Sunday, February 6, 2011

Random musings on running

After taking so many years off from running due to a bad knee, I don't consider myself to be a 'runner', but I would also NEVER classify myself as a 'jogger'. Oooh, the horror, the horror! However, I wonder if it might be healthier for me to take a less dogmatic approach to the runner vs. jogger dichotomy. Maybe my body would thank me if I were a jogger and NOT a runner? Returning to somewhat high-intensity activity and running and "racing" has been constant theme on this blog (and in my life), but I question whether I should walk away when I'm ahead?
What has prompted this thought is that today I was supposed to run a half-marathon. After running several 10ks back in the fall, I exuberantly signed up for a trail half-marathon. The training went well, until the end of December, when I tweaked my knee (my bad one) playing the Xbox Kinect at my in-laws over Christmas. Seriously.
So, I took a full week of running off and then eased back into runs, knowing that a half-marathon was out of the question. That was especially true when the dance to which I had committed myself to chaperone changed dates and was the night before said half-marathon.
I chaperoned the dance last night, and all went swimmingly. I warned off a few students who seemed to be enjoying each other's bodies a bit too much on the dance floor, stayed until things were more or less cleaned up, and then crashed into bed around 12:15. This is NOT my ideal pre-race evening schedule. But I managed to wake up, roll out of bed, make a decent breakfast and cup of coffee and then head to the starting line. The one bonus of this particular race was that it was 5 minutes away from our house. The second bonus was that I knew the 'course' well - two loops around the Rose Bowl. And, the final kicker - it is/was super flat. Okay, there are a few VERY slight inclines, but nothing crazy. Based on that last fact, I had hoped to run a fast 10k, but then, as I warmed up and pretended to look really cool and like a "runner", I realized that I did not have my stopwatch and that they did not have timers around the course. Rather than feeling like a runner, I then felt like a rookie who would be walking the course.
Once we got started, I hit a nice stride - one loop done (yeah!), but I had no idea what my time was and everyone in the pack in which I was running cut off to the finish line for the 5K. So, I chugged along the second loop. It seemed like everyone else had finished, but I finally passed this one guy during mile 5 (I love passing people closer to the end!). The finish line was IN the Rose Bowl Stadium, which I experienced for the first time. It was anti-climactic, except that I saw that my unofficial time was one minute faster than my 'fastest' 10k!
Feeling triumphant, I got some water and a snack and then hobbled off to meet Michael, noticing that there were plenty of people still finishing the 10 AND 5K. Later, I checked my 'official' time which was sub 50 minutes! Just barely, but I was/am psyched! Despite all of the shitty factors that could have contributed to a less-than-stellar performance and my expectation to be disappointed, I managed to squeak below what has seemed like an impossible threshold for my running performance. Yeah, happy dance for a PR!
But there is a rub - or maybe many rubs.
First of all, as much as I would like for my next 10K to be sub 8-minute miles, I fear that I will begin to chase these shadows - these impossible goals that I cannot attain. That sounds too much like a quixotic exercise in futility. But maybe I just ran my personal best for a 10K forever? So, should I or could I be happy with this time and then accept that I really should be a jogger and NOT a runner?
The bigger issue that looms larger than the idea of futilely chasing times is the threat of injury. Seriously, I feel fine, no, great, while I run, but then afterwards, my foot, knee, muscles, leg all hurt. Today, I wondered how it was possible that I ran a decently fast 10k for me, but then I limp around the house all day and can't even walk properly? At what point does something that I truly enjoy become more of a bane than a boon?
I don't want to be a crazy running person who has trashed her body over the years, and yet I also wonder if I only have one or two more good years in me, should I just go all out?
Again, these are definitely random thoughts, but I wonder how other people deal with getting older, the body breaking down, and quitting (for a second or third time) an activity they love.


kilax said...

Okay. I am wondering if you will think I am a jogger, because I am definitely not running sub 50 minute 10Ks! That is awesome!

Are you able to just run races for fun, or do you feel like you have to race them? That is what causes the ache - putting your body through the trauma of racing. If you give it time to recover after a race, it will. I think you should decide what you want to get out of running, i.e. would you be happy just to be able to run, or do you want to run fast and PR? Because you can't PR forever!

Again, great job! So excited you were able to do the 10K!

Kristina said...

I definitely don't mean to diss joggers!!! You put on some serious miles per week, so I would say that you are NOT a jogger!
You also ask some excellent questions that I need to take the time to think about. I might sent you a longer email here.

Jaya said...

Kristina, I am so much like you that my advice/ideas are probably like the blind leading the ...myopic. I am about to start my own "return to run" program and it's 24 weeks until I can jog 20 minutes. My worry isn't even the slow pace of progress, it's whether I will be able to fend off the FOMO and stay the safe course! FOMO (if you didn't know) is a common affliction among people like us: Fear of Missing Out.
You did amazingly on your 10 - that is a fantastic time! I guess maybe you can throw this log in the proverbial fire: what makes you feel overall better? Running killer 10s, or running second-degree murder 10s and feeling a bit less run down? My inclination is to say that it's better to have 15 years of strictly enjoyable running than 1-2 of great performance. That said, I don't know that I have the strength to follow my own advice... let's just hope that the more compassionate of your two voices wins :)

Kristina said...

GREAT advice - thank you so much! I know what I want the answer to be and I also, if I listen to myself and my body, know what it really has to be. I would like to be an overall 'active' person and not just a runner, so I think that I need to keep that goal well in sight too. I have a friend who played soccer competitively in high school and also blew out both of her knees. The doctor told her straight up that if she wanted to walk and run and play with her kids at age 40, she would have to give up competitive soccer. Sounds harsh, but I actually think that he was right. So did she, and while she still has knee issues, she lives an active life.
Okay, I've just written another post in itself.
As for you, Jaya, good luck as you ease back into running! I do hope that it's a fulfilling experience - and a fun one! Keep me posted.

Anonymous said...

I had to accept that I am a jogger and not a runner. There i just something to be said about being able to label yourself as a "runner" and I really wanted that but alas, my knee didn't.

I wouldn't go all out Kristina! I did that and now here I am...a jogger...