Addicted to Running
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Addicted to Running

For the first time in 14 years, I hung all my race bling and it helped me I realized for the first time, that I have an addiction. I am addicted to running.

I’ve always kept my race metals hung in a closet with my umbrellas and scarves. I never really felt the need for them to be anywhere else. But for Christmas, my boyfriend bought me this little Race Medal Display, which was such a nice thought. It was no where near big enough to hold them all so I finally got around to buying a second one and hung most of them up last week. All the marathon metals on top and the halves on the bottom. The 15K and 10Ks, Ragnars, mud runs and anything else are still in the closet. Perhaps I’ll have to buy another…

As I went through them…all the way back to my first marathon in 2001 when I was just 23, I got a little sentimental as I realized how much my running has meant to me over the course of my adult life. How much of me has changed (physically and emotionally) as a result of crossing the finish line so many times.

I spent the last 16 weeks filling my blog every Monday with detailed recaps of my Boston Marathon Training and I loved it! Now, as I fully enjoy recovery before I start training for my next race, it’s the perfect time for a little reflection on the sport I accidentally fell in love with and now find myself helplessly addicted to….

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Running Changes You

Obviously, right? I mean you strap on your shoes and run…its one of the most effective cardiovascular exercises out there and burns the most calories. If you want to shed pounds and don’t have access to fancy classes with advanced equipment, it’s the most sensible way to go. Your legs get leaner and you get stronger and faster. You build endurance and strength.

But it does more for you than that. Especially when you get into “racing.” I call it racing because there is a definitive start and finish line and they do time you. But if you have ever been to one of these events, you know it’s one of the friendliest communities and only about 1% of the folks there are really “racing.” Most of us are just out to beat ourselves as we become better people.  For the masses, running is one of the least competitive sports in my opinion. And even the best runners are the most humble and kind athletes you’ll find. The bravado of an elite runner is nothing like your typical alpha athlete.

Runner Collage #1

Running Lets Everybody Be a Winner

When you set a goal in life, it’s so gratifying to accomplish it. But most of the time, there is a lack of celebration. So you hit your goal weight, awesome! But where’s the party? At the end of every start line is a finish line that represents you accomplishing your goal. Every finish line is a party with friends, family, treats, music and tons of tons of smiles, high 5s and hugs. When you cross it, it’s very clear you accomplished your goal and you have done something good.

Accomplishing goals builds confidence. Confidence can’t be measured so much but will impact every aspect of your life from your career, to your friendships and relationships to the way you walk into a room and the way you sleep at night. It matters. And running can give it to you.

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What My Running Addiction Has Done For Me

I don’t really know. But I think it’s pretty good. When I joined my first running group to run a marathon when I was 23 it was literally to make friends. I had just moved to San Diego out of college and I was so lonely. I had never run more than 30 minutes in my life. I saw a flyer for a running club and thought “why not?” Fifteen years later, the girls I met in that club (Lynne, Laura, Marisa and Lisa) are still my friends. We ran a few marathons together and our friendship evolved past running. I think I’m the only marathoner left in the group — but we are still great friends.

I ran my first marathon in Carlsbad in 2001 and finished it in 4:45. I ran the whole thing, walking only the water stations and I felt pretty damn good about it. 26.2 miles, are you kidding? I ran for charity — the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The entire experience was positive. But I can tell you that when I finished, as proud as I was, I never thought I’d run another one. That would be ludicrous. Then a year later, a friend asked if I wanted to train for the Rock n’ Roll marathon. I don’t even think I thought about it, I just said yes. I ran 6 marathons, all between 4:15 and 4:45 and thought I was pretty awesome. I knew I wasn’t “fast” and I really didn’t care. I always knew I would run the Boston Marathon, I just thought I was going to have to be 80 years old before I could reach the qualifying time. Ha!

I took 2006-2010 off (bad relationship/long story) and got back into it late 2009 when my friend asked me to run the Rock n Roll Relay. Friends were what got me into it in the first place — again I thought, why not? The strangest thing happened. I only had to run 6 of the 26.2, but I ran them at an 8:30 pace. I had NEVER run anything under 10? So, well, then the story begins again. There were 4 of us on the relay team (Tansy, T.J. and Christy). Three of us committed to running the full the following year and we did (Tansy had already had her fill of Marathons — but I did talk her into coming to Chicago a few years later to run a half). T.J. and I trained hip to hip with the San Diego Track Club and built a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Since, I’ve run another 6 marathons,  with a PR in Chicago in 2011 with a 3:29. My first BQ was at the California International Marathon in Sacramento where I ran with all my girls from high school. I ran Boston 2013 with my most amazing girlfriends Kate and Angela. I ran in 2014 with equally amazing girls Sherri, Natalie and Heather. Every time I go home to Santa Cruz, Angela and I pound out 18 miles in the Nicene Marks trails and I just did my first 30K trail run with her and her husband this year. I’ve traveled coast to coast with my high school girlfriend Jen to run more races than I can remember…

So yes, it’s about goals, and confidence. But I just sat down to type all this out and the people are what came up. The races and the times are really irrelevant. The time you share on the road during training and the pre and post race parties are what stick with you. It’s hilarious the things you share, and the finite detail in which stories come out when you know you have nothing to do but chat for 1-3 hours. Training runs are relatively distraction and interruption free.

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A Running Addiction Looks Something Like This

Well, a lot like what I just wrote about in pretty lengthy detail 😉 You start for one reason. Like you want to lose weight, get healthy, or in my case, make friends. And you keep running for all the same reasons, but with more passion and experience. If I spot a runner at a party, I know we’ll never run out things to talk about. A complete stranger — but we can share stories like we’ve known each other for years. You fall in love with the community. You watch yourself get stronger, you watch your friends get stronger. We all fall (I have scars on my knees to prove it) and we get back up and keep running. I think we all run for different reasons, and that is part of what makes running such a special sport. We don’t play to win, we just play because we can. 

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As with Anything, Managing a Running Addiction is About Finding Balance

I titled this post “addiction” because it’s true! There can be too much of a good thing and you might personally know what I’m talking about here. Plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, bursitis, sciatica, knee pain, hip pain, blisters…the ailments go on and on. With 14 years of running and probably more than 10,000 miles pounded out, I’ve had my fair share. And it’s DEVASTATING when injuries happen. I cried for weeks over missing the 2012 Boston Marathon strapped up in a boot from a stress fracture. I’ll never forget the look in the doctor’s eye after he looked at my MRI and said to me “My dear, you have run your foot into the ground.”

Running is humbling. We are not invincible and injuries hold us back…for a bit. For the most part, bones heal, tendons calm down, blisters erase themselves. Learning to take it easy and be patient is likely the most difficult task for someone with a running addiction to manage.  You must learn to be intuitive with your body and stop when things are off. I can only say this with confidence because I clearly learned the hard way when I nearly set a PR in the Carlsbad half marathon when I ran with a broken foot. What was I thinking? That race cost me a grand in medical bills and 14 weeks in an ugly boot. Hopefully that’s a mistake you only make once 🙂

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So What’s Next For This Addict?

Well, I’m seriously enjoying fully recovering from Boston. I went for my first 30 min jog in over a week and it was nice. I do think I need some work on my hips before I pound on the miles and start training for the Ventura Marathon, September 7th. I think I’ll take the next 3-4 weeks easy and then put together a plan in late May. I’m on a mission to re-qualify for Boston again…so I can meet my next goal of qualifying for Boston in Boston. For me, it’s a 3:40. Let’s see how it goes…want to join me?

I’d love to hear from you…are you an addict or in training?

What keeps you lacing up each day? 

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