As a writer, I tend to think in terms of story. My inner dialogue is often reflective, sometimes fanciful, and shaped around crafting a tale. Whenever possible, I love getting “my stories” down in writing. This turns out to be really useful for running and yoga – my favorite forms of fitness – because I have a resource to turn to when I need a reminder about why I do these activities, what led me here, and what my goals are. I think my running story thus far can best be described in 5 chapters. Mostly because 5 is a nice number.
Chapter 1: Running is homework
My introduction to running was through soccer. I’m pretty sure I ran a few kids’ road races at some point, but I didn’t really run until team sports became more competitive and our coaches could move beyond getting us all to pay attention and understand the rules, and actually teach us how to be faster, strategic players. I’ve always been competitive, and distinctly remember feeling super frustrated by my young soccer teammates who spent practice and games picking flowers, chasing butterflies, or just flat-out crying. They were just kids so this was all fair enough, but I wanted to work hard and win!
Welp, I sure got my wish during middle school and high school. I think most former soccer players would agree that running was basically soccer homework. But when your soccer coach is a competitive runner, logging miles becomes a pretty significant aspect of practice. I have no idea how far we ran, but let’s just say the actual skill and drill work was minimal. I didn’t mind all the running since I played midfield and it was improving my game. I soon found myself becoming super fast and it was fun. But I never thought of running as a worthy activity in and of itself; it was team sports or bust at this stage.
Chapter 2: Goodbye running, hello yoga.
During high school, my athletic trajectory took a turn when I began battling an illness that took me out of school for about 6 months. I won’t get into the details now, but the important thing here is that I lost most of my muscle mass during those 6 months. Once I was healthy, I was eager to jump right back into everything I loved, but I had fallen behind in soccer and basketball and couldn’t seem to get myself back to where I was pre-illness. This was frustrating because on an academic level, I didn’t miss a beat and found myself feeling completely on track and ready to go. Since my illness had been physical, it was of course harder to rebuild that aspect of my life.
The latter half of high school and most of college were the least athletic years of my life. Without the structure of team sports, I leaned on running to keep myself feeling good physically, but soon began experiencing joint pain in my hips and right ankle. Running just plain hurt and I didn’t know how to get around it. As a busy college student, my solution was to focus on academics and take advantage of the gym. This was tough because I’ve always hated the gym. I hate the smell, the machines, being stuck inside, strange people watching you, the bad daytime TV blaring, all of it. But I softened on these things when I realized how good the elliptical felt when I was hurting, and when I stepped into my first yoga class. My yoga story certainly deserves its own post (or 7), but I basically fell head over heels in love with yoga and we rushed away together into the night, leaving running behind like a jilted lover.
Thus began the yogi years. After college, I moved to Vancouver and quickly discovered that yoga could challenge me, keep me feeling strong physically and mentally, and helped to heal some achy old injuries. I still ran occasionally, but it was probably 2 or 3 times per month and really just a way to unwind and explore my new city. Yoga, on the other hand, was a daily occurrence. I was working 3 jobs and developing my Fulbright research project, but still living a relatively unstructured and relaxed lifestyle. I could therefore sneak in a yoga class whenever I wanted. Looking back, this time off was crucial for my eventual reconnection with running.
Chapter 3: November Project is running, right?
Fast forward a few years later, and I found myself in Boston looking for a new way to push myself. Yoga was a consistent part of my life, but I was feeling the effects of sitting at a desk all day (as a writer, it’s pretty hard to do almost any aspect of my job without sitting). I wanted to ramp up the cardio and get moving in a different way. I started dabbling in November Project (heretofore known as NP), and for a year or so, I’d go to one or two workouts a week and stuck with lots of yoga. I found that the hills, stadiums, and circuits scratched my itch for high intensity workouts. I instantly loved the playful side of NP. Remember that day, probably your first day of 7th grade, when you learned that recess was over and you no longer had 30 minutes of free play in your life? Yeah. That was the worst effing day ever. Now imagine you rediscovered recess, only this time it’s for adults. And it’s also super challenging and constantly pushes you to your physical edge. That’s the beauty of NP: that incredible combination of embracing the full joy of life + working your ass off first thing in the morning.
