Maturing as a Runner
Story by BJ of the blog Running BJ.
I think every runner has a little crazy inside of them.
What else explains having a compulsion to spend hours at a time training for a marathon? Or travelling on your feet for miles just to end up…where you started? I think we can all agree that most runners have some issues.
I’m no exception. I took up running a few years back as a stress reliever and never stopped. I started with a treadmill run, built up to some longer distances, competed in a few races and then signed up for the holy grail of running: the marathon.
I set my eyes on completing the 2011 Baltimore Marathon and started training. When it comes to things like this I tend to research it to death, develop a training plan, and then focus on completing the training to a T. I ran every run on my training plan for several months, making sure that I hit exact mileages. I ran if I hurt, or if I was tired, or if it was 100 degrees out. My OCD would kick in on runs and I would have to touch mile markers on trails because I didn’t want to cheat myself.
This picture doesn’t do justice to how hot it was that day!
By the end of July I started having some life issues: transferring positions at work, spending more time with the kids, the usual grown-up stuff. Well, long story short, I got kind of tired of killing myself personally, professionally, and physically. Something had to give, and marathon training felt like more of a chore than a joy anymore. My training became very sporadic.
Kids are really needy! But cute!
When October came around and it was time to run Baltimore I decided I was going to keep my promise to myself and run the marathon. I toed the line and took off on the starter’s gun (I think it was the starter’s gun, but it was downtown Baltimore…), but after 16 miles my lack of proper training became evident. I slowed, and slowed, and slowed. Those last ten miles were horrible. My only consolation was having the personal knowledge that I still pushed myself to finish the run, even though it hurt really bad.
I took a few months off after that experience. I knew I loved running, but I needed a break to think about what had happened and to reassess where I was. I needed to rediscover why I loved to run.
I finally came back to my sport in the beginning of this year, but I returned with a new attitude. Instead of killing myself and pushing through pain and fatigue, I’m willing to admit that some runs are not, and should not, happen on certain days. I’m listening to my body. I’m enjoying my long runs and taking my time rather than trying to hit a certain pace. I’m trying to let go of a little bit of my OCD.
In other words, I’m growing up. There is no sense in killing myself to train for a race I will not win. I’m learning to enjoy the journey rather than focusing only on the destination. I’m still willing to push myself to improve and get stronger, but I have to remember to strike a balance between running and everything else in my life. If I don’t, more experiences like the 2011 Baltimore Marathon are in my future. I don’t want that.
So that’s my story. My advice to any runner out there is this: If you’re not having fun, ask yourself why you’re doing it.
Relax. Have fun. Let go. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Enjoy your training and have fun at your races. I hope to see you out there, enjoying a run!
BJ is the author of Running BJ. He can be reached through his blog, or you can follow him on Twitter @running_bj.