Why I Will Continue to Chase Down a Boston Dream while Running into the Next Decade
Now I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I started running over a decade ago with hopes of losing weight. I didn’t know many runners at the time, but the ones from television and magazines all looked healthy and happy. So I started running and despite the fact that it hurt like hell and it took me about an hour to go a few miles, I kept with it. With each finish line, I started to learn to love the mental strength I gained through racing. I also started to love my own body more than ever, and tried to completely eliminate the negative self talk and body shaming.
Over the course of a few years, I wasn’t just setting goals to just finish races. I found myself setting goals to run sub two hour half marathons, and then sub 1:45 halfs, and am now about 10 seconds over a sub four hour marathon….with the goal of chasing down a 3:45 in this year’s Chicago marathon and then eventually, a 3:30-3:35 locally at the Philly marathon later this fall. But as I work on my speed, I have also battled numerous injuries over the past 18 months, forcing me to trade my speed work for strength workouts and countless hours of physical therapy. And although I will continue to chase my BQ (and I know my day is coming), I am also forced to make a tougher decision to slow down my paced runs and also cut back on my racing schedule. Running into the next decade is important for me not just physically, but even more so mentally and spiritually.
And since development is the Wednesday Word over at Deb Runs today, I am thrilled to link up with Deb (it’s been way too long) and share why I will continue to chase down a Boston dream while I age, while running into the next decade. I am also linking this post up with Susie at Suzlyfe, Rachel of Running on Happy, Debbie of Coach Debbie Runs, and Lora of Crazy Running Girl for the Running Coaches Corner.
Many athletes consider running a lifetime sport. Think about it… you can start running as early as preschool and keep going through grade school into middle and high school as long as you can put one foot in front of the other. Whether you decide to run competitively at the collegiate level or run as your stress relief throughout your schooling, you grow, mature, set PRs (whether in a race setting or with yourself), and continue to maintain your health and fitness goals.
But there comes a time when the PR chase grows difficult, and that’s exactly where my run journey has taken me over the past 18 months. Warm-ups, cool-downs, and mandatory rest days from running have been the ONLY way I have been able to train. Gone are the days I can jump out of bed, lace up my sneaks, and hit a 7:30 pace without warming up or cooling down. I run more these days using my mind as my guide and not my ego. Some days I feel great and may add in some speed work and other days I seem to pay for going too fast while icing my knee or limping though wicked PF flare ups at work.
Aging. It’s oh so humbling as a runner to not be able to easily hit the same paces I was running in college.
And sometimes the media makes it tough NOT to compare my race schedule to another mid 30 something year old’s race schedule who seems to defy all aspects of aging and runs 60 plus miles per week and BQ’s at every marathon. After all, Meb Keflezighi’s PR win at Boston came only weeks before his 39th birthday, and many runners continue to improve during their late 30s.
So why do many runners start to get injured MORE as they age?
I can only speak in terms of my own training, but my warmups and recovery times needed to be doubled, or even tripled after a hard tempo run or track session. Realizing that injuries can be more frequent and take longer to heal was also another eye opener for me during my last training cycle this past fall. Extra recovery time needs to be built in, no matter what type of endurance race you are training for. You may wind up doing more cross-training, and that’s ok. And women, in particular, need to be aware of the risk of declining bone mass. I have added 2-3 mandatory lifting session per week into my marathon training cycle this summer to keep up bone density in the upper body and spine.
For me, running into the next decade also means cutting back on my race schedule. No more ultras 2 weeks post marathons. No more half marathons before a big marathon. More strength training. More yoga. More stretching. Ugh, and physical therapy to keep strengthening and rehabbing prior knee and foot injuries…fun fun!
And I am writing this to stay accountable, because I am not yet FULLY on board with my “new” modified race schedule for next year. But as I continue to battle back from injury, I find a small glimmer of hope, that a BQ is on the horizon. I feel it. I have been dreaming about it. It’s close.
Until then, I will continue to try to “embrace” cutting back on my race schedule. More to come on that topic!