Running

Joyce Running 2I have been thinking about running lately.  I realize that sounds odd given I run on a regular basis, but I have some new friends who want to begin running, and are working to build up their endurance on the treadmill and elliptical in an effort to meet their goals.  I am so excited for them because I know what a difference running has made in my life.  I want them to know what a difference running will make for them.

Obviously, the first thing running did for me was improve my health.  I was able to lose weight that I had gained over the years (and I continued to blame on babies even though my youngest was 12 at that time).  I have always had issues with high cholesterol, which is hereditary.  Because my father died at 42, getting my cholesterol down down and making my heart stronger was a priority.  When I began running, it was terrible.  As I ran, I would think about how much I hated it.  I kept thinking I needed to find another form of exercise.  But when I finished a run, no matter how short or slow, I felt incredible.  I had run!  So I kept at it.  My friend Jackie began to run with me, and together we gradually built up mileage.  Gary and I began to run 5Ks, which is something I never dreamed possible.  I remember the moment that I knew running had made a major difference in my health.  I was scheduled for surgery, and because of my family history of heart disease, I had to have an EKG beforehand.  As the technician was reading the results, she asked if I was a runner.  I was certainly proud to say yes!  She said she could tell because my heartrate was low, which is typical for runners.

Running provided a much-needed stress relief.  I can literally leave the house in a horrible mood, go out for a run, and come home with a completely different attitude.  Things that were bugging me before I left, seemed trivial after a run.  When I am worried about a student, or trying to figure out how to reach a kid, I often go for a run to think things through.  When my nephew died unexpectedly, his sister and I ran.  It was time for us to talk about what was going on, and how we felt about everything.  I run when I am worried, stressed, angry, sad.  I run when I am happy, excited, content, calm.   Running can turn around a bad mood, or enhance a good mood.

Running has deepened my friendships, and given me new and amazing friends.  As I mentioned, Jackie and I began together, and eventually her sister Kassi joined us.  The three of us grew up together, and have had many adventures (many won’t ever be discussed in this blog), and now as middle-aged moms, we are still sharing adventures.  Most of my best and most memorable runs have been with Jackie and Kassi.  We have run in rain, thunderstorms (not smart), snow, and unbearable heat.  We have laughed, cried, and cheered.  I have loved these ladies for 35 years, and running has brought us even closer together.   I have also made new friends through running.  Jennifer has become very near and dear to me.  Kim has encouraged and counseled me as I  struggled to add mileage.  Kathy has amazed me by quickly building her mileage and speed.  I am involved with an incredible group of people who will be running their first half marathon next month.  Although it started as my coaching them, they have really done it all on their own, and according to their training runs, they will all be waiting for me at the finish line!  They have stepped up and trained hard, and I can’t wait to share their moment with them.

Running has given me confidence in all areas of my life.  If I can set a goal to run 13.1 miles, and can work to achieve that goal, I know that I can set goals in other areas of my life, and I can achieve those goals.  I have never been an athlete, not even close, so to know that I can run a race and finish in the top 25% is huge.  Heck, just finishing a race is huge!  I began running when I turned 42.  I am a grandmother.  I can run 13.1 miles.

Running has given my husband and me another common love.  We might not run together, but we go to races together, and we support one another.  He has encouraged me, and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  We are supportive of one another’s training schedules.  We understand when the other has an injury, and celebrate one another’s great runs.  Together, we have worked to inspire our children to take care of their health now, rather than waiting until later in life like we did.  Without Gary’s love and support, I would not be a runner.

Running has led to other forms of exercise.  I began attending Zumba classes about two years ago.  My friend Tracey invited us to go with her, and I have been hooked ever since.  After about a year of attending classes, I became certified to instruct.  I now teach four classes a week, which has enriched my life so much.  Each class is different, and I love each group of ladies.  I have ages 7 to 77 in class.  Gary and I also coach a Biggest Loser team, which has been an awesome experience.  We have made some wonderful friends, and have been thrilled to see them meet goals.  The same year we began running, we purchased bikes.  We biked quite a bit that first year, but then running took over.  We bike on occasion, but don’t have time to bike as often as we’d like.  We have also become involved with Everbody’s Fitness.  Every time I step foot in the door, I am inspired by the members.

Although running is the best thing I have ever done for myself, it isn’t without some negatives.  Injuries are part of running.  I have had hip trouble on and off over the years.   Usually a couple trips to the chiropractic takes care of that issue.  Now I am battling knee pain, and will see an orthopedic doctor tomorrow.  Because running is such an important part of my life, when I can’t run, I am grouchy.  Really, really grouchy.  It frustrates me that I am trying to do something healthy, and I can’t.  It frustrates me to see people out running, and I can’t.  It frustrates me when the weather is perfect, I have time to run, and I can’t.  Running is who I am.  Recently, I was thinking about how much time our family spends on fitness.  If we didn’t spend that time exercising, I am certain my house would be cleaner, laundry would be caught up, and I would cook meals on a regular basis.  But I would also be a different person, one who lacks confidence, one who gets grumpy easily, one who is out of shape.

