A Year in the Life of a Runner

A reminder we all need around our necks as we make tracks into 2012.           {From mbartstudios on etsy.}

It's Sunday night, I'm eating a bowl of Edy's Grant Light Peppermint Ice Cream (I would eat it year-round if they'd make it year-around) and am thinking about my running year. Except that I'm still not running. I won't dwell on my hamstring issues now because I'm going to see another physical therapist in a few days, so I'll be sure to string out every last detail in an upcoming post. (I know, I know: Mark your calendars.)

Still, it's exciting to think of the 364 days ahead and the possibilities they bring with regard to running. Despite my being on the injured reserve list right now, I've been running long enough to know that each running year brings certain expected events, rhythms, and cycles regardless of how talented, slow, experienced, or novice you are.

And so, in honor of 2012, here are 12 things you can expect to experience this year if you're a runner:

  1. Bursts of motivation. Some peaks will be super sharp and last for a day, max, and others will be more mesa-like and stretch for months, if you're lucky. These bursts are most commonly found immediately after you sign up for a race and during the summer months.
  2. A total lack of ambition. Like the go-get-'em streaks, these jags can be brief or prolonged, but they are definitely to be expected, so don't sweat it. Look for them in the middle of a training plan--the longer the plan, the more likely they are to appear--or when the temps drop and days get shorter. When they hit, use my four-word motto: Don't think, just go.
  3. Fixation on food, or specifically, at least one run during which you can't stop thinking about the leftover pepperoni pizza or other greasy goodness you're going to devour post-run because you're working so hard and running so well. You go to reward yourself only to find your significant other and/or child(ren) has already done the honors. (Totally cool if you're totally pissed for the rest of the day, btw, especially if the consumer was your non-running partner.)
  4. An injury. The stats vary, but the reality is this: If you are a runner, you will get injured at some point. What separates the chronically injured from the briefly injured is the ability to stop, assess the situation, and realize that running  ________________ (to the end of today's run, across the finish line in three weeks, through the five races you have scheduled) will not make your injured part better. Historically, I have not been good at stopping, but am definitely getting better. Last time I checked, running through running injuries doesn't make them go away.
  5. At least one run a month during which you see the sun rise, the sun set, a deer or rabbit or another other non-vicious animal hopping along, a rainbow, or something other gift from Ma N. and you think to yourself, "How lucky am I to be out here to see this."

    Believe in yourself, and believe in the run.
  6. A race during which your performance was so spectacularly awful for you, you can't believe you spent your valuable time and money training for this stupid race and ridiculous sport.
  7. A race during which your performance was so sublimely perfect for you, you can't believe the organizers didn't hang a gold medal around your neck as you crossed the finish line.
  8. A spat of jealousy toward runners who can go faster than you can (with seemingly less effort and training); toward runners who just gave birth to a kid and go faster than you can (with seemingly less effort and training); toward runners who just make it look so freakin' easy.
  9. A reality check, when you realize that all those faster runners still struggle with the same issues--pushing through the pain, getting out the door, silencing the mental monkeys, doubting they can cover the course the way they want to--that you do. (Seriously, they do: I'm not just saying that to make this a neat bullet-pointed pair. And yes, I realize I'm speaking for them since I am not among the fast set.)
  10. Several spats of jealousy that arise from seeing really cute running clothes on fellow runners. The only way to balance out this situation is to run your credit card.
  11. Several cases of the should-I-tries? Should I try these new shoes? Barefoot running? Speedwork? Compression sleeves when I run? A marathon? Eating gummi bears instead of GU on a long run? I'm all for variety, but--here comes the mom in me--take anything new slower than you'd like. Go half bears/half GU on your first trial with the boys; go 1/4 mile in your bare feet; go three-quarters speed the first time you hit the track. Being patient means you can always come back for more.
  12. At least one run a week that is good enough to get you through the rest of your tantrum-squelching, powerpoint-giving, lunch-making, to-do-list-writing, leg-shaving (as if!), laundry-folding, brainstorming-sessioning, badass-mothering day without feeling frustrated, lonely, bitchy, or resentful.
    And that sole run, as we all know, is worth all the so-so runs we have to endure to get there.

I know there are more than twelve reasons, but my ice cream is long gone. What kind of universal events show up in your running years?

39 responses to “A Year in the Life of a Runner

  1. I LOVE this! It actually made me teary-eyed…it’s SO true! And so well written…perfect balance of truth, sentimental and witty, all rolled into one!

  2. 1) Illness. It is almost a guarantee that at least once during the year, a headcold or the flu will leave me sidelined. I adopt the motto to “Baby myself” until I am 100% again or it will get worse.

    2) Missing out on a registered race. For whatever reason, it seems I always miss a race. Either I am injured, sick or DH’s military training schedule gets changed at the last minute and the race is a “No-Stroller” race. Oh well. I shake it off, consider my registration fee a donation to whatever they are benefiting and I move on!

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