I’m a runner….almost

Actually, "I'm a runner!" was what I said when I got fitted for my new running shoes. I should have said "I'm an aspiring runner!"... or "I'm a fast walker that can almost run sometimes!". I was inspired by the shoes and an uncharacteristic surge of optimism. Also, I  think I need the positive self-talk sometimes (I even mutter "I can do this" under my strained breath sometimes) because I certainly have my "I can't do this!" days.

I've been running at the high school track and I'm starting to see the same people there..."the regulars": some high school track athletes who pretend I don't notice that they are lapping me (it's OK, I'm twice their age...at least), the older couple that runs on the cushy turf stuff. Nobody talks but it's nice to see some of the same people there.

Last week I had one tough run (tougher than usual). It may have had something to do with the weather and pollen conditions, but I ended up taking an extra day off. I was bummed after the fact but 6 days a week is a lot to run, especially for someone like me that never participated in organized sport of any kind and dreaded high school gym class. I wrecked my perfect attendance record, but the next day, I felt that the day off did me some good. Not that I plan on taking more unplanned days off.

Anyway, I am finding some unexpected lessons in running. First is that (don't laugh), the journey is as important as the destination. If I think too much about the idea of running for a full half-hour at the end of a 6 week program, it's discouraging. But each day, as I run a little more and walk a little less, I realize it's doable. I still can't imagine running for a half hour, but I believe in the journey. And I've come to trust the program. I think about all the "runners" I see and how much I admire their long muscles and endurance. They didn't emerge from the womb that way. We all start somewhere. It reminds me of building maps that say "you are here". Yeah, here I am. Time to get jogging.

Another lesson is that often getting dressed is half the battle. Well, half of the mental battle at least. Another big part of it is just showing up to the track. On the days when I really don't want to run, I put on my running clothes and make a deal with myself: just go to the track and see how far you can get. I can always get through it. But making little deals along the way helps me get it done.

Another lesson: telling people makes you accountable. I do that a lot. The blog helps. Also, I think telling people allows you to get support you didn't expect. My friend John, who I didn't know was a runner, just sent me info on active.com, a training community with info on events and stuff. Community is important and it's something I am going to seek out now that I know that I am not going to totally embarrass myself by quitting early (I've made it to week 4!).

I think that all the track time where I am trying to think about something else is starting to make me a little philosophical or something.

Comments (23)

  1. Atul says:

    Good luck w/ your running — at this rate, you will running a marathon soon enough!!! It’s much easier when you train w/ a group — there are several free marathon training groups in most major cities and you can run w/ them on weekends even if you aren’t planning on running a marathon.

    And don’t worry about taking an extra day off — it’s good to listen to your body at times…

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Stulp-that’s good advice. Marathon groups scare me. I am a s-l-o-w runner! The body dynamics are running and the heart rate is up there, but the pace leaves something to be desired. I’ll think about joining a group though (maybe a 5K group?)…that’s a good recommendation!

  3. unpradeep says:

    And do not forget the importance of Accessorizing!

    The right colored clothes, the fashion statements it make, the right mp3 players with customized play lists for different days and locations…. the heart rate monitor with synchronized watches … the right pair of oakleys and some fun wrist/head bands.

    I figured anyone who gets special Nordstorm invites with champagne included would love this part of the run, so figured I should "raise" the issue to you 😉

  4. Another thing to consider is alternatives to running on the track. Tracks are great when you’re starting out. You’re never far from the car, regardless of the distance you run. But running on the track is boring,  and every lap takes you past your stopping point. A good road course or trail adds scenery to the run and enforces the total distance. Once you’re ready for it, I found it to be much easier to stick with than the track. Oh, and road courses can start and end at home, which keeps the sweat out of the car. 😉

    OK, I need to get out for a run, now.

  5. Patrick says:

    Heather, excellent work on your running.  It is a process, I lost 120 lbs through running, starting with s-l-o-w 2 miles runs, progressing up to two marathons completed so far.

    I’ll always remember a quote by Matthew McConaughey, where he said (paraphrasing), the hardest part of going on a run was getting your shoes on.

    Running is philosophical, it’s where I deal with my life.  Great work, and have fun!

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh Pradeep, for someone that doesn’t know me that well, you know me too well. I just got back from my run and was hunting through the garage for my softball bag (the feable softball attempt is another story, by the way) that has my wrist bands. I do have the heart rate monitor which I can’t live without. I don’t necessarily want to worry about my clothes being all matchy-matchy, but I will be investing in a good pair of sport sunglasses. Open to recommendations on that.

