New Attitude

A few years ago, I thought my edge had all but disappeared when it came to running, but after some moderate successes in community races, I started dreaming of developing as a competitive runner. After high school, my running had been either for fun or fitness, but I became hooked on being fast again. I started trying to win, but would become agitated by being passed by faster runners- the nerve of them! The manner in which this perceived competition manifested with my running became toxic to my growth as an athlete. I’m genetically blessed with faster than average leg turnover, it’s as simple as that, but I introduced only as much work as I felt like each race.

I had a complete change of heart last year during the Rose Bowl Half Marathon in Pasadena, California. I knew the course well, but the first five miles were hell- I felt shaky and unsure. I was running within a group of five or so women, probably mid-pack for that race, and we all took turns in the lead. I became irritated that they weren’t “letting” me keep the lead, when it occurred to me that if I wanted to get ahead, I might have to push harder, not wait for them to falter.

That day, I decided to push my preconceived limits. I set a goal of 20 seconds per mile faster, and to hold that for at least one mile. Soon the awkward feeling I had in the first five miles dissipated and I was flying- I could hold the pace, and go even faster. I glided past each new person within sight, seeing them as goals, not obstacles. I finished the race 4th in my age group, and I had dropped my half marathon down past 1:50, which was 7 minutes faster than my previous best. My race had nothing to do with the other runners, and everything to do with false beliefs I held about my ability and grit.

Less than a mile from the finish at the 2015 Rose Bowl Half Marathon. Happy lady, running at ease.
Less than a mile from the finish at the 2015 Rose Bowl Half Marathon. Happy lady, running at ease.

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to challenge myself against some strong women in races. I was honored when a young lady asked to take a picture with me at a mile race. She placed second and myself third, and I began to sense that team spirit that I had loved so much about my high school cross-country team. I feel that the women I run against are friends, not foes- especially the fast ones! They pull me and I push them.

I was floored when this young lady asked for a picture together after our neck and neck race.
I was floored when this young lady asked for a picture together after our neck and neck race.

I’m going to keep with the tribe now as best I can. I know sometimes I will try to run harder or faster and fail, but I’ll learn more about myself in the process. I recently went running with a two friends, and they kept a pace that was faster than I could do that day. Instead of being annoyed that they were going faster, I was excited to be running behind them, because their hard work pulled me to be better.

Finding a familiar face in the crowd at the Nike Women's 2014 Half Marathon.
Finding a familiar face in the crowd at the Nike Women’s 2014 Half Marathon starting line!

Breaks and Breakthroughs

I had two knee surgeries my senior year of high school. Those surgeries were minor in comparison to other types done on that joint, and though I missed the competitive seasons senior year, I was able to pick up running again by graduation, without any memorable deficiencies or hindrances.

This recent ankle injury was more hard hitting. In high school, I was going to school, spending a lot of time with friends, and lived with my family, so being injured didn’t really do much in the way of removing me from life. These days I work for a running retailer. At least half of my socializing revolves around running. My work is physical in nature.  With the DNF, I got a break in another sense- I found out how much I relied on running to keep me involved with my life, and that I had some growing to do, some development of self.

I was sad in the days following my injury, but within two weeks I was suffering from diagnosed depression. The weight of not being able to run, work, and the challenge of not being able to do simple things to take care of myself got to me. I love to read, but it was hard on painkillers. I watched a lot of TV. Couple that with the fact that I was coming off of training for a marathon and used to almost daily rushes of dopamine. Physically and emotionally I became lethargic. My sister came to visit and found me in a sad state. The pain from the swelling was so intense that I would go to bed and wake up crying, I just couldn’t help it. Once she left, I dipped a little lower in my mental and emotional state before realizing I needed help.

I had to go to a really low point before I got help. If you think you are suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself, at least, it worked for me. Friends and professionals helped me to put everything in perspective and do what I could to get back to normal. I turned off the TV. I got off the painkillers and started reading again. I took interest in something new from my couch, America’s Gilded Age, and read two books on it. I read Dune for fun. I read Running Within, a book with spiritual guidance for runners, and started practicing positive affirmations while visualizing what I wanted from my runs once I got back. I highly recommend that book for anyone that has reached a plateau with physical training and is looking for another push.

After 5 weeks I was able to start physical therapy. It wasn’t anything special, I just got to move my ankle a bit, but it was something. I still wasn’t back to work, but I had developed a floor/chair regimen to work out my upper body and core for a little while each day. I stuck to everything on my PT plan religiously. As I was able to bear weight on my ankle, I made it to the gym. I swam and biked. Once I started running again, I came back almost at full speed. I owe this to not only the PT, but during my healing I progressively added higher intensity workouts that fit with the demands my ankle could handle. I was able to go back to work. I felt useful again, which did huge things for my mood. Eventually I was feeling happy again.

I ran a race almost four months to the day of my injury. It was a mile road race, and it would be my third year in a row competing in it. I ran it one second faster than I had the previous year- 6:34. I was floored. That feeling was good, but it was nothing compared to the one I got a few weeks later, when I was able to work a run club event, and jog next to a new runner who was trying out one of our events for the first time. She struggled with the same mental games I knew so well, but she did it. There is nothing like feeling like you can’t and then finding out you can. This event and similar ones that followed motivated me to begin pursuing my interest in personal training again.

“ShesTheRun” is an invention for sharing my running, travel, and life adventures in a way that keeps me motivated to do more for myself, and others. It is a by-product of my personal journey with truly missing running and the ensuing depression that followed. I can’t keep something unless I give it away. Equipped with this point of view, I hope I can create something for others to enjoy and be inspired by.

Thanks for reading,

Holly