If you have ever considered adding running to your exercise regimine, try it.  It will be extremely difficult, and you will probably hate it.  I hated it for months.  Eventually, though, you will find a confidence you never knew existed.  You will make friends, and have a community of support that will amaze you.  You will be encouraging others to join you because it has improved your life.   Find a running mentor; you will have lots of questions, and the support will be invaluable.  If running isn’t for you, find a workout that is.  Find something you love, learn everything you can about it, and ask others to join you.  You won’t regret it.

Bring it on!

Jennifer and me after 2010 Half

We have complained; we have celebrated; we have whined.  We have trained!  Since mid-August, my friends and I have been training for our 4th half marathon.  4th!  It wasn’t that long ago – 2 1/2 years – that I said very adamently that I would never run a half marathon.  Who would even want to run for over two hours? I asked.  I don’t have the time or the energy for that!  But then something happened.  Once I found out I could run 5 miles, I wondered if I could run 6.  And then I ran 6 – and wondered if I could run 7.  And so it goes.

Two years ago, my running (and life-long-totally-amazing) friend, Jackie, and I began to discuss running a half marathon.  The Evansville Half Marathon.  We, along with my husband and some other friends, decided to try it.  We totally rocked it!  On October 10, 2010, we completed our first half marathon…13.1 incredible miles…and we held hands as we crossed that finish line.  Our pace just so happened to be 10:10 on 10/10/10!  How great is that!

We haven’t run another half together.  I have run the Kentucky Derby Mini twice since then, and Jackie and my other best-life-long-super spectacular running friend, Jackie’s sister, Kassi, have run Evansville and Owensboro.  So this Sunday will be my first half with Kassi.  And I can’t wait!  Jackie, Kassi, and I have done most of our long training runs together.  The wonderful thing about there being three of us is that one of us can always take the lead.  When the other two are having a less-than-fantastic run, someone steps up and pulls us along.  I have yet to be the leader on a long run, but have had some rockin’ shorter runs.  On our last long run, I told Jackie I was glad it was the last one because if we had another, it would be my turn to lead!

Our last long run was my favorite.  My husband drove us out to a little church in the country (Lillydale), and dropped us off.  We took the old, winding highway 10 miles back to Kassi’s.  It was a gorgeous morning, and the countryside shone with fresh dew and sunshine.  The hills spilled before us, beckoning us to challenge ourselves.  Dogs barked threatening us should we choose to approach their houses; cows munched on straw and were oblivious to our passing.  Some miles we talked; some we ran side-by-side in silence.  Our relationship is such that we can be completely comfortable talking non-stop, but we are also comfortable with silence, each knowing the other is lost in her own thoughts.  Kass was the rock star that morning.  She stayed about a block’s distance in front of us, but at the end, we all finished together.  The week before, Jackie kicked butt.  She not only stayed blocks ahead of Kass and me, but she also ran 12 miles when our schedule only demanded 11.  Kass and I stuck with 11.

This past Saturday, we each had other obligations, so our not-quite-as-long runs had to be solo.  I ran Saturday afternoon.  Though I had planned to run 6 miles, it was so beautiful out that I stretched it out.  When I got back to my car, I was at 6.6 miles.  For some neurotic reason, I like to end with even mileage, so I ran until my Nike GPS Sportwatch read 7.0 – exactly.  If you run, you understand.  This week will will do a couple of short, easy runs.  And then Sunday, if all goes as planned, we will have an awesome run.  The thing about half marathons is that so much has to go right.  My stomach cannot be in the least bit upset – can’t be too hungry or too full.  Bowels need to be regular (If you run, you understand – promise!).   The temperature needs to be in the 60s.  My legs need to be rested, but not too rested.  Clothing has to be completely comfortable (and cute).  Allergies need to be in check.  If all of this is perfectly aligned, I can meet some goals.  My main goal is for the three of us to be in the top 20 in our division.  After analyzing last year’s results (yup, I really do that), I feel this is very possible.  Maybe even likely.

This weekend, several of my running friends will be running the half marathon, and I am sure that I will forget or miss someone, but I want to wish them all a great run!  Kassi, Jackie, Jen, Kim, Eric, Tony (you are going to run, aren’t ya, Tony?), Amy H, Sophie, Trish…and all the other TC runners – Kick some butt this weekend!  I will see you at the finish line.  And to my husband, I am so sorry you can’t run this weekend, but am glad you will be waiting for me at the finish line (with a Diet Pepsi?).  I can’t wait until April, when we, along with a bunch of newbies, rock the Derby Mini!  Run On, Friends!

(Pictures and captions just wouldn’t go where I wanted them!)

Gary and me – after completing our first half marathon!

Jackie and me finishing our first half marathon!