These past few weeks have been interesting. I’ve been working through a pretty big adjustment. I’ve been transitioning from training to run 26.2 miles…to not really training for anything. I think it’s taken my mind longer to adjust than my body. My body is no-doubt soaking in the rest, and most-likely questioning what exactly the point was of running that far on May 18th.
My husband and I ran the LLBean 10k in Freeport, ME, on July 4th. Although we really didn’t need to train, thanks to all the miles still in our systems from Sugarloaf, I tried to train anyway. I was excited to compete again!
When hurricane Arthur threatened to end the 10k before it began, anxiety set in. I needed to compete. I wanted my race-fix. When we found out the run was still on, I was pretty thrilled. I posted a time I was happy with, got 6th in my age group, and enjoyed a beautiful run. It was a great holiday. I want to do this race again next year!
The next day, I was jogging through Freeport before our trip home the next when I had an “ah-ha” moment.
My epiphany started about 2 miles into my run; I ran by this crazy-looking boat in someone’s yard. The front of the boat said “Free.” I had to laugh. My family owned a boat for many years. With all of the upkeep, repairs, and the complete dependence on perfect weather…I think most boat owners have had days that they’d just assumed put up a “Free” sign and walk away.
Because I didn’t know the area, I decided to do an “out and back” (run a certain distance, turn around, and run the same way back). On the run back, I looked for the boat again. The other side of the boat said “Free Smiles.” And that made me smile. And then that made me realize that it had been a long time since I had smiled while running. I think the last time was during the marathon.
It dawned on me: running wasn’t fun any more. It was beginning to feel like a chore, like work. I was obsessed with improving my pace, obsessed with beating myself. I am not a professional runner, but I was acting like running was my job. The marathon was 2 months ago, and I wasn’t letting myself enjoy this time of not training for anything.
I was still in-training, but for nothing.
I challenged myself to run the rest of the way back to the hotel smiling. I was going to have fun, darn it! At first I felt silly, but after about 2 minutes, the endorphins kicked in. A funny thing happens when you smile. You could smile for no reason, but once your brain realizes you’re smiling, you really do feel happy. At least, that’s what happens for me.
I ended that run happy, and at about the same pace as I would have if I’d been obsessively checking my watch and getting mad at myself.
The past few weeks, I’ve been working hard to focus on more than just clocking my best pace. I’ve been working on starting out my run with more control, on remaining more consistent in my pace, on getting negative splits…and I’ve been smiling a lot.
Sometimes I think I look pretty crazy, but I don’t care. I like to think that when people see the crazy, smiling girl out running at 6am…they might realize that running can actually be fun.
I know for certain that I made someone smile about a week ago. I was running along, about 2 miles into my workout, with my head up and my music loud. I was enjoying the morning air and perfect weather when I caught my foot on a rugged patch of sidewalk. I feel myself falling forward, and I knew what was coming next.
I tensed up, shut my eyes, (stupidly) put my arms out, and braced myself for the terrible feeling of road rash; it didn’t come. Instead, I felt water.
I opened my eyes. Somehow I had missed the sidewalk, flew sideways onto a patch of wet grass, and slid on my stomach like I was headed for home plate.
As I lay there, thankful to be on grass instead of pavement, a car drove by. Perfect. I am 100% sure that this lucky commuter had a front-row seat for my entire episode. Even better, the car stopped about 100 yards ahead at a red light.
I had two choices: I could lay there until the light turned green and risk getting too comfortable, or I could keep running.
I pushed myself up, picked the grass out of my shirt, and ran away…smiling. I guess I figured that if I laughed at myself, I might look less stupid. I can only hope that, if this lucky commuter shared this story at work, he/she told the story accurately.
I really do recommend smiling while you run. It makes the whole experience better. However, no matter how much fun you end up having…be sure you watch where you’re going.