Thursday, January 13, 2011

Me and Running

Why do I love running?  It's really hard to say.  I think it's because I can.  I first discovered running back in the '70's when the jogging craze began.  I got quite serious about it and was doing close to 5K three times a week, but I bought cheap shoes and  like most people at that time started to have foot problems, shin splints and tightness in my hips.  I had no idea what I was doing: how to stretch afterward, avoid pain, etc., and gave it up after about a year.  I remember thinking at the time though that there was no high that could equal the feeling it gave me.

On the very first day of the first boot camp I participated in with Bruce three years ago he announced that we would be starting with a one mile run.  I was fearful but I decided I would do what I could, go as far as I was able and stop when I wanted to.  I had brand new shoes and never having had quality running shoes before I was pleasantly surprised as I began running that I was literally springing off the sidewalk with every step.  I felt breathless about halfway through and developed a stitch in my side but I kept going, and to my amazement I finished.  My time was close to 12 minutes but it didn't matter; I had done it!  I kept at it, running the same route on our days off from boot camp, and by the end of the 12 weeks my time was closer to nine minutes.  I continued to run on a treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes at least twice a week from then on. 

The following year I decided to compete in my first organised run.  Harry's Spring Run-off is a 5K and 8K run held every year in early April to raise money for prostate cancer research.  My brother had just been diagnosed with it so I decided it was the right thing to do.  I trained with my husband, Mark (affectionately known, and occasionally hereinafter referred to as 'Higgie', which is his life-long nickname) for three to four weeks prior, him pacing me on his bike while I ran what I thought was the course (the map provided on line was a bit off) through a very hilly park.  I finished in about 38 minutes, which is pretty good time for a hilly course and not bad time for a 5K just generally speaking.  It was also a very cold day; around 2C or 36F.  Here's a picture of me near the finish line:

The next run I did was a few months later.  It's called 'The Underwear Affair' and benefits a major hospital here for research into all cancers which occur 'below the belt'.  Since my father died of colon cancer at the age of 50, and Higgie's sister at 42, I felt that, together with my brother's prostate cancer and my cousin's ovarian cancer (both of them are survivors) it was the right thing to do.  It was a fun run; people ran in their underwear and there were some bizarre ensembles.  I hope you like mine (see pic).  It was my first 10K and I was absolutlely exhausted by the time I crossed the finish line, which is where this picture was taken.  I couldn't run the whole way; I stopped about three times for water and one-minute walking breaks, as advised by Bruce.  My time was pretty good - just over an hour.

Last year I did Harry's Spring Run Off again, this time the 8K course which was extremely hilly so my time was slower but I still finished in under and hour.  Here's my favourite shot:

The funny part of this story is that I had just conquered what I thought was the only hill and would be crossing the finish line soon because the 5K course only had one hill in it.  It turned out this was the first of three hills and I was far from done at that point!

Later in the season, at the end of May Higgie was finally ready to join me and we ran in the Ottawa Race Weekend as seen in the 'after' picture on this blog (and here):

The starting gun goes off: do I look a bit stressed?

It was a great run and we will do it, together with Harry's again this year.  I'm not sure if I'll be ready for a half-marathon by the time the Ottawa Race Weekend comes up but we have to register soon so I guess I'll have to decide!

This morning I continued the training I began at the start of the year.  On Thursdays it's Higgie's turn to train with Bruce so I usually run instead.  I used the treadmill at the club, which serves a dual purpose: it keeps my back turned while Bruce puts Mark through his paces and he doesn't have to feel self-conscious about being observed while he suffers!  I ran 5K at a pace of 5 mph, which felt just a little fast, but I'll get used to it.

Over time I expect to increase the length of time I run and the frequency.  On Tuesdays I'll continue to train with Bruce.  We work towards increased strength and flexibility.  Pilates helps with that too, though I have yet to get to one class so far this year but maybe next week.  Weekly cross-country skiing will help improve my stamina.  When there's too much snow to run outside it's my only alternative.  I know there are people who run in snow but  in my opinion, they're nuts!

Running didn't come easily and it has definitely taken its toll on my body.  I ice after every run and stretch for several minutes every day.  It's not the only exercise in the world but it's the one I like best.  I don't always feel like it and sometimes it's hell.  The first ten minutes is awful.  After 30 minutes however, I feel like I could go on forever.  Sometimes, when everything is in sync and I'm really in the groove, I'm not even aware of my legs moving.  It just becomes a continuous movement that my body is doing while my mind is elsewhere.   Music helps too.  I'll list some of my favourite running tunes elsewhere.  Suffice to say, I think the IPod is the greatest invention of the 21st century, bar none!

"Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...."

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