What running taught me in 2015
The close of 2015 is just a few days away. The end of another chapter. The end of the year is a good time to reflect on all of those failed goals, those resolutions you didn’t stick to (I swear this is the year I’m going to learn Spanish), the things you passed on but shouldn’t have. It’s also a good time to think about what you did well, how you grew as a person, and what you want to continue to work towards in 2016.
I’m on my annual family beach vacation. My ass is in the sand. It’s as good a time as any to think about what the hell I was doing with running in 2015.
*One of my goals at the beginning of 2015 was to write more. Nothing like starting with 1 week left.
2015 – The Year of Running Change
2015 was a year of big running change for me. At the end of 2014, I made a commitment to reprioritize where running fit in my life. I spent 6 years (yaay super duper senior!) on the University of Colorado track and cross country team. I had many great moments. I accomplished more than I ever thought I would – I set records, won conference titles, earned All-American awards. It was great. I loved it when it things were going well. Unfortunately, there were an equal amount of disappointments and low points. Injuries, poor performances, missed opportunities were just as frequent, if not more so, as the highlights. I always thought I should be doing better. As my running went, so did my mood. It wasn’t sustainable. If your emotional state is based on how running is going, then you aren’t going to be very fun to be around. So, I decided to make some changes. Changes that would hopefully lead to a better relationship (gag, I know) with running and overall a more well-rounded life.
Today running and I are good buddies. Sure, we had some trying times. We spent more than a few late nights arguing. I even threatened to leave running forever. But through it all, running stuck by my side and taught me a whole bunch of stuff in 2015.
Here is what I learned
1. Perspective & Priorities – I learned how to like running again
My last competitive race was in July 2014. I walked off the track (rather I ran off the track to catch the last bus to the hotel) on a hot, humid night in Heusden, Belgium, having just completed a relatively mediocre 5k. It was the last race of the season. I was going to take a little time off and then begin training again for another long season. There wasn’t an exact moment or a time but at some point after that race, I realized that running had taken over everything, and I had to rethink what was actually important. I had to move running down on my list of priorities, at the very least I couldn’t live and die by every run, every race. I knew I probably couldn’t give it up forever, so I had to find a way for running and me to live together harmoniously.
If you don’t enjoy running why the hell are you doing it? There are a lot of other activities that you could be doing. I didn’t like running all that much in 2014, but I decided to reframe what running meant to me in 2015. The first thing I did was stop running. I didn’t run much for a few months. I didn’t know if I’d ever really train hard again. I stopped running until I couldn’t stand it anymore. When I decided to run again it was different. I didn’t think about races, or times, or mileage. I had nothing planned out. I ran when I wanted to. Some weeks I ran 30 miles, other weeks close to 90.
Running ebbs and flows as my life allows it. If I’m busy and I don’t get a run in, then so be it. No big deal. I still find that I run nearly everyday, but it’s because I choose to run, not because I’m forced. It’s been refreshing.
I ran with a lot of different people in 2015. I found that I enjoy helping other people complete workouts and prepare for their races. I was able to learn why other people run and what it means to them. No longer is it all about me and my goals.
I still have goals when it comes to running. I qualified for the Olympic Trials in 2012 for the 5k but wasn’t able to compete do to an injury. I’d like to give it another shot. I’ve been training hard to do so, but if I don’t that’s ok. I’m trying hard to take running as it comes and not to force it. Enjoying the process has been the key. If I find myself putting running above more important things or that my mood and attitude is a reflection of how training is going, then I’ll stop again. It’s just running, baby!
2.Running is the best way to see a city
I traveled a lot in 2015. I ran everywhere I went. I ran on the Great Wall, around the Eiffel Tower, under the Brandenburg Gate, next to Lake Geneva, and along the French Riviera. There is no better way to see a new place than by foot.
Head out the door around sunrise. The streets are quiet. Have a rough route planned out. Take a GoPro or something similar. Seriously, you can run anywhere. Stuck downtown in a big city? If you get up early you will see the city in an entirely different light (literally – it’s darker). You will beat the traffic. It can be a little weird. The peace and quiet of an unfamiliar place can feel spooky. You can see a good portion of a city before everyone else even wakes up.
3. You can find someone to run with anywhere
I learned that running is an easy way to meet new people. Want a local tour guide for the city you are visiting? Find a running store or some kind of outdoorsy retailer and ask them where to run and if there are any groups that meet up to run. Chances are you will find someone. The best part about meeting another runner is you already have something in common. Running is a universal language. People are running all over the world. There are local 5ks everywhere. Google “running in (insert city here)” and you will probably find a running club. Get in contact with them.
Look on Google Maps for a track, chances are that you will meet some local runners there. Those people can give you some suggestions for good running routes around town (see #2). The running community is so inclusive. Get out there!
4. I still like to train hard
Just because I don’t have any races planned now and I am not meeting with a team everyday doesn’t mean I still don’t like to train hard. In fact, right now I’m probably training as harder than I ever have, although it doesn’t feel that way (see #1). The variation is good. It keeps things interesting. I like to feel like I’m in good shape. Don’t neglect pushing yourself. If you have run pretty easy for a few days in a row change it up. Crank out some hard miles. It’s fun. After months away from running sometimes it’s tough to find that place of pushing yourself to the limit. But you should try. It just feels right when your stomach starts to churn, your legs are dead, your breathing is heavy and are able to push through it.
5. I don’t like other forms of exercise
I really don’t. I’m not a Yogi. I went to a yoga class once. It was traumatic. I thought I was going to puke. I’ve never puked from running (Yes, I know I didn’t do it right. It should be relaxing. I didn’t give yoga a proper chance, etc. Don’t care. I’m out.). Swimming feels like I’m just drowning for an extended period of time. Biking, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. I do like playing basketball and I wish I played more – it’s really only a good workout though if you are running full court.
I’ve written before that I like to find things that are the best bang for my buck. The most benefit for the least amount of work. I’ve found that, for me, it’s running. 30 minutes of running is a seriously good workout. I can run at anytime of the day. I can do it anywhere. I can almost always find a free 30-90 minutes and get my heart rate up.
Running has become a time for reflection, thought, or zoning out. I don’t worry about how fast I’m going. I don’t compare one workout to another. Each run is a new thing. I can run with people or on my own. I can run with music or without. I look forward to my next run.
On to 2016
Running teaches me new things all the time, but these were the top takeaways from 2015.
I like running a lot now. It’s fun. I’ve done it all over the world, with people from all over the world. I think that’s pretty cool. It’s something nearly everyone can do.
Just because it’s not my top priority doesn’t mean I don’t continue to have grand running dreams and goals. I certainly don’t feel like I’ve given up. I still train hard, but it’s healthier now. I look forward to it. I think I’d like to race again, but it’s okay if I don’t. I run simply because I want to run. (I run2run). Nothing more. It works for me right now. There are other things that come first and that’s the way it should be.
What did running teach you in 2015? I’d much rather read about your thoughts. Write a post and share what you learned!