(Image from here http://mothersdayclassic.com.au/event/vic/melbourne)
Running and I have a funny relationship going right back to when I first started primary school and was introduced to school sports. I vividly remember my first running race as a five year old preppy. The teacher called out go, I took off, got about half way down the track (probably not very far), realised everyone else was way behind me so I stopped and waited for them to catch up. The parents lining the track, including my own, were all yelling at me to keep running which I eventually did, easily coming first. But I didn’t, at the time, understand what was so important about winning. I caught on pretty quickly and was keen to add to my ribbon collection at later athletic events. This lasted a couple of years until someone mentioned that it really wasn’t cool for girls to be into running, so I stopped.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I took up running again this time purely for fitness and instead of short and fast runs they were slow (very slow at first) and longer. This phase didn’t last, but in November last year I rediscovered it (again) with the help of my sister. Since then I’ve been running three times a week, including a run on Sunday with that same sister. We’ve been training for the 8km Mother’s Day Classic which is now less than two weeks away. Over the last seven months I’ve improved out of sight in terms of the distance and speed I can run at, but there have been weeks where I’ve lost motivation, finding the time has been near impossible or the lack of sleep has meant that I just can’t do the distance I want to. The last week and a bit though has been the best I’ve done, I’ve been in the right head space and my fitness now matches (well nearly) my goal. In light of the upcoming fun run and my current LOVE of running I thought I would do a top five list on why I run.
1. Alone Time
This was an unexpected bonus but quickly became the number one reason why I make sure I get my runs in. It’s not often that I get time completely alone (I did originally take the dog, but she’s too slow and unfit to keep up now), but running gave me that. Time to think my own thoughts and not about what everyone else needed me to be thinking about. Time to not think at all and just breath. Time to fantasize, daydream, ponder the big and small questions in life, to look at peoples gardens or enjoy the outdoors without having to push a swing, steer a trike or kick a ball. It is precious and it keeps me motivated and wanting to go further and further, just for the little bit longer by myself.
2. Winning the battle
With running once you reach a certain level of fitness, how far you go and how fast you run comes down to an internal struggle, it’s mind over matter. Marathon runners obviously have what it takes to win this battle time and time again. I don’t always win and if I make the mistake of slowing down to a walk once, then I often walk several times. When I do win the battle though it feels FANTASTIC. I feel powerful and in control… and physically spent and sore, but even that feels good in a way. Now I’m not saying I have the physical capacity to run a marathon if only I could win the mind battle, but I do find I can run much longer than I think possible given the right state of mind.
3. Repairing the damage
Pregnancy did not do good things to my body, as I’m sure many other women have found. Most damaging was the pelvic instability and a BIG abdominal separation – two pregnancies in two years didn’t help either of these problems. Once Baby Good was born I was left with no core strength and poor muscle tone. When I run those core muscle groups are strengthened and although I still feel pain from the pelvic instability it is improving.
4. The Challenge
This is kind of like number 2, winning the battle, but it’s more about setting a goal, reaching it and then setting a harder one. It’s why I convinced my sister that we should aim for a fun run, and then a longer fun run, and then a longer one again. Pushing myself to do better is something that has been missing from my life in many ways since being out of the work force. Actually maybe that’s not quite true, I do push myself to be a better parent, to be more patient, to yell less and give the kids more of my undivided attention. These are all worthy goals, but they’re intangible and often unrecognized achievements.
5. Showing my daughters that girls can run and still be cool (they think I’m cool for now, I’m sure it won’t last)
While this isn’t something that I think about with every run, it does drive me to keep going. To be the kind of role model that can show my two daughters that women are strong physically and mentally is important to me. I hope they understand that message when they’re older and follow they’re own path regardless of what their peers say or do.
This makes running sound better than I sometimes feel about it, some days I just hate it. It can be bloody hard work, the heat does me in and without daylight savings it has been increasingly difficult to find opportunities to run. And I can tell you breast feeding right after a run which I’ve had to do a few times, is AWFUL for both of us. But it’s good for me in so many more ways that just health and fitness, and it’s good for my family.
Liz has five reason why to have a kitchen garden this week. If you’re yet to be converted, or already there it’s well worth a read.