Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tracking my running thoughts

I never run with music. Part of the reason is so that I can stay safe - always aware of my surroundings (cars, other people, wild animals, etc.). Then there's being able to hear my footsteps and my breathing and be fully in tune with the amount of effort I'm putting into my run, to know if I need to pull back or push harder. But the real reason why I never run with music is I deeply value the alone time I get, just me, myself, and my thoughts - a quiet meditation so to speak. 

I'm sure that half the time I'm thinking of nothing at all. I know that too is healthy, considering how plugged in we all are on a given day, with our computers, phones, and other techy gadgets. It's good to just stop! But the other half of the time, I know I do a lot of thinking. I often say that when I run, I "solve the world's problems" one stride at a time. Of course I can't take credit for that, but some of my clearest and most positive thoughts and revelations come to me when I'm running.

Today was my 2nd speed session at the track built into my current marathon training plan. There's something about the repetitive and predictable nature of running in circles at the track that really gets the mind going. You don't have to think about where you're going and how you're going to get there, it's just one foot in front of the other, rinse, repeat.
 Perhaps it's because running at the track is one of the few times as well that I'm aware of other runners during my runs. On a regular training run, I will see other runners, but they kind of come and go, or pass by with a quick hello and that's it. At the track, you're sharing space with others also completing their workouts, in line with their own goals, and while I don't like to do this, I certainly can't help but compare.

Let me clarify, I'm not comparing in a negative way. I didn't look at the woman who was also doing a speed workout and who I didn't catch up to even once in my workout with anything except for admiration. I wondered how long it will take for me to get that fast. It's certainly within reach and inspiring to see someone run at her pace with such little effort. I know how far I've come, and I know that the longer I train, the harder I push myself, the more goals I set for myself, the faster and fitter I will become. 

And then there was this other woman I saw who is a beginner runner doing jog-walk intervals who I passed several times. I know she's a beginner not through assuming anything based on her appearance or pace. I don't do that type of assuming. I know this because I met her this past weekend at my shift at the Running Room. I helped her pick out a jacket she wanted to treat herself to as a reward for having lost 40lbs recently and having started a 5K program. Part of me felt bad for passing her. Part of me didn't feel bad at all. Another part of me wondered if I should say hi. Could anything I have said encourage her, put a smile on her face, or ease any negative thoughts she may have had about being passed by me and the other speedy runner at the track? Or maybe there was nothing negative on her mind at all to worry about? What if it wasn't even the woman I thought she was...she was wearing a different jacket afterall.....? Gosh, that would be embarrassing. Or, if I passed her, said hi, and said something funny or encouraging in the way I did at the store on the weekend -- "hey, where's your skinny girl jacket?" -- would it have made any difference for her? And if so, would that difference be positive?

Then I realized that I came to the track with my own goals, and I was there to focus inward on me and my own goals for the day's workout. I came to run hard on my speed intervals, and take it easy on my recovery jogs. I was timing my intervals, and had a goal in mind for how I was to finish. It's such an important mantra I have to repeat to myself often: "Run your own run and don't worry about anyone or anything else". I have no reason to feel bad about my level of fitness in comparison to anyone else's. No matter what, there will always be several people fitter than I am, and several people that I am fitter than. It's just the way it is.

Being at the track is always a reminder for me of how far I've come. I think it's because I rarely run at the track anymore. Now it's reserved for specific speed workouts like Yasso 800s or similar. In the past, it was where I went to run regularly when I was first starting out. And in 2010 after each of my surgical procedures and my need to get active again after recovery, it's where I went because it was an easy solution. It's flat, predictable, easier on the joints, you can choose your own challenge easily (1 lap? 2 laps? 10? more?), and it's easy to measure how far you've gone as it's always a multiple of 400m. 

So today, I'm running my speed intervals, feeling really good. I can hardly believe that I can finish an 800m repeat in under 4 minutes. And no matter how many I do, my average finish time for each 800m interval is pretty much the same. I really don't suck at this running thing at all. Consistent and strong. I was picturing the track and how it would be cool (if not a little creepy...) if I could see earlier versions of myself on the track running with me. I could pass myself, and see tangibly how far I've come. I'd smile, salute myself, tip my hat per se, and acknowledge my progress. Then I chuckled thinking about the versions of me I'd see. There'd be me with bandages on her legs. There'd be me in baggy clothes not designed for running (but designed to hide a body you're not proud of) and bad "running" shoes. My hair would come in all kinds of lengths. And there'd be a me that's twice my current size. 

Ok, so not exactly 146lbs on my 5'7" frame, I am 6lbs shy of being quite *literally* half the size I used to be. So I'm pretty darn close. Not in any hurry to lose 6 more lbs, and certainly not trying to, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens. Or "when it happens", I should say. 

So this is where I started to have fun. I had several laps to consider the possibilities. Would it just be the overweight image of me running around the track? Or, what would be much more fun would be seeing the current me trying to run her Yasso 800s hard, but having to do so carrying all that extra weight. I started to imagine me carrying 134lbs of weights.... 134 x 1lb blocks of butter (ok, so I stole this idea from a photo I saw recently of a girl posing next to a stack of butter representing the weight she lost).... Then there's my favourite image - me piggybacking on another me. I can't imagine either of the me's would be smiling. And I certainly couldn't imagine running with another me hanging on my shoulders the whole way, dragging me down. 

 Thinking about this made me feel so good, so free, and most certainly uplifted. I have so much to be proud of. I literally have freed myself, having lifted so much weight off my shoulders. I have improved my own life in the best way I could have. It's only up from here! I'm just getting stronger, faster, fitter, and more and more motivated to keep it up! 

24 days left 'til marathon day!


  1. Love this post - great motivation! Good luck in the marathon too! :)

  2. I loved this post; it was a pleasure to be able to follow you around the track as your considered your journey through your sport. My favourite line is "I literally have freed myself". Way to go! I also like how you weigh your accomplishments in strength, confidence and quality of life and not necessarily pounds lost. I hope your readers take that away with them as well.