Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Running Bug

It’s cold and flu season and fortunately the only thing I’ve caught so far is the running bug!

The Past

We moved to Florida at the beginning of May and I began running outdoors roughly 3 days a week in response to the lack of a gym that’s convenient to work/home. When I started running I used the Couch to 5K program. This was back in early spring 2011, and when I started I could barely jog for the 1 minute intervals. I followed it through and was just getting to be able to jog for 20 minute stretches when we moved to NC in August of that year. After moving it took a while to get settled in a new routine and find my groove again.

Eventually I had a nice routine of treadmill running twice a week mixed with an interval cardio on the bike/arc/elliptical day and strength training twice a week. I ran outside occasionally but didn't feel safe running in my neighborhood and had to make a special trip to run. I also hiked up/ran down a local mountain once a week depending on weather. (I miss that!!). I knew from my past experience that I needed to start my workout routine again as soon as we moved and didn't take long to get on my shoes and explore the park that is about a quarter mile from our house.

I realized that aspiring to run in the Florida summers meant I had to do it early in the morning, and I became a morning exerciser shortly. I’m glad for this habit because I feel so much better for the whole day if I've exercised before work. Once I decided to forego a gym membership I purchased a weight bench and set of up to 20lb dumbbells using my credit card rewards points. I settled in to my 3 days a week running alternated with 3 days of strength and a rest day. That was going well and I added some accessories to my home gym like a jump rope and a new yoga mat. I ran my first 5K at the end of June and crushed my under 30 minute goal with a 27:41. I read Chi Running in July and started being able to run longer with less pain. I started reading more articles, blogs, and books about running but still didn't consider myself a runner. I began mixing up my runs with one interval and one long each week.

The Present

I got to a point where I felt like I either needed to commit fully to running and sign up for a long race, or change up my routine and add in more biking and different strength. I started checking out races nearby and was aiming for a 10K but having trouble finding one. In September I realized there would be a half marathon right here in Orlando in December, and that I could start on week 2 of any 12 week program. I made the decision to sign up and used a combination of several plans to make my own. I had been enjoying my running to that point, but the first few runs after I actually signed up for the race filled me with anxiety. I’m not sure why, maybe because I felt like there was no turning back. Being on a schedule that is focused on running and uses more rest, yoga and strength to supplement the running has significantly improved my ability to run longer and faster.

I used to use a Couch to 10K app on my long runs and the longest I’d ever run without a walk break was 30 minutes. After I started upping the miles on my long run I decided to run until I felt like a break, and am happy to report that aside from my 2 minute “fall, shake off & evaluate” during last week’s run I ran for the whole 8 miles. The week before I ran for the whole 9 miles and ran my last two miles the fastest! In my short tempo and interval runs my splits have been improving, and I recently ran my fastest mile which was an 8:29! When I started I was lucky to hover around 12 minute miles. I fully believe that anyone can learn to run and can improve to a point where they can do more than just finish races.

The Future

Although I’m still five weeks out from my half marathon I am already daydreaming about my next race(s). I have had my eye on a few and actually registered for a 10K here in Orlando on March 1st. Registration opened today and they had discounted rates for the first registrants. I was 19th so I only paid $5 to register! I've also been pondering adding other endurance sports to my roster. I don’t have access to a pool but I do have a nice bike. There’s a duathlon at the beach at the end of January that looks intriguing. I know I can run a 5K then bike 12 miles, I’m just not sure how I’d do running another 5K after!
It should be pretty clear by now that I've recently crossed the line where I now consider myself a runner. I like learning about it, doing it, talking to people about it and the way I feel about myself as an athlete. I honestly never thought I’d be at this point. I always thought I’d use running as a cheap form of high calorie burning cardio, but now it’s more of a meditative practice that just feels right.

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