Sunday, January 13, 2008

Recovering Runner

I'm a recovering long distance runner. I ran my first mile during middle school PE. Our teacher told us that we would be graded at the end of the semester on how fast we could run a mile. Well, the non-athlete in me (I quit after half a season of eight grade basketball because I couldn't take the humiliation anymore) was worried sick. The overachiever in me decided I was going to get my ass in gear and earn my A. The beginning of PE we had to jog for ten minutes to warm up. While my cool classmates walked, talked about boys, and tried not to get sweaty, I took this time very seriously and used it as my opportunity to get closer to an A. Each day I worked on lowering my mile time. Before I knew it, I was running 6:05 minute miles while my classmates were trying to break the eight minute mark. I was definately considered a freak -- both because I actually cared and because I didn't just settle for a 7:30 mile which would have earned me the A that I wanted so badly. Each person's mile time was posted in the hallway of our school, so everyone could witness my freak-ness. From seventh grade through ninth grade, I was the fastest girl in my entire school.

From that moment on, I was a running adict. The pain began to feel so good. I was obsessed with lowering my mile time each week. I fell in love with running shoes. I ran in highschool and realized that competing in highschool is way different than running for grades in middle school. People in highschool actually cared. It tooke me two years to actually become competative. My weekly milage increased. I ran on weekends. I started wearing running clothes to class. I donned my first pair of track shorts- ugh!

In college, running was just insane. I would often hit 50-55 miles a week. I would run 12-14 mile long runs aroung Roger's Park and along Lakeshore Drive. I spent more time with team mates than roommates. If I missed one day of running or if coach made me take a day off, my whole day was gloomy and ruined. I loved my chiseled leg muscles. The way my running shoes shaped my feet. I loved my little running shorts. I loved the feeling of my feet rhythmically pounding the concrete sidewalks. I loved whizzing by pedestrians and slow vehicles. I love the ache in my lungs and the pain shooting down my quads. I loved the status of being a "runner." I loved running in a pack down the sidewalk at highspeed--all twelve of us moving together, giggling and gossiping or in complete silence. I loved how we were so different than any other athletes or college students. I loved having personal workout goals from my coach each day-- like my own mini missions-- and trying as hard as possible to go beyond them and to win the favor of my coach. I loved my body's physical capacity for running miles at a time without flinching. Most of all, I loved the way my body felt after a run-- completely exhausted and used up. It's the best feeling in the entire world.

Ok, I didn't mean to rant that much about running. But after going through years of all that, you can see how it's hard for runners to find a new non-running identity after college. I've kept up with running of course, but when you don't have to run 55 miles a week, it tends to slip off the priority radar.

Sometimes I'm so grouchy or moody that only a good solid run will fix me. I'm glad I have running to keep me going through this pregnancy. Its usually the only thing that makes me feel good and clears my mind of worries. Plus, if I didn't have running, I wouldn't have met the crazy old gym lady who wears ONLY spandex shorts and a sports bra and brags about how she is still able to use a treadmill even though she's turning 60 this year. She just happens to mention it to me EVERY time I see her. And she babbles at me while I'm running out of breath beside her. Oh and did I mention that she knows everything. I'm not kidding-- she has an opinion about everything. Thanks to her I learned that lawyers are the most depressed people on the entire planet.

The only bad thing about running during pregnancy is that it's so hard to try to run only 4 miles at a time AND it's so hard to stay under 7 miles/hour. I need to ask my doctor how much and how fast I can run (since I need to make sure the baby has enough oxygen and blood). Today I cheated and ran 7.2 miles/hour....the pain just felt so darn good.

1 comment:

newduck said...

I can't find the link just now, but the NY Times wrote several articles about running and pregnancy. I think they came out last fall, around the time the woman who just had a baby won the NY marathon. They've done all these scientific studies about how much you can and should run when you're pregnant - it seems like the verdict is whatever your body is used to. Hope that helps!