Worth the Read

Somewhere back in the spring, I’d heard that American marathon legend Deena Kastor had released a book. Ever the good bookworm, I made sure to add it to the ever-growing to-be-read list, and I finally started reading her memoir two weeks ago. When you’re deep in race training, reading about other runners is the perfect choice. 😉

 

This post won’t be a full-blown review, but I will recommend this book to runners and non-runners, alike. Kastor and Hamilton write in such a way that it feels like you’re sitting down and just listening to an old friend tell a story. It’s not bogged down with technical runner jargon, so it’s easy for non-runners to follow along. And as she tells her story, she also lays out the mental work that allowed her to become a champion runner.

 

It was definitely fascinating to read about the life of an American legend (and if you do a quick Google search of Kastor’s accomplishments, you’ll know “legend” is not an exaggeration). But Kastor’s book is more than just a listing of victories. The writing radiates with Kastor’s positivity, and as she progresses, her story provides helpful tips, insights, and encouragement along the way. And as is often the case, the lessons and encouragement Kastor provides hold true not only in running, but the rest of life, as well.

 

I was sad to reach the end of this book, last night, which means I’ll be reading this one, again, eventually. Kastor left me feeling like I could not only become a better runner, but a better person, as well, and for that, I am grateful.

Remember Why You Started

TheGoodVibeco

 

My training app reminded me that I’ve reached the halfway mark. I’m now 6 weeks out from the Rock N Roll Dublin Half Marathon. And while I’m feeling good, I have to admit that my pace isn’t what I’d hoped it be at this point.

 

So, before I slip into one of my perfectionist meltdowns and thinking there’s no way I can meet my time goal, I figured now’s a good time to stop and remember why I started training in the first place:

  1. My husband thought it would be cool to run a race as part of our honeymoon. Seriously. We’re building our trip to Ireland around running the Rock N Roll Dublin Half Marathon. I’ll be the first to admit this wasn’t my idea. But, when he suggested it, I couldn’t say no to it, either. It just seemed like the perfect “runner” thing to do. I’m sure there’s a couple of runners out there that have already done the same thing (and if so, I’d love to hear what you did/where you went), but I have to admit it’s kinda nice to do something a little off the beaten path for your honeymoon.
  2. Traveling to race makes for a much more interesting vacation. Honeymoon or not, I contend that running a locale is different. Running lets you experience locations, cities, and neighborhoods differently than just another walking tour or drive. So why not take the chance to experience another country that way?
  3. I want to beat my half marathon personal record (PR). I can’t lie and say that’s not a goal for this race. Heck, this has been the goal for every half marathon since I set my PR–2 hours, 27 minutes, and 32 seconds–in December, 2014. And if I’m honest, this is the goal that has me worrying the most.

 

And as I write this out, I’m reminded that there’s more to running than the time on the clock. Is the time goal important? Sure. Is it the only thing that matters here? No. When all else fails, the only thing I can do is run bravely, and let the rest take care of itself.

And Then She Rested

My normal rest day in this training schedule are on Sunday. But, today, my training schedule gave me another rest day. That’s right: TWO rest days in one week instead of the usual one! And for that, let us give thanks and praise!

 

Rest days are the best and hardest part of a runner’s schedule. It’s the one day of the week (pets willing) where I can sleep late. The running shoes can stay in the closet, and I don’t have to choose between weights, swimming, yoga, etc. as my cross-training session.  Most weeks, I meet rest days with jubilation.

 

So why are rest days hard? Because we all hit points in our running lives where we’re tempted by more. One more mile. One more weight session. One more trip to the pool. It’s so unbelievably easy to think, “what I’m doing now is great, but working one more day is always better, right?” And when there’s a big goal on the line (*cough* new personal record *cough*), that little voice whispering “one more workout” may as well be screaming through a megaphone.

 

In that moment where that voice screams through the megaphone, the best thing I can do is resist and rest. Because sometimes the last thing I need is more work. Because that extra workout doesn’t always help me get to my goal faster. Because, more often than I care to admit, doing more ends up giving me less than what I’d hoped and makes the work ahead that much harder. (Here’s a great article from Runner’s World that summarizes the benefits of rest days.)

 

And what’s true of running is—often—true of the rest of life (well, my life, anyway). How often do I find myself wanting to add one more item to the check list? One more challenge to take on? And for what? How easy is it for me to give in to the notion that if I just dig in and keep going without resting that everything will work itself out and I’ll have what I need? And how often does that approach leave me feeling exhausted, lacking, and struggling to function? The answer is “more times than I care to admit.” But, when I do take that time to scale back and rest, I come back feeling like I could conquer the world.

 

I get that we live in a culture (especially in America) that values being busy and all things “more.” I get that so much of our daily lives screams “more is better” at us through a megaphone from sunrise to sunset. And yet, I’m calling for all of us (myself included) to just rest every now and then. If you’re a runner, take the rest day; put down the running shoes and pick up a book. If you’re not a runner, but you’re just exhausted with your life in general, take the time to rest, too; step away from the to-do list and find something fun to do.

 

Let’s stop believing the lie that “more” always works. Let’s rest every now and then.

The Constant

Everybody has their own way of dealing with change. My way just happens to involve running shoes.

 

I had my heart broken, so I laced up a pair of sneakers and started running around my neighborhood. Sweltering summer humidity in the South is a great to help you forget your woes. No, seriously, I was too busy putting one foot in front of the other that I could forget about the hurt (temporarily, anyway). And, in the process, I found a new hobby.

