A few months ago I took a mindfulness course. As part of it I was supposed to write a Gratitude Letter. This is a letter to someone who has had...
The Phases of Running in My Life
I’m not generally the type of person who looks back sentimentally at old things, nor am I a pack rat so I tend to purge things from my past which I consider “clutter” fairly regularly. However, my parents are moving and doing the typical “take your stuff or it’s garbage” routine that goes along with that. To most things I said “dump it” including a pile of old trophies and medals. But my son wanted them so my dad dutifully dropped them off in a paper bag. After looking through a few I was reminded of how long I’ve been running and I started to think about the different phases it’s taken throughout my life.
I didn’t keep the “Participant” ribbons from elementary school, but that’s pretty much where the story began. Then in high school I became more serious in terms of training and racing, and received a few of these:
Most Valuable Player Girls Track and Field Team, Lawrence Park CI 1990/1991
Burlington Road Race Female Relay 14-17 1st 1990
Back then running was a passion, yes, but also a source of stress. Every effort was about a result and I worried about how I would be judged or evaluated by others. It would be fair to say it was a love/hate relationship.
Then came my university running years. Unlike some of my friends I did not go south on a track scholarship (to be honest I didn’t have many appealing offers) and so the track team became a great social circle and did not carry any high pressure stakes as no one knew me. I would say that in University I ran for fun and mixed it in with a number of other pastimes (ie. studying, partying and meeting my future husband). I ran well enough and was captain of the team and MVP in various years, but I’ve often looked back and wondered “what if” I had the drive and focus that I discovered later. My memories from university comprise about equally of this:
Lead pack of women at Naionals in Etobicoke
Kingston Classic Beer Mile 1997
Post university my running became a little more structured and serious. It was at this point that I realized I was doing it only for me and I was the only one who really cared about my results, and ironically this is when I became the most motivated to train hard. There was a 5-7 year period here where I trained pretty religiously and set all of my current standing PB’s including in the Ironman. I was working full time, but was married to a runner who understood and encouraged me, and basically running filled all of my spare time (that time which I wonder what people do with now that I am so busy with two kids!)
Finishing a race in Australia where I traveled (and ran) with my future husband for 6 mos
It wasn’t having kids which brought on my next phase in running. I would say it was the next phase which precipitated my having kids. I got a little bored and tired of the constant structure and chasing of times. I didn’t want to give up running, but I wanted to scale it back. My heart wasn’t into putting in great efforts anymore. “There must be something else to life” I thought. And so… we moved on to having kids. I ran throughout my pregnancies and resumed quickly after both births, but never with any more purpose than staying fit and enjoying my runs. That lack of focus was so freeing. I had a built-in excuse for not training seriously or racing fast – the fatigue and time constraints which come with having kids. The reality is that I’ve seen people get back to training hard and racing fast immediately after having babies, so really I just didn’t want to. I continued to enjoy running as much as I could whenever I could, sometimes hard, sometimes not, just in order to keep myself happy and healthy.
Here are some examples of activities which have been taking up my time where running (and recovering) used to fit:
Indoor games Playing at the park
I would say that this past year I’ve entered yet another phase in my running. I appreciate and love it more than ever as I no longer take the time I get to devote to it for granted. I make greater efforts to carve out time for it as I rely on it for so much. Running is my social time, my alone time, my stress release, my confidence builder, my time to focus on problems, my time to allow my mind to wander and dream, and my physical outlet. It truly is one of the only things I do only for me. I’ve stepped it up a notch this past year as the competitive desire to race has returned. Where it came from, I have no idea, and I’m not sure how long it will last, but I do know that there will be many more phases to come. More than 23 years of running and counting!