I inadvertently hit pause on my running.

I ran the Essentia Health Fargo marathon in late September. Like a responsible runner, I took two weeks of rest. I know many runners whose rest weeks look surprisingly like an easy week on my training plan: casual, breezy walks, yoga, maybe even a slow run.

Not me. I Rest. Capital R. I sit on my couch. The extent of my recovery exercise is walking up and down stairs. It’s genuinely blissful after marathon training. It does not, however, lend itself to maintaining running fitness.

How Alana (and Dobby) spent the past few months

Case in point: I planned to sign up for a second marathon about six weeks after Fargo because I executed the race well and felt strong. Then I rested for another week. Not because I needed the rest but because I was so enjoying it.

After three weeks I tried a long run. Shockingly (she said sarcastically), it did not feel great. I expected, however, that I could dial in my consistency and get back to “good.” Turns out, I didn’t want to dial in anything. Instead, I did a couple of half-hearted easy runs mid-week and tried for a long run.

Thirteen miles in, I called Cute Husband to come pick me up and decided that said follow-up marathon was not happening. I expected the self-criticism to have a heyday. I waited for thoughts of laziness and lack of commitment to show up for afternoon tea and stick around for dinner.

The ill-fated 13 miles

But…that didn’t happen. I was floored. I mean, my self-judgement game is STRONG when it comes to my perception of how lazy I might be. Instead, my very accomplished brain congratulated me for listening. To my body. To my reservations. To my needs.

In late October, a friend who wanted to start running reached out. Did I want to run with her twice a week? It was the perfect way to ease back in and not worry about distance, time or racing. Twice a week. 30 minutes. Easy intervals. I enjoyed the pace. I loved the company. I committed to being a good ambassador of running. And I had no desire to do more.

We took a break for the winter holiday spree. Only now it’s early March and, guess what? That’s right. We’re still on a break. Again, I expect to feel lazy and judgy. Instead, I feel only a welcome reset.

The pandemic has gifted me with a remarkable opportunity to listen to what I need at any given time. When we first went into lockdown, I was working out multiple times a day. Getting outside helped me maintain my mental health. Live strength training with Dimity and the Many Happy Miles crew kept me connected. I ran an ultra-marathon over a 24-hour period. I ran more virtual races than I care to admit. I worked on my one-mile pace. I had my 5k PR during the OG Love the Run You’re With.

And, two years into it all, I trained for a marathon. All of that kept me moving forward, engaged, purposeful.

But, after scrapping marathon part deux, I realized I was spent. My body needed other things. My heart (not the literal one, the emotional one) needed a rest. My brain hurt all.of.the.time. I opened up my arms and embraced the down time with a bear hug.

However, movement is a core value of mine, and I am finding other ways to honor that. I completed the 30-day Move series by Yoga with Adriene and then kept the streak going. The daily time on the mat has allowed me to be actively in my body. I have seen the gains of flexibility and strength. I have spent more time listening for cues of what hurts and, more importantly, what doesn’t.

I very recently added in foundational strength and easy runs with longer intervals. Because, in three weeks, I will be at the NYC Half Marathon, where I’ll be running a ton of intervals. Or walking. Or not participating. It depends on what my body tells me.

And that’s perfect; I love this 50-year-old me who is comfortable with what is right now. I love knowing that the endurance and speed will come back in time. I love that listening to my coach taught me to know what I am capable of achieving. And I love that the world and my time in it have brought me to a different perspective on a start line. Lace up; it’s time.