A friend posted last night that she ran her 1000th mile for the year. Had I stayed on track with my running goals this year, I’d be nearing that milestone, too. Instead, when I logged into Garmin to track my progress, I saw that I am woefully short of that.
When COVID hit, I had two spring marathons on my calendar. One, I hoped to PR and finally break the four-hour barrier. The other, I planned as a recovery race, pacing a group at a much slower and comfortable pace. Neither race happened in person. I did run the first as a virtual run but didn’t have the motivation to push to a time goal.
I am living the last year of my 40s, feeling that the next decade is looming, and wondering how this detour to my running plans will influence my running future.
The stay-at-home orders, a minor health issue, canceled races, and a falling-out with my favorite running friend added up to a huge decrease in my running. My running took a nosedive from 131 miles in March to 61 miles in April, 32 in May, and only 9 in June. With all that I lost: confidence, camaraderie, speed, fitness, and the unfortunate gains: weight, disappointment, and discouragement, I knew I needed to return to running.
When I run, I am mentally sharp and emotionally stable—running fuels my creativity. After a long run and shower, I experience a bubbling up of ideas and energy when I sit back down at my desk. Running helps me process difficult emotions. Running keeps me steady and grounded—the release of running itself and the conversations held with my running friends are added bonuses.
While I don’t want weight loss to be a significant motivating factor for me, I’ve always enjoyed the freedom to eat with a bit more abandon and gusto because I’ve run a dozen miles on any given day. While the extra weight literally weighs me down, being heavier means I’m also slower. What’s more, it weighs me down mentally because I know I’m not at my best—as a runner or as a person.
The good news: I’m making my way back to my best self.
I logged 48 miles in July and 78 in August, and I was able to run most of those miles with some new running friends. The chance to get back to this normalcy post-COVID is spilling into other areas of my life, as well. I’m re-energized about my work goals, making healthier food choices, and hopeful as I stare down the approach of my 50th birthday.
It can be hard to overcome inertia and return to a running routine, especially when time off equals lost fitness. A simple reach out to my running group created the momentum I needed to get back. Here’s what I did: I asked people to make plans with me to run. It felt a little awkward, but my request resulted in a new Tuesday morning running buddy and an open invite to join another group. From there, I made a commitment to a regular schedule. My average pace per mile may be slower, but the feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the miles is enough to inspire me to keep showing up.