 

Now fast forward two years: I moved halfway across the country and started my masters degree, so the early part of first semester found me on a treadmill at the school gym a couple times a week. I’d like to say I was always diligent about running that first semester, but midterms might have had something to do with getting out of my running routine.

 

Five years later, I had my heart broken, again, so off I went to the local park to do what I’d done before: run my way to wholeness. By this point, I’ve finished my masters, and I’m working my first full-time job. So now, in addition to my own healing, running is also about offsetting the effects of a sedentary job and a two-hour, roundtrip commute. Incidentally, this was also the point that running finally clicked as a steady constant in my life, and I finally bit the bullet and invested in my first “real” pair of running shoes.

 

I can keep going listing all the major changes in my life over the last few years, but then we’d be here a while. I found my way to running in the face of change. And regardless what changes have—and continue—to come my way, part of the answer to how I respond to said changes is always the same: lace up the running shoes and go run. The when and where had changed. The time of day has changed. The shoes have changed multiple times. And yet, at some point, every change involves running.

 

In the face of a shifting landscape, running is the constant—the one place where all the variables can fade away and I can, usually, find the perspective to face whatever change (or changes) is happening in my life. Somewhere in the sweat, the sidewalks, and the effort, change stops being something scary and starts becoming something I can handle. And to that end, running is going to be part of my life for a very long time.

 

 

On Weekends & Holidays

Yes, I still run on holidays.

 

Why? Because training schedules don’t care that it’s Memorial Day; I still have to put in the work. But, the nice thing is that holiday runs, and weekend runs, are a little different. Monday through Friday, race training demands pre-dawn runs along a well-lit route through town. But, weekends and holidays–depending on the distance, my schedule, etc.–I can sleep in a bit and run later. Running later means the sun is probably up (or comes up while I’m out). And running with more light means I get to run through one of my favorite parks.

 

This particular park is set up more like a mini nature preserve. So, in addition to less car traffic, it lets me forget that I live in the middle of suburbia and concrete. And right now, I’m fortunate because there’s a host of wildflowers in bloom, and it looks amazing. Scroll down and take a look at the few shots I snapped this morning.

Make no mistake, there’s definitely a time goal I want to meet for Rock N Roll Dublin, and there’s definitely work to be done. BUT, when you come across a scene like this, sometimes you’ve just got to say “screw it” and enjoy it. Slow down. Forget about that perfect pace. Take the picture. Savor the beauty that’s right in front of you. See the world around you in a different light.

 

Happy Memorial Day.

Repeat After Me

Slow and sucky is still better than nothing.

Slow and sucky is still better than nothing.

Slow and sucky is still better than nothing.

Slow and sucky is still better than nothing.

Running on Mondays

*Alarm goes off at 4AM*

$#&%^

*Hit the snooze button*

*Sleepily pet the cat (who’s been waiting an hour for you to wake up) ask myself if I really have to do this*

*Alarm goes off, again*

*Turn off the alarm, this time. Deep sigh, and check the weather conditions*

*Change into the running clothes. Let the dog out. Grab the running shoes. Try not to loathe the dog’s early morning cheerfulness*

*Grab the watch. Out the door. Wait for the GPS watch to find the signal. And I’m off*

*Do the work of run, walk, run, walk. Savor the dark, the playlist, and the early-morning solitude*

*Make my way back home feeling like I can conquer the world*

Now for the rest of the day.

***

The first day of my training week is Monday, which always seems to be the hardest day of the week to get out the door and run. Barring a few variations, the scene you read above will play out every Monday morning through the end of the year.

 

And yet, when I don’t cave in, it’s always worth it.

Day 1

Translation: never let the first mile determine what you think the rest of your run will be, especially for longer runs. It’s easy to have a stellar first mile only to fall apart in subsequent miles (been there). Conversely, it’s also possible to make your way through a crummy first mile only to “redeem” yourself later on in your run. It’s too early in the first mile to make any assumptions about what’s coming in mile two, mile twelve, or mile twenty. The solution: worry about whatever moment you’re in.

By extension, I’d say the same applies to the beginning of race training. This morning was my first training run for Rock N Roll Dublin, and all things considered, it wasn’t a bad run. In fact, there were plenty of elements that bode well for the rest of training. It’d be really easy to assume that the rest of this week (or even the rest of training) is going to go well. And yet, the fact remains it’s just too early to say how this training cycle or this race will or won’t go.

So what’s the moral of the story on day 1 of race training? Don’t get ahead of yourself. Work and run in this moment.

(Photo from the Rock N Roll Marathon Race Series Pinterest feed)

Why Running

“Why run?” Sometimes the question comes from a place of genuine curiosity. Sometimes it’s from awe. And sometimes it’s from sheer incredulity. But, regardless of the impetus, it’s the inevitable question that comes to the surface when people find out I’m a runner. And even if they don’t ask the question out loud, I can still see it lingering in their eyes: why on earth would you choose to run?

 

The first time I chose to run, I was 19 years old and nursing a broken heart. What better way to distract yourself than pounding the pavement…in South Carolina…during the summer? It definitely wasn’t pretty, but it provided the perfect distraction to let my heart heal. And in the meantime, I got to discover a new hobby that would come to shape so much of who I am.

 

These days, I’m long past the broken heart that started it all, but I’m still running. Why? Good question! I run because I need a challenge. I run because I love discovering what I can do. I run because I’m a much better person than when I don’t run. I run because it lets me forget about everything for a while.

 

I run because the world looks a little different when you run by it. I run because there’s nothing quite like it. And I run because, most of the time, it’s pretty fun.

 

Now to wind down and gear up for the first day of race training, tomorrow.

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