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Friday, 24 June 2011

One Runner's Tale

Long long ago, in a land far far away, there was a girl who loved to run…

Exercise has been a stress reliever for me since my college days (Uni, UK readers).  It was the perfect release from the pressures of all-nighters and impending crits.  Through the years, running has become my constant.

I head out, relax my muscles as much as possible, kick into a comfortable rhythm, and let my mind go wherever it wants.  Sometimes it churns over the same thing for the whole run, quite often working itself to some sort of conclusion by the end.  Sometimes it hops from one thing to another, and before I know it, it’s gone blank and I’ve not thought of anything but the scenery for ages.  I used to call it zen running because of how these runs make me feel come the end. 

I like saying hello to the other runners as we cross paths.  I like running in the rain and through puddles.  Sunday mornings are fantastic. Even if I don’t make it out until 10am, the world still seems like it’s just waking up. 

Sometimes, when life has really driven me nuts and I just need to get rid of some of my adrenaline, I’ll push myself until all I can think about is my breathing and my stride length. One of my favourite ways to do this is with hill sessions, sprinting up and jogging down until I can’t possibly go up one more time.  Then I jog back home.  The best part about these runs is I always finish feeling good about myself. No matter what else life is throwing at me, nothing can take away what I’ve managed to do on that hill.

A few years after I graduated, my friend left a voice mail message – “You’re running with me in the St Patrick’s Day race tomorrow.  Get your ass there by 8am. No excuses.”  Crossing the finish line entitled me to two pints of Guiness and a plate of ribs and corn bread.  The atmosphere, both during and after the race, was brilliant.  That’s all it took to get me hooked on racing.

I was working long hours when I trained for my first half marathon.  I was thankful for that hour of stress-free fresh air everyday.  The end result was brilliant as well.  My parents came and cheered me on.  Completing that race felt amazing.  

As it turned out, that was also the last time I saw my mother alive.  I ran another half several months later just to get that ‘first’ out of the way.  A close friend of mine ran it too.  My Dad and two other amazing friends stood in the rain and cheered me on.  I completed it in under two hours, a personal best, but the day was emotional for more than just that.

Since I run as a relaxation tool, it can’t be that much of a surprise that it becomes intertwined with life’s ups and downs, sometimes highlighting the milestones as much as helping me through them. 

My (now) husband’s proposal plans all hinged on me getting up and going for my usual Sunday run.    He practically had to push me out the door – how was I to know he had a plan up his sleeve?! When I first moved to England, I ran to learn the area. I even ran a race where all finishers got a pasty! (I was in Cornwall after all) 

Several weeks into my pregnancy, I was jogging away on the treadmill when I felt an odd crampy twinge. The next day I mis-carried.  Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Even though I knew running had nothing to do with what happened, it took some time before I ran again.  When I finally laced up my shoes and went out again, it was like the weight came off my shoulders in just that short jaunt.  I signed up for a 10K race, my perfect combination of therapy and accomplishment rolled into one. 

As luck would have it, I found out I was pregnant again about a week before the race.  It was a big hurdle to get past, the irrational fear that I would lose another one by running.  I don’t think I have ever been so elated about finishing anything before.

There are times (like when morning all day sickness struck) when I’ve chosen to walk instead.  It can be more therapeutic than the running. I can stop for a coffee, do some window shopping or people watching, and then start again if my heart desires.  When my mom passed away, I walked for hours.  I walk as much as I can.  I even took a break from writing this post to take a walk with my daughter in the carrier.

It is the best relaxation technique I could ask for

About a month ago, I ran my first race since becoming a mom. The race atmosphere was once again exhilarating. I had some lovely chats with fellow runners before the race, let my mind wander during it, and got to hug my little girl at the finish. 

If you read my last post, you’ll know I’ve had a tough week.  Several people suggested exercise and it was like a light bulb had gone off.  Of course this would help.  I couldn’t wait to find the time to get out there. 

Yesterday was my first run since the race. I felt better for it.  I hope I can keep it up.  Feeling fit helps me feel good.  Running clears my mind. 

Therapy.  The free kind.  The fresh air kind. 

Where are my shoes?


Amber Lena said...

This is a lovely post. I don't consider myself a runner, but I do jog on occasion, and it certainly is great therapy. Here's my take on it (from last summer)

Shazzyd said...

A great post. I find running really therapeutic and have been blogging about the trials and tribulations of running in a city and exploring the countryside. Juggling running and having a family aren't always easy but its always great to get out walking or running! Check out my blog and say hello.

Lindsay Owen said...

Love your post and totally understand and appreciate your reasons for running. running is my sanity. i feel like you and i have our lives mirrored: i'm english and living in the usa, and as we speak I'm on holiday in your home state, staying on cape cod. unfortunatey, i've eaten too many lobster rolls and have yet to do my first run, but am planning one tomorrow morning. anyway, a wonderful post. please check out my blog too

Lindsay x

Sandy said...

Thanks all! Apologies for taking so long to say that! I haven't made it out for another run yet but have managed a few long walks. Lindsay, it's great to know someone in the 'mirrored' position. ;-)