Once I started attending regularly, I started to crave more running. This seemed strange because I was fulfilling my cardio needs and felt like I was “running” a lot, but hills and stadiums aren’t quite the same as cruising around the city and logging longer, faster miles. It was also hard to see the impact of my efforts without regular runs in between. NP felt like doing drills and practice without getting to the game – and suddenly, I wanted in on that game.
Chapter 4: I guess I need a watch now.
Before this past year, I never, ever timed myself or knew how far I ran…ever. I would run until I got tired, and then maybe push myself or maybe stop and walk. I had no pressure on myself to keep going – ANY amount of running was considered a victory. Even as I type this, I see nothing wrong with this approach. It’s purely based on love and feel, and allowed me to enjoy running. The only problem is that deep down, I’m a super competitive person. And not always in the good way. I was that 14-year old kid that rage-quit video games and couldn’t sleep after the Celtics lost. I was also that kid jumping up with my basketball coach to argue with the ref during bad calls. In fact, I recently found one of my old end-of-year basketball stat sheets from middle school. While I was tied for most points, I was number 1 on the stat sheet by a landslide in a different category: personal fouls. I don’t remember fouling out of games, but I do know I typically had at least 3. I didn’t pull hair or bite or anything (I was competitive, not vicious!), but defense was my jam and hey, if you’re not fouling at all, you’re probably not playing defense.
Anyway, as it turns out, a competitive lady can only spend so much time with super fast and fit people before she’s bit by the racing bug. Before I knew it, I was signing up for 5Ks and marathon relays, the gateway drugs of racing. I soon fell in love with trail running, and started truly pushing myself at NP by setting tough but achievable goals. I thought I might live in the land of “casual, sometimes runner” forever, but I started to become interested in my pace and mileage. Once I found myself opening up a Garmin watch in the mail, I knew I was diving into this whole “aware running” business, as in actually paying attention to how fast, how far, and what for. And I have to say…so far, so fun.
Chapter 5: First half marathon & beyond
I’ve been toying with the idea of running a half for some time, but never thought I would commit to it. However, as I’ve described, it’s a slippery slope once you start dabbling in NP and 5Ks…the expectations and curiosity about “what’s next” sneaks up on you! Last year I saw someone post about the SeaWheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, British Columbia and it looked AMAZING. Something sparked, and I made a note on my calendar to try to sign up for the 2016 race. This past September, that reminder popped up and I decided to go for it! I had talked to my boyfriend Chris, and we decided to make a trip out of it. Here’s why I’m super pumped and why this race made me finally say yes to the half.
- We get to visit our friends in Vancouver! Chris and I lived in Van for a year and a half right after college. We absolutely LOVED it and probably never would have left had the Canadian government not insisted that we do so due to expired visas.This means we have former roommates, colleagues, friends, and NP tribe members to visit (and crash with…) when we head out there. We’re also traveling with two friends from college, so it’s just going to be all around epic.
- I loved running in Vancouver. Van is stunning, vibrant, super outdoorsy, and athletic, and just begs you to get outside no matter what the weather is like. (Canadians really know how to dress for the weather – they national motto should be “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes”). I loved running in this city, and have some incredible memories of exploring here on my own two feet.
- I know and love the half marathon route. Stanley Park?! Kits Beach?! Lions Gate Bridge? These are some of my favorite places in Vancouver, and when I saw that the route winds along them, I couldn’t say no. Even when the race gets tough, I know that I’ll be in a gorgeous place with ocean and mountain views the entire way. It’s also fairly flat and the vibe is chill, which is perfect for my first time running this distance.
- Run.Yoga.Party Lululemon sponsors this event and “Run.Yoga.Party” is their tagline for it. More like “Sign.Me.Up.” Lulu shorts? Free pre- and post-event yoga? Kickass party in Stanley Park? Yes, yes, and yes! Not to mention the fact that there’s loads of yoga built into the training, which is super important for me. Do I really get running + yoga + party + my favorite city + my favorite people?!?! This is going to be the best. I really really really really really really can’t wait (if you didn’t sing that to the tune of Carly Rae Jepsen, you’re doing it wrong)!
Chapters 6+: Stay tuned..
Beyond the half, we’ll have to see where my running story takes me. I don’t see running disappearing from my life now that I know more about cross training and listening to my body, but I’m not sure what will come next. Only one way to find out!