The other night, in the pre-class chatter, I overhead the instructor talking about running. Specifically, that it doesn’t ever get any easier. It always makes her body sore. I was glad to hear words about running that confirmed my own experiences. When I started running, it was hard, and now that I’ve re-started, in some ways it’s even harder.
I had a dream last night in which I was speaking with this slim, athletic, blonde young woman about running. I told her that I had to focus on my form while I ran. She waved off my concerns about form and insisted I should just run naturally, that my body would figure out the right way to do things. Then I explained that I’d already tried that method and it got me two years of running in pain, followed by two years of figuring out why it hurt my knees so much to run.
I may as well have been talking to an attitude out of my past, though I have never been slim, athletic or blonde. Before I began to run seriously in 2009, I did some research, including asking my husband questions since he had run when he was young. And while, there were options for running systems, including the Chi-Running that I’m trying now, I ended up going with the school of “you’re body already knows how to run.” And I did run a half marathon by following that school, but I never was able to run for more than fifteen minutes without the ITB pain flaring up. And I’ve never been able to get fast.
In the early days of my running, I subscribed to a magazine, Runners World. I thought it would provide helpful tips and ideas and for a while, I enjoyed reading it. But then, the regular feature about a newbie runner had an article about his first time timing his run. And this so-called newbie was running 7 minute miles without even trying.
I could run a single 8 minute mile if I was ready to collapse immediately after (back in 2010 – I’m still not back there yet after addressing my issues). My fastest 5K was about 29 and a half minutes, or an average of over 9 minutes per mile. And this guy – this guy I’m supposed to relate to as a fellow newbie – was running 7 minute miles and he didn’t even realize it until he got his magical little stopwatch?
There were other factors that contributed to my letting the subscription lapse, but that was definitely one of them. I had had doubts from the beginning about whether that magazine was for me, and that, along with my increasingly painful knee issues with running, confirmed them. It wasn’t for me. Their world of runners was not one in which I could find a place.
Everyone’s path is different, and I guess the path I’m on doesn’t have enough people to sell a magazine to. Although I’m enjoying trying to do the Chi-Running, there are no instructors of the technique within a few hundred miles of Boise, so my husband and I are working on it with only each other for feedback and the DVD from the library for visual reference. Supposedly, in the end, running will not be painful anymore, but instead be meditative and refreshing for the body and the mind.
Not so much right now. I’m avoiding the ITB issue, which is fantastic, but I still get sore, and out of breath and it is hard on my mind. I can’t just think about anything while I’m running at this point. I have to focus on keeping my right hip elongated, my feet pointing forward, my lower abs tight, and don’t forget to keep breathing and speed and time and not running into people who can’t read the signs that the inside lane is for walking, not the outside one, can’t they read? Lately, my shoulders have been getting tight, so I’ve added a lap of loose arms every fifteen minutes in my runs. It makes me feel like a doofus, running around the track with my arms swinging limply, but it has been making my shoulders feel less like they’ve been trying to attack my ears.
A common simile for multi-tasking is juggling, but I don’t juggle, so I can’t be certain that it’s accurate. For me, right now, running requires me to pay attention to multiple facets of my body’s functioning, forcing myself to break old, bad habits and avoid making new, bad habits. As soon as one part gets easier and more natural, there’s something else to add in. I still want to be able to run faster, but my fastest mile since my reboot hasn’t even broken the ten minute mark. It’s like driving stick-shift in traffic, paying attention to the world around you while making mechanical adjustments for speed and direction and also keeping in mind your destination. It’s involved (or it should be), and subject to the same perils of distraction.
Running is hard on my body, hard on my brain and a trial for my patience (why can’t I be faster now?).
But I still love it, and I’m glad to be back on the track… even if I do get passed by everyone else running on it (even my husband, now and then – but only if he’s doing a sprint lap and I’m in the middle of a long run, and I do always catch him back, I swear).