessing for my later trail run where the dry dirt meant I spared myself any slippage and unneeded injury.) I also completed my first MAF test and mile-repeat runs the past few weeks, which were new structures of running that I hadn’t experimented yet but were interesting to complete. I felt like a complete dweeb running so slowly on the Harvard track for my MAF test next to some obviously confused track sprinters, but hey a marathoners gotta do what a marathoners gotta do. And my MAF pace will get faster eventually, surely.

IMG_0448

If you don’t know what MAF means, neither did I until about 3 months ago. It either stands for Maximum Aerobic Function or is an abbreviation for its founder, Dr. Phil Maffetone (I can’t figure out which), and is basically your heart rate at 180-[your age], so for me, that’s 156. It’s supposedly the heart rate you don’t want to exceed if you’re looking to increase the aerobic capacity of your muscles – teaching them to use glycogen more efficiently, and use fat more as a substrate for cellular energy. This is supposed to sustain you for longer (ie., during marathon or longer distances) so you “hit the wall” less frequently and can rely more on stored energy (fat) vs having to refuel so often with straight sugar. For my MAF test, I ran for 3 miles at a heart rate of 155. It was SLOW. I think my average pace was just over 11 minutes per mile. Fine for not getting tired, but running in circles for an hour including my warm up was not the most exhilarating work out. Oh, and it was raining (insert eyeroll emoji here).

IMG_0450

Puritan and Co Pizza nights how I love your deliciousness and fun…. But you do not mix well with longer runs the next morning (paid for this one for a few days)

I’ve had the apartment to myself for the past week since the roomie is adventuring back on her home coast of the West. It’s been a lonely but peaceful time, and I’ve finally managed to replace some of our Christmas decorations with summer flare – just in time for it to be 90 degrees inside again.

IMG_0441

Learning Highlights from the Past Few

– I need to get over whatever is holding me back from fueling enough on long runs. I usually tend to feel pretty depleted by the end of them, and I think it’s because I have this mentality that I just have to “push through” and that adding a little extra fuel won’t matter. That mentality will definitely bite me in the butt as I continue to add mileage so I’m going to continue to try and fuel BEFORE I feel like I need it to avoid that “running out of gas” feeling that make runs especially death-like.

– I can do treadmill runs and not lose my balance/hurt myself/die. When it was 95 degrees outside and I had mile-repeats on my training schedule, I knew a treadmill run was in order. I normally can’t stand treadmills because I get a dizzy and claustrophobic sensation being locked onto the tread that usually feels like it’s moving waytoofast even though it’s usually much slower than I’d be running if I were on an outdoor track. Somehow I got through it running for 3 mile repeats at an 8:30 pace (7.3 MPH on the tread) without falling off — my heart rate was funky during this run though and never seemed to get higher than 165 despite my fast pace. Bad? Good? Just weird? Not sure.

– Trail running is awesome. I impulsively signed up to run a short trail race in Stoneham, MA over the weekend. It was the first race I signed up to run on my own, and despite my best recruiting efforts, ended up at the starting line as a lone wolf. It’s been a little goal of mine this summer to become a bit more social with my running – joining running clubs and going on runs with other running nutties like myself, so meeting other runners at this race was definitely a little cherry on top of that goal sundae. I met some really nice people and ended up hanging out with runners from Runfellow, a local group that runs in my neighborhood. The run was short – just 2.35 miles, and not as hilly as I expected. Though it was tricky running on a pretty narrow path with 900 or so other racers, and the late start/cloudy evening made watching for rocks and roots a little difficult, I had a lot of fun. After the 12-mile run I had that morning, I wasn’t trying to run fast or hard at all — it was more of a shakeout run than anything — but I still had a blast! I can definitely see how people get hooked on trail running. The woods were absolutely gorgeous and it reminded me why I got started running in the first place – because I felt most connected to myself when I was breathing in the beauty of nature. We all got unlimited beer and cider afterward, and I scored a free yasso bar (complete with unlimited coupons), slice of pizza, and fancy juice. Vert does a great job with races, and I’m really tempted to sign up for their longer trail runs later this fall.

IMG_0471

I also made a few bigger life decisions this week aligned with my forever-focus of maintaining balance and sanity in my pursuit of my best and most fulfilling life. I will probably address that in a future post because this one is already a little too long and running-focused and you guys don’t need every inhale and exhale of my life when they occur. 🙂

I will leave you with a new favorite track of mine that came on during my long run this Saturday and has been on repeat for me ever since – I have a feeling this will be accompanying me to race day November 6th.

 

As always, please consider donating to my Action for Healthy Kids fundraiser – I’m getting closer and closer to my $3,000 goal for this organization, and they are the whole reason I’m running the New York City marathon in the first place. As an added incentive, I learned last week that a donor who wishes to remain anonymous will be MATCHING donations up to $1,500 — meaning my new goal for donations is $1,500 and this amazing donor will match that amount to reach $3,000 total. Incredible. So if you want your contribution to go DOUBLE the distance, definitely donate now!