    Nathan- I have tried running on pavement and also the treadmill as well. The track is my favorite so far. I like having visual landmarks so I know pace and aproximately where my pain will end (without having to look at my wrist). The plan I am doing said to try different surfaces. I didn’t care much for pavement because there are obstacles to look out for and it’s not flat. Perhaps when I am in better shape. I don’t know if I’ll ever be up for trails or grass. I have weak ankles and horrible (can’t emphasize enough) balance. The track will do for now but I will be open to change it up once I get a little more experienced. Right now, having just run two 9 minute intervals in 30 minutes, I’d say I’m probably still in the beginner category. I’m going to keep your recommendations in mind.

    Patrick-wow! That’s impressive and inspiring! Good for you! How do you keep your mind occupied when you run?  Are you thinking about the run or can you turn it off and go to a "happy place"? I have to imagine you have such a place if you are running marathons.

    That Matthew McConaughey sure does always have something to say, doesn’t he? I wish he spent as much time making good movies as he does waxing philosophical. Oops, did I just say that? : )

    Anyway, Patrick, you are giving me something to think about when I run: "Patrick did this and lost 120 pounds…you can do this too Heather". Thanks for the inspiration.

    Now I have an appointment with my trainer in 2 hours.  Heart rate back down now.

  7. RJD says:

    Yeah, but if you lose 120 pounds, we’ll never find you again!  Who will feed Jonas?

    I don’t miss the track at all.  Much prefer mountain bikes these days.  Tones your backside more than runnng, too.

  8. Deb says:

    There is another cool site for running.  Search for "couch to 5k", the web address is coolrunning.com/something-something.  It has plans and info for people just starting out….and people who have been running for some time.

    Of course, most of it is geared towards training for specific runs….like marathons.


    All the best!

    deb – inspired to work out today

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    RJD- I haven’t been losing muchb at all lately but that’s fine with me. I can see the difference in my shape and fitness. How that’s not saying that losing ten pounds wouldn’t be nice though ; )

    Deb-I’ll definitely check it out…thanks! That sounds like exactly what I want. I’m working off the Prevention Magazine RunningFit guide but it’s paper, so having something online would be great.

  10. Cool Heather, way to go!

    My college dorm buddy, now a finance professor at our Alma Mater, is an avid runner. He talks about basically the same thing such as setting small goals and overcoming inertia. He runs around the ring road around the island, with lazy afternoon sun shining, gentle breeze from the sea, and nice view of the water and lush green mountains. His blog entry is in Chinese here 🙂


    I am inspired. I need to drag my sorry ass out and start being active!

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Oh Ji, your “sorry ass” won’t be sorry until you make it start running and then later your “sorry ass” will thank you ; )

    You make a good point about appreciating your surroundings when you are running. Can make a big difference.

  12. Herb says:

    Heather why don’t you take Jonas on short runs as well. It’s like having a cute running partner!

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    It’s hard enough to get myself through it. Having to control a dog in addition is definitely not an option at this point. It’s a conditioning program. Maybe someday I can take Jonas out for a run just for fun, but not while I’m "in training".

  14. Raquel says:

    Heather, you can do it! I know you can. I hated running but found it a nice distraction from work and an excellent way to relieve stress. When I started out I could barely run 2 miles and went on to complete a half marathon. Just keep at it and you will notice the difference and it will encourage you to keep on running longer distances!

    I recommend the boot camp class at the pro club. It’s  a big group but you run on your own and to/from destinations with other people so you have accountability. Everyone is really encouraging and you free great after your done.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hey Raquel-I saw your article in the ProClub newsletter a couple months back (if this is the Raquel I think it is). Really inspiring! I’m pretty sure that even in week 4 of my program I can barely run 2 miles now. I have to run pretty slow to keep my heart rate in the target range. Tomorrow I go up to ten minute intervals…yikes! I still can’t believe I am doing this. The encouragement helps!

    I’m impressed that you are running half marathons. That’s awesome! How long have you had to train for something like that? I just mentioned to my buddy Suzanne (who you know) that she should run a 5K with me.  I think I can be ready for that in a month or so. I’m actually surprised how the increases in my running intervals are doable when they are added on slowly.

  16. Pablo says:

    Great job Heather!  I’m glad to see you’re progressing well.

    Like some other readers, I find running is good for the mind.  I can take the time to think about anything I need to, or nothing at all.  But I also have found running can be a fine challenge mentally as well as physically.  On very hard runs, I need to concentrate on my breathing, motion, pace, and of course, just getting to the end.  When I get to the end, the combination of physical and mental exercise makes it sooooo satisfying!

