Back On That Grind

I am proud to say that with less than three months left in the year, I am still steadfastly committed to 2015’s New Year’s resolution. This is by far the longest I have committed to any type of resolution, and one of the few years I have actually tried turning over a new leaf for NYE. I tend to think of New Year’s resolutions as cliche, and quite frankly a little corny. However, last December seemed like the perfect time for me to set a goal and start a plan on January 1. The resolution? Start running, and don’t let anything get in the way.

It may seem like a pretty basic, vague resolution on the surface but for me it was huge. After suffering an injury to the meniscus in September of 2013, and taking off most of 2014 from running, I was craving it. I missed waking up before the sun to get in a couple hours of running, putting in several miles before most of my friends were even out of bed. I missed that “runner’s high” that would last for most of the day after a long run. I missed meticulously tracking each run, comparing the present to the previous weeks and months, looking for signs of improvement. But mostly, I missed the time on the pavement, with nothing but my thoughts and my music, my brain in a state of full relaxation.

Training for the Chicago Marathon was exhilarating. Not only was I training for the most strenuous physical feat I had attempted, but I was fundraising for St. Jude’s Children Hospital, a charity dear to my family. As the runs got longer and longer, and the fundraising dollars more and more, I felt like I was truly on top of the world. However, on that warm September morning, 18.5 miles into my 20 miler, my left leg just sort of gave out. I hobbled in tears back to my apartment, hoping it wouldn’t be enough to sideline me three weeks before the race, but in my heart I knew that whatever happened couldn’t be good. I made an appointment with a doctor who ordered an MRI. In hindsight I really wish I would have gotten a second opinion; the doctor basically said nothing was wrong with my leg. He said that while most people’s meniscus is shaped like a C, mine is in a straight line, and he believed that the stress of training was probably just causing it to ache. If that was the case, why couldn’t I run even a half mile two weeks after the injury? Nevertheless, my trip to Chicago was cancelled.

The injury was a devastating blow to my leg, my pride, and my happiness. In the weeks and months following the injury I looked for any answers as to what could have gone wrong. Deep down I knew I wasn’t sticking to the training plan as closely as I should have been, and warmups and stretching were nowhere near my routine. However, I couldn’t understand why this had to happen. I believe that in every setback there is a lesson to be learned and I could not figure out where the lesson was in this scenario. Did I take on too much? Should I have been participating in more cross training? Should I have followed a stricter diet? And if the lesson was to teach me these things, wasn’t there an easier way to learn it?

The following year included a lot of yoga and group fitness classes. I got a membership at Lifetime Fitness and enjoyed the posh fitness center. Yoga was a good release but the meditation was nothing like a runner’s high. The fitness classes were fun and the instructors and attendees were all friendly but I never felt the sense of determination I did when lacing up my running shoes. I knew that I had to get back on the pavement.

So when New Year’s Eve came, I knew what my resolution had to be. I had run two 5ks in 2014 and felt fine throughout the training, but it wasn’t enough. So my mantra became Start running, and don’t let anything get in the way. If I felt an ache, I was to go to the doctor. If the doctor told me to stop running, I would get a second opinion. This new, tougher mentality led me to train for a 10k in May of this year. Sadly the 10k got rained out (anyone in Texas is aware of the ridiculous monsoon type weather we had for the better part of this spring) but the training went flawlessly. And now, as I type this, I am exactly halfway through training for my first half marathon in two years.

As part of my plan to let nothing get in the way I opted to train with a group through Lifetime. I love running on my own but group training has been amazing. It’s nice to have a support system of people going through exactly the same thoughts and trepidations that I am. The coach is currently training for an Ironman triathlon so I knew she would be a good resource if the going got tough. So far it hasn’t – I am so superstitious that I am nervous to even type this for fear of the jinx! But at least if something were to happen I would have a group of runners who would truly be able to empathize with me, not to mention I’m learning new techniques to help further prevent injuries. I feel better than I have since 2013, having running as such an important part of my life again.

Oh, and the best part? I finally figured out what the lesson in my injury was. The lightbulb went off as I was sitting on my couch watching TV not all that long ago. As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” While I may not have hit my ultimate goal of running my first marathon, I accomplished far more in those six months of training than I would have any other way. I can proudly say that I ran eighteen miles (at once!), and I raised $1330 for St. Jude’s Children Hospital. Because I had a goal as huge as a marathon was I able to do these things.

And now that I’m back on that grind, I’m stronger and more determined than ever.

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