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!

  3. A day late dollar short on this post — universal events, I can be sure that at least a dozen or so times this year my dear hubby will complain about how my running (really, my getting up at 5 to be home by 7 before he even gets us) interferes with his life, ability to get to work on time, our connection, etc etc. And how this will fuel me to run harder, faster, longer – ah, the passive agressive in me funneling it into something productive.

  4. An obsession with an article of clothing that I am sure I need to make my runs better – an alternate hat with a fun pattern, arm warmers, a new rain jacket, new socks…etc. Thanks for the GREAT post!

  5. I know I have gone through all of the above!! I am doing the Tinkerbell half Marathon on January 29th and on Saturday my knee just started hurting really bad (like it does when you hit your knee on the corner of a codes table) so I ended up only doing 11 miles instead of the 13.1 I was hoping for. I am trying to have it healed this week so I can train next week because it will be my last chance to get the 13 miles in. I love this post it shows I’m not alone in this

  6. Did my husband pay you to write #4? Once I recover from surgery, I am hoping that I have met my injury quota for a while! Learning to listen to my body (and stop!) is actual one of my resolutions for the new year.

  7. My universal is that when we go visit family in the south twice a year, those runs are always easier because they live at sea level (I’m at 5000′). Even if it’s a bad run, it’s still a good run!

  8. I am sure there will be people who live in climate perfection or those who do 100% of their running inside who will dispute this but every year for me there will come at least one run where I will totally mis-judge the weather and for some reason that will not quite hit me until I am 2 miles out from home. It might be that I am woefully underdressed in the middle of winter, or exposed in a cracking spring downpour or it could be the blazing heat on a summer day.

    It happens to me every year at least once. I have learned now though when it is reasonable to keep going and solider on or to give a nod to mother nature and head back. 🙂

  9. LOVE this, all so true!
    (1st things 1st, not that I have food issues :0 but reading the Edy’s Peppermint Ice Cream made me want some and they were out at my market!)
    I feel like I have an excessive obsession with food, and also jealousy of faster runners, but these are all spot on!

  10. 13. Fixation on training programs that will surely make me go faster, harder, stronger, skinnier, right? Maybe hills 1x weekly, no speedwork — oh wait, I’ll run hills every 2 and 4th week of the month and speedwork every 1st and 3rd. Crap, that doesn’t fit with my _________ (work, volunteer, mommy) schedule. Okay, I’ll try this new fangled program and find a new fangled coach. With all this researching programs — who has time to run! 😉

  11. Great post. I would add that someone will think you’re a badass and hold you in awe, and then there will be someone who thinks that you’re weird/crazy, because they just don’t get it.

  12. So true. As a matter a fact, 2 days into the new year and I’m already struggling with the second one on the list. (I decided that 2012 doesn’t really start until tomorrow, when the kids go back to school.)

  13. This opened the flood gates for me. Thank you, again, for knowing my heart. I am so glad that you chose to share your gifts of running and writing with us!

  14. Love this post Dim! Something that shows up for me every year but something we all forget to pay notice to is: Someone will complement you and your tenacity, or great calves, or sometimes someone says how much you inspire them. So… my challenge to all BAMR’s for 2012 is to take notice, say thank-you, and beam with pride – because you are amazing!

  15. I so needed this. I am #2 with my second half marathon race in 2 1/2 months and feeling like i lost my running mojo. Just tried running 1 mile today and felt spent! Feeling like a beginner again after taking time off for almost two and a half months.

    As always, thanks for the validation that we feel this way sometimes and it’s ok. Love you, ladies!

    Oh and I love that ornament! Going to etsy check it out! Thank you!

  16. Jealousy (and its evil twin inadequacy and its evil triplet schadenfreude)! I do wish I could shake these things. I’m better, but still working on it.

    This was a great post!!

  17. Dear god, did I need this today. I’m pinning it on Pinterest and FB so I remember to look at it again during the year, because that whole thing explains all of my running! AWESOME post, thank you.

  18. I usually can count on a case of self- doubt springing up. But then, I find the best cure is when my family or friends say something like “wow! You’re training for a _______?! that’s awesome!” and then all my fears, doubts, or negativity fade away- because I know I am doing something to make myself be better for all of them!

  19. The phrase in the picture is my Facebook Banner! So true! Thank you ladies, for being such an inspiration to me and so many other women runners. Such a strong and supportive community. I look forward to your posts every day and cheer on all the other women who share their stories, victories and challenges. Best wishes for 2012!

  20. Spectacular post. Love!! 2011 had its share of all of the above for me and I expect 2012 will, too. I usually also have cycles of “I must have Garmin data which I can pick apart, analyze, cross reference with route incline data and how well I ran the route three days ago and three weeks ago” balanced with cycles of “I don’t care I’m just going to run!” I love the ups and downs…even when I’m having a crummy moment I know a turnaround is on the way. Thanks for the great post reminding me of that!

  21. Oh, feeling #8 right now and I hate that I feel it.

    Illness sidewinding running, I am there now too. Bleh.

    Looking forward to spectacular runs — I know they are waiting in 2012.

  22. I can annually count on realizing that the training schedule I set up for a specific race is not going to be ruined when I have to adjust it for the needs of family, illness or other unforeseen demands.

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