After a few running-related post mentions (like this, this and this), I’ve gotten a bunch of requests to write a more in-depth post about my hobby – so I’m veering off home topics just for today (like we’ve done with hair-cutting, Eminem, nursing, and Clara’s birth story to name a few other times). But don’t worry, I’ll be back with more deck progress on Monday (it’s actually starting to really LOOK LIKE A DECK – you have no idea how exciting that is to us). As for the subject of running, I’ve hesitated to tackle this subject a few times, because although I call myself a “runner” and it’s a hobby I’ve enjoyed for over a decade, I’m certainly no expert. I don’t subscribe to any strict running lifestyle or rigorous routine. But I do run races (usually 10Ks, although I’ve done one half marathon). And I enjoy my Runner’s World subscription (despite Sherry’s jokes that it’s the same articles each month about stretching and running shoes just slightly repackaged).
How I Got Started: I got the running bug my second year of college (2002) after a couple of failed attempts to get into it before that (I never made it past the track team “interest meeting” in high school). It didn’t stick until my roommates (one was already a runner, the other was a newbie like me) welcomed me on their nightly 20-minute jogs one unseasonably warm January. What was different about this attempt? I think because for once the act of running took a backseat to other things like socializing with my friends and enjoying the great outdoors. Shortly after that, another friend convinced me to sign up for a 10K she was doing later that spring – oh the things college guys do for college women. That was Richmond’s Monument Avenue 10k, a race I’ve now done every year since (2012 being my 11th consecutive time). I threw up at the end of that first one, but apparently not enough to turn me off to the whole running thing. Though that girl and I never worked out, fortunately I snagged myself another one…
Why I Run: Let’s start with the usual suspects. I enjoy the fitness benefits of it (mainly it makes me feel better about occasionally eating junk food) and it’s a great stress reliever. I like the self-competitiveness of it – trying to better a race time or run a longer distance. But I actually like it most for the music. Weird, I know. But the main way I kept myself motivated to run through college was so that I could listen to a CD I just bought (remember the Discman?). To this day I geek out making special playlists for each race, crafting it to be just about as long as I think I’ll be running – interspersing slow songs as reminders to pace myself and strategically putting fast beats towards the end to help me keep from fizzling out. I did once get a sarcastic “har-har” from Sherry when I explained that MJ’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” belonged at the beginning of my playlist because that’s when, duh, I’m starting something.
I also like to run for the exploration of it all. My dad (who is 67 and faster than me) likes to run the same loop so he can gauge his pace against familiar landmarks. I, on the other hand, prefer to try out new routes and take random turns just to see where it will take me and what scenery I’ll encounter (one of the reasons Runner’s World’s Rave Runs photos often serve as my laptop’s wallpaper). I love getting “lost” on trails so that I can subconsciously add miles finding my way back. Or weaving through city blocks downtown to check out some of Richmond’s coolest homes. Basically, doing circles around a track is my nightmare. Unless I’ve made a good playlist for it, of course.
My Training Schedule: I’d love to share a running routine with you guys, but I don’t have one. I used to aim for 3 days a week, but now 8-10 times a month is a good month. Part of the reason I sign up for races is to guarantee at least one run in my future – and hopefully a few in advance to make sure my body remembers how to put one foot in front of the other. My most disciplined year was back in 2007, when I really pushed myself to get a good time in the Monument 10k. My 10+ mile training runs paid off with my fastest 10K time yet (and still) at 46:23. It also gave me the confidence to run my first (and only) half marathon two weeks later. That earned me a 1:52:27 time and a case of runner’s knee that has haunted me ever since.
My Goals: I have secret aspirations of doing a marathon sometime in my lifetime, but despite the physical therapy I did after the injury in 2007 – my knee still starts to complain once I get close to double-digit mileage. Sherry also reminds me that some of my first words after completing the half marathon were “Don’t ever let me do a marathon. I can’t imagine having to do this run twice in a row.” But that was five years ago, so I’m thinking of trying to tackle another half sometime soon to see if it leaves me with the same impression.
Ultimately I want to keep running fun. Right now I get a lot of joy from it – whether from music, scenery, a cheering race crowd, a good conversation with a running buddy or just pushing myself that extra mile. So if I never introduce a training regime of speed drills and hill workouts to my calendar, I’d die plenty happy. Just give me my running shoes, my iPod (with the Nike+ app), and perhaps Clara in her jogging stroller and I’ll be one content runner. Well, and I’d love to have Sherry join me too, but the bad ankle she developed from being one of the fastest girls on her track/cross country team as a teen won’t let her do much more than a fast walk without a swollen grapefruit-looking-ankle to show for it.
If I Had To Offer Some Advice: So now that I’ve firmly establish I don’t have the most conventional or regimented outlook on running, I can’t expect you to give much weight to my advice. BUT, just in case someone out there is looking to start running (or just do it more regularly), here’s what I would offer up as a few things to try:
- Figure out what about running makes you happy and plan around that. Is it socializing? Then find a friend to run with. Is it being alone with your thoughts? Find some peaceful, uncrowded trails to lose yourself on. Is it the competition? Sign up for races. Not everyone has to enjoy running for the same reasons, so don’t be shy about embracing yours.
