As some of you know, for the last half of this year, I was training for my first ultra run. I am 31 years old this year and I wanted to run my age…a 50k (31 miles). So, in June, I started a 16 week ultra training plan. I was planning on running a local 50k here in Greenville, but the closer it got to the day, the race entries had not even reached double digits. October 5 was race day.
During long distance, I usually need support, mentally. Like, a lot of support. My mind is my greatest enemy, and the thought process during a long run is brutal sometimes. A few close running friends know this about me and know that the tougher the love they give me, the better I do and succeed. For instance, read my blog about my first bike ride up Paris Mountain. Tyler was my “screaming-at-me” coach for that day I finally succeeded up the mountain. Like my first marathon, I wanted my first ultra race to be big and fun. I wanted this due to the fact that if it were not a good experience, I wouldn’t want to do it again. And, as you all know, I run for the love of it. Running is not a duty for me. It is a pleasure…which brings me to my story.
About the time I decided to choose another ultra marathon to run later, I was really tired of running. Not physically tired, but mentally tired. I didn’t look forward to it and my joy had left me. It had become a duty and an obligation. So, I turned to Crossfit, which I love now. Runners need strength training and Crossfit answers that and it is loads of fun and challenging. You never do the same thing twice, at least for a few weeks or so. I love the community, as I do the running community. And, besides, you do get to run a little in Crossfit, as well.
So, I took a break from running and was doing nothing but Crossfit. I didn’t go out for a run for a full month. During this time, I started worrying about myself, as well. Running changed my life over 4 years ago. I caught the runner’s high and it had never wavered until now. I wondered if I would ever feel it again. My mom usually calls me on Saturday afternoons and asks me how many miles I did that morning. During that month, she would ask me if I ran that morning. I would answer, “No, I went to Crossfit instead.” Which is not a bad answer, don’t get me wrong. But, I could sense it in her voice that she knew and noticed that my joy of running had left. After years of all that motivation I have dished out, I was the one that needed it. After my Saturday morning runs, I always have a smile on my face, no matter how bad my legs and feet hurt after running double digits.
My uncle Ron just completed his first marathon in D.C., the same one I ran as my first marathon last year. As the days crept closer to his big day, I think I got more excited for him than he did. I relived what it felt like last year when I stood in that crowd of 25,000+ runners; the sense of accomplishment; the feeling of “I can do this!,” the camaraderie among thousands of strangers that share a bond, the feeling of knowing all of those months of training is getting ready to pay off. I received text updates from my uncle’s marathon as he ran that day. I celebrated with him as if I had just finished it, too. A week later, the New York Marathon was on TV. I teared up as I watched the crowd cross the starting line, “New York, New York” playing in the background, and followed them on their journey to victory.
Driving to work, I would drive by runners getting their morning or evening runs in. The luring was stronger than ever. I was still going to Crossfit and I started hoping that we would have a “running WOD.” I volunteered at Spinx Runfest, our biggest local race each year, which includes a marathon, a half, a 10k and a 5k. I was one of the marathon course monitors. So, I got ride along on my bike, keeping tabs on the course and the runners. I thoroughly enjoyed that day, enjoyed cheering on complete strangers and wishing I was out there with them, suffering together.
My joy was coming back, and it seemed stronger than ever. After all the luring “Running” had been doing to me, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I hit the open road with my dog. Running is sort of like a dog’s love. The road never punishes you for not spending time with it every day. It’s as if you never were apart. That first run back, I wanted to run forever; like I owed it so many miles for being gone for so long. The Forest Gump mentality had set in. I had fallen back in love with running and I didn’t want to stop.
I felt bad, mentally, for losing my joy of something I love so much. But, it can happen to anyone. During my ultra training, I was doing nothing but running, which burned me out rather quickly. I have learned that cross training is very important. Crossfit is a great outlet for me to do that. Some people can run every day of their life and still not get burn out. But, as we all know, everyone is different. Change is good for me and diversity is what makes the world go around.
I rescheduled my first ultra and will be running with a bunch of other crazy running friends of mine February 8 of next year, 3 months from now. I’m totally stoked about this race. There is a 6 hour, a 12 hour and a 24 hour race that is going on simultaneously that day. I, of course, will be doing the 6 hour race. I have friends doing one of either of them. Yes, we are crazy. But, we love it. And, yes, we question ourselves quite often, when the pain starts, when you get up before the sun, when you start to lose toenails, when you do nothing but run,…why do we do this?
The answer for me is always the same. For the love of the run.