Athletic Aspirations

11:39 AM

I don't know if I've officially announced it, but I've signed up to run the Little Rock Marathon in March 2015.  My marathon training book says I need to tell people about that, so I'm held accountable. There. I've said it. Hold me to it.

Running a marathon has always been a life goal of mine, and since they require several months of training time in order to build up a good running base and then build up your mileage, it's never been something I could do. I was either pregnant or just had had a baby.

This year, I'm neither.
Wyeth just turned one, and while he's still nursing, he isn't at the every 2 hour stage, so it gives me time to get out there and not have to hustle back.  Kyle and I are open to having another baby (if God allows and wills it), but we like to space them out a bit further, so it's not something we'd really try for until after March anyway. SO....the time is right. Carpe Diem.

A good friend of mine ran his first marathon using the book, The Nonrunners Marathon Trainer, and he successfully finished his marathon and seemed to enjoy it, so I read the book, bought it and signed up for the race. Seemed a good place to start. 

I've been a runner on and off since high school when I ran track. But I've never just run, and I've never run to train for a race. I usually have lifted weights, played tennis or swum.  Which are all great cross-training things, and I intend to continue those (particularly the swimming, plus cycling....for triathlons later on...), But right now, my head is well and truly focused on running.

I'm so committed to this that I've been getting up at 6AM three days a week and on Saturdays to run.  For those of you who know me, you know I am not a morning person. I love to stay up late and sleep late. It's a sacrifice getting up that early, but I've discovered that I genuinely love that time of day as well! Plus, in order to get my runs in and possibly do another form of training later in the day, I have to go early. And before Kyle leaves for work.

I now cherish those quiet pre-dawn runs.  I run without headphones, so I can be fully aware of my surroundings and I pray and think and generally just enjoy it. I love seeing lights come on as people start their days. I love seeing the sunrise. I love knowing that I have a neighbor who washes his car in the pitch black every morning before he drives it off to work. Who knew? I love coming home before many people ever leave theirs. Since my kids are late sleepers, it even gives me about an hour and a half of me time. Time when I can have a quiet time and pray and get ready for my day.  It's bliss. You other mommas get that!

One of the most amazing things about this commitment to running is that I have discovered a whole new group of people in the city I never realized existed! Other crazy people who love running and fitness as much as I do! Maybe even MORE than I do! Many of them are also cyclists (extra bonus)! Most of them are more experienced than I am, but also very encouraging. They don't scoff when I say I'm training for my first marathon. They're really happy to hear it, because they get it!

A few Saturdays ago, it was the first official training run of the Running Club and they met at 6AM for a 6 mile run.  Up to that point, my longest runs had been 5 milers. They had felt great, so I wasn't really worried, but I was a little nervous about joining a group. Would I be the slowest one?? (no, there were actually lots of walkers...) Could I find someone to run with?

I showed up at the designated meeting spot and was floored to see several hundred people in the parking lot in the pitch black early morning, all wearing these crazy blinking lights. Kind of like a big moving Christmas tree.  Very psychedelic experience. I found out the blinkie lights are for safety and I now have my own. The group coach is a stickler for safety. Kyle approves.

All these people took off, and I managed to grab someone who explained the general process and I was fortunate enough to get handed off to one of the group's running coaches who took me under his wing.  I ended up running 6 miles easy and having the time of my life! I felt like I'd discovered an underground people group just like myself! I can't tell you how AWESOME it was!

I met up with that same group again this morning for an 8 mile run. 
Driving down the road at 5:50, I could see cars turning in and I thought, "You're a runner too!" Sure enough, we all pulled in the same place, got out, grabbed our water bottles and trotted over to the people already gathered. I lucked out and saw a good friend of mine who is a very experienced (and MUCH faster) runner and she offered to run with me. She was running 16 miles in training for a different race and was willing to slow her pace for me for our joint 8 miles. Which was good because it pushed me to run faster and we had time to catch up.  It was awesome. We averaged a 9:22 pace. To put it in perspective, she intends to run a half marathon at a 7:10 pace. At this point, I have to set things like that as future goals. A few at a time. (grin)

I was so inspired by running with my friend and just spending time with her in general, and I came home marveling that at age 37, I'm having more fun (athletically) than I have at any point in my life. 

Interestingly, as I immerse myself in training books for running and triathlons to learn everything I can in my completely admittedly obsessive way, I discovered a factoid I'll share with you. 
Starting at age 19, runners get faster every year until they hit 27. It takes 8 years to peak.  At age 27, they start to decline.  So how long does it take them to decline back to the speed they were running at age 19? 45 years.  So when you're 64, you'll be evenly matched with the 19 year old runners. Meaning our bodies can still do pretty darn well for quite a while when it comes to running.  

Another thing about setting goals for myself like this marathon and God willing, future triathlons, is that you never know what you're capable of until you try.  My friend was telling me this morning that when she first started running, she had no idea what pace to shoot for. And over the years, she has found that she's actually pretty fast. And might be capable of even faster. You just don't know until you push yourself. So many people never even try. It can be scary. And there's always self-doubt and arguments about lack of time...baloney. 

There is a learning curve, and a fitness curve, but it's like that saying, "A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step." I ran 8.6 miles this morning, but a month ago, I was only running 3 miles a pop.  I ran faster this morning than I would have paced myself alone, but I did it and it felt good. And if I can find time to run with four homeschooled kids, than anyone can. It takes commitment and determination and drive and we can all muster that up.  

I love that God made us with potential. I think He must see us living so truly short of the potential within us, and it must frustrate Him.  I don't mean just physically...For me, running is a reminder of that. Where I am now is not where I'll stay - physically, mentally or spiritually. I pray that God keeps me moving forward in all those categories. 

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