- Don’t push yourself. For most people, any running is better for you than none at all. If you can’t go a mile without taking a walk break, don’t beat yourself up over it. Be proud of the distance you did run and savor the moments you’re walking (I still enjoy a good walk break – notice the red spots on the map above). Who cares if you can’t run a 5K / 10K / half-marathon / marathon / whatever is your unattainable distance? If you spend too much energy lamenting what you can’t do, you won’t put it into relishing what you can.
- Find a race that you can look forward to. I love organized races – whether they’re 5Ks, 10Ks, whatever. They’re pretty much my favorite thing about being a runner. Not only is the energy of the crowd (both of other runners and the people cheering from the sidelines) a great boost, but I also find they’re great motivators to lace up on my own in preparation. So find a race that speaks to you for some reason – the course looks especially fun, it promises great music, it benefits a great cause, or maybe they throw colored cornstarch at you? – and sign up for it. If you don’t know where to find a race, try a local running shop, sporting goods store, or even a local gym for more info. They usually have flyers up.
Okay, now here’s the part where all you other runners (hardcore or casual like me) can raise your virtual hand and tell me a little bit about your running-self. What’s your favorite part about running? How do you keep yourself motivated? Any particular personal best or success stories you wanna share?
Over the years of jabbering on about house stuff I occasionally get questions about my family. How many siblings I have, how I grew up, etc. I always say it was a somewhat un-traditional childhood… in the best possible way. I was raised by my mom and dad, who split up when I was very young (a few years after my younger brother Daniel was born) so we just had two houses and bounced happily between them.
I remember when a kid at school once teased me for having divorced parents and I put the “I have two houses and you only have one and I get double the holiday presents” spin on it. Looking back, it was a moment of pure genius. Haha. No more teasing.
I also grew up with my half brother Adam, who was born after my dad married my step mom Nina a while later (he was 11 years younger than me). You might remember him from his cameo in the most embarrassing moment ever caught on film when I was 17.
But I always say I’m the oldest of five – and the only girl. So where do the other two fit in? Well, my Aunt Kay Kay (as we lovingly call my mom’s sister) and her two sons named David and Darius actually moved in with us when my brother and I were very young (my brother was 3 and I was 6). My mom is one of seven children, and while many of my aunts and uncles lived closer, Aunt Kay Kay and her kids used to live in Maryland, so we didn’t get to see our cousins very often, who were 2 and 4 at the time when they moved in… which was just one of about a million reasons we were SO excited for them to move in with us.
My aunt had been diagnosed with a craptastic disease called Multiple Sclerosis, so raising all four of us under one roof with my mom was a way that my mom could lend a hand to my aunt and also a way that my aunt could help us. My mom’s an attorney, and back in those days she was working her buns off to make partner at her firm, so she often got home late. So it was great to come home to my aunt after school, and on most nights she cooked us dinner and helped us with our homework. It was kind of a crazy house with four kids so close in age (four kids born within five years), but growing up with them honestly made me who I am today. Here’s my Aunt Kay Kay with me and my cousin David in the pool when we were little. Isn’t she beautiful?
My aunt was always laughing. She was “the nice one” while I, being the oldest of all the boys, proudly wore my title as “the bossy one.” My brother was “the smart one,” my cousin Darius was “the funny one,” my cousin David was “the crazy one,” and my mom was “the strict one.” So you can guess that when it came down to asking an adult if we could do something… well, we’d usually ask my aunt before my mom.
It was an odd little madhouse, but it was our madhouse and we loved it. So when people ask me how many siblings I have, I usually just say that I’m the oldest of five, and the only girl. But for those who have time for more details, I explain that my total includes one brother, one half brother, and two cousins who grew up under one roof with us like they were our brothers. We had all sorts of adventures over the years – from building forts in the woods to epic sock fights (don’t ask) and karate tournaments in New York City (that’s Darius on the left, me next to him, Daniel second from the right, and David on the right). We kicked some booty that day.
My aunt battled with her multiple sclerosis like a champ. Always smiling and making jokes. Always working hard to stay mobile. First she walked with a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair, and for the last ten years or so she has been bedridden. Didn’t stop her from smiling (most notably when we stuck Burger or Clara in her bed – that always made her giggle). Strongest, bravest and sweetest woman I know.
Yesterday she passed away. It was a very very sad day. So although this might sound like a bummer of a post, I wrote it because I always wanted to remember how amazing and life-changing it was to grow up with such an awesome lady in my life. And I want Clara to be able to read about her Great Aunt Kay Kay someday. She could light up a room then, and thinking about her now brings a smile to my face. Just picturing us all gathered around the breakfast table fills me with nostalgia.
We’ll be back this afternoon with some regular DIY-related fare. In the meantime, feel free to tell/call/text/email/skype the ones you love. Family is such a blessing. And I’m so thankful for the one I got.