    Keep up the good work 🙂

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    I hear you about the breathing requiring concentration sometimes. Sometimes I feel that the fact that my legs continue to move is a force of sheer will. I’m getting there!

  18. Ray Minchew says:

    Don’t ever feel bad about days off, as long as you don’t over do it!  Even the best runners in the world take days off; running every day is the exception rather than the rule.  Those days off give your muscle time to repair itself.  If you’re worried about your cardio fitness, just take your offdays and go to the gym to do something else – lift weights, swim, ride a bike.  

    Congrats on getting started and sticking to your program, but don’t feel obligated – that sense of obligation or guilt when you need to rest can undo the best of us.  Let yourself enjoy the process as you get stronger.  🙂

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I’m actually starting to feel good. I’ve found that I now can keep my heart rate under control. Today, I ran 2 twelve minute intervals in a half hour and after my day off yesterday, it felt pretty good. How weird.

  20. pwibbele says:

    Running groups are awesome!  Many people are needlessly intimidated – thinking that they themselves aren’t  /real/ runners.  Check with the running store that sold you your shoes.    Many stores have a regular group run as a means of getting people to come back (It works – I bought 3 bottles of no-sweat sun block last week).  The group at my local store has runners training at all paces for 5ks, 10ks, marathon’s, IronMan’s and nothing at all (me).  

  21. Recruitah says:

    Anybody watched last night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart…they had something to say abt marathons and walks..  🙂

    I used to run…used to feel great waking up and being on the road before dawn and enjoy the sunrise…need to get back pronto to that…Golf ain’t cuttin it…lost 120 lbs…amazing !!

    As RJD said, Mountain Biking is a great idea as well..a friend just visited from South Africa and bought a bike for $ 2200…jeez…my car costs less than that..Im going to get a used bike and start already…

    I was at Lake Tahoe last month and it so happened that " America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, 2006 " was going on….I met so many people from all over the country…people biking up and down the mountains around the lake….Id say that the average age of bikers seemed like 40 +…I have seen some people who are 60+…and it almost felt like a slap in the face…..you can imagine how beautiful it was..but you can also go to


    You can also imagine how tough it is..think its 40 miles around the lake, and look at these people..

    Great going Heather….abt your sunglasses..yea..many on the market but nothing like a pair of Oakleys…85 to 135 bucks..but worth every penny…

  22. Raquel says:

    Yes, it’s me Heather!  🙂 I’ve only ran one half marathon (2004 in SF) and am training to run the Seattle half this November. By no means am I fast, my time was just under a 12 min mile. I spent about 6 months to training for the half. Had I not climbed Rainier the year before I’m not sure I would have had the new found confidence that I could do anything sbut since I did I didn’t hesitate to sign myself up.

    Interval training helped me increase my speed and my cardio capacity to run longer distances. Before the half I’d only run just over 8 but everyone said "if you can run 8, then you can run 9, and if you can run 9, then you can run 10, and you can do the rest on race day adrealine". They were totally right! Either that or I let myself think that they were to get me thru it. 🙂

    With each mile I only focused on getting to the next one and then the next one so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with what was ahead of me. It is a very mental game, at least for me anyway, but it worked and I crossed the finished line.

    I swore I would never run another one, but here I am again.

    I’ll run a 5k with you anytime if Suzanne won’t or we can bully her together. 🙂

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, my little intervals are a total mind game. Based on my lap time (not an impressive one at that but I am sure I’ll get better), when I get toward the end, I mentally calculate where on the track I’ll be able to stop, approximately. I guess I am a visual person. Because today, it got me through my 20 minute interval (up from 15 minutes last week). I was worried today because the last run I did was Saturday, before the bizarre swelling of the feet incident. The end of the program is in sight…5 more days until I am running for a full half hour. Then I can focus on faster/further in the 30 minutes.

    The way you describe your training is how people tell you it will be (focus on the small stuff…just keep going) but knowing someone that confirms that this is indeed how it was for them really helps. I still can’t believe that I can run for 20 minutes. My shorter intervals didn’t allow me to get to my "out of body experience" point (I’m sure there’s some technical term for that but it’s where your body just keeps going without you having to focus on the mechanics or the pain). Anyway, I got there today 14 minutes into the run, so it was great. It’s great to hear that progress is possible!

    I definitely think we should peer pressure Suzanne into the 5K. I’ll check around to see what is coming up. I probably need about another 6 weeks to be ready, I think.

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