I May Run but Am I a Runner?

WomensRunningShoeLanding_1Recently Sam asked me for an update on how things are going with my quest to become a runner.  I do run, but I don’t yet consider myself a runner. This may be the same sort of hesitance that keeps me from calling myself an athlete. I posted about that quite some time ago.

I laced up my running shoes in spring 2012 after a hiatus that lasted a couple of decades. It was at the urging of my trainer who, at that time, was trying to help me with my (then) stated goals of losing fat, gaining muscle, and “toning up.”  I hated running in my twenties and saw no reason to think I would like it in my forties.

But I stuck with it, doing various combinations of walk-run, gradually increasing my time and distance.  Last fall I hit a milestone when I ran for twenty minutes in a row without having to stop. I even liked it. Oh, and it rained that time but I ran anyway.

Bolstered by my success, I kept at it more or less regularly, running three times a week through late fall and early winter, even completing a 5K race.  I used the “Ease into 5K” then “Ease into 10K” apps to keep myself progressing in time and distance.

Then real winter hit with its wind chill factors and icy roads and sidewalks. At first I kept at it, but when the cold became too cold, I said “forget this,” despite having written a guest post for Spry about how to get yourself out the door when you don’t want to go.  Eventually I switched over to swimming at the indoor pool at the Y. I have to train for the triathlon anyway, so swimming is a good thing to include.

But I gave up on running between about February and mid-April. I only got out there a handful of times and when I did, the app informed me that my run pace was slower each time than the time before.  How do you spell D-E-M-O-R-A-L-I-Z-A-T-I-O-N?

I’m big on moderation, and I do believe that a little is better than nothing at all, especially when enthusiasm is waning. But I also have some goals where running is concerned.

And somewhere along the way, those goals stopped being about losing fat and toning up and started being about running further and faster.  Not being one to rest in disappointment and negativity for too long (see my post on setbacks here), I decided (at Sam’s urging) to try something new: the running clinic. 

I’ve been at it for almost a month now and it has injected new energy my running.  I chose level two of the “Learn to Run” program. Each week we do a five-minute warm-up walk, then run for an appointed time, followed by a five-minute cool-down walk.

The run time increases each week: ten minutes in week one, fourteen minutes in week two, sixteen minutes in week three, twenty minutes in week four, and this week, in week five, we’ll be doing twenty-three minutes.

Between weekly meetings we commit to getting out at least twice to do the same again. In other words, I’m in week four right now so I need to get in two additional twenty-minute runs before our next group run on Thursday.

So here is my report:

The only week I have felt totally easy with is week one because in my “ease into 10K” app I was at four sets of nine minutes of running/one minute of walking.

I’ve had no difficulty getting in my other runs in between. Now that the weather is better I’m pretty good about getting out the door and three times a week has always been my goal.

In each of the weeks following week one, the planned run exceeded what I have been doing lately (remember, my big day of running for twenty minutes without stopping was way back in September).  But here is where running with a group really kicked in to help me.  I found that keeping a conversational pace alongside others, with the timer set to a prescribed time, made it possible for me to complete the assigned time.

That made the two runs during the week between do-able because I had already done that time at least once. I’m up to twenty minutes and having no trouble completing the time.  My pace is even improving — on the weekend, I successfully managed to do a negative split, where the second half of my run was at a faster pace than the first half.

I’ve also discovered something amazing:  audio books!  I know lots of people are keen on music when they run. I listen to it sometimes but it’s not my favourite thing. It passes the time, but not much more than the sound of my own breath. And I get tired of the same old playlist and am not all that enthusiastic about updating my playlists all the time.

But audio books!  Now that’s something I can wrap my head around.  I don’t have tons of time to read for pleasure, so it’s nice to be able to double it up with my running.  This is my latest tool for getting myself out door.

What else?  Between running clinics last week I made a date to run with a friend. This was a first for me. Other than the clinic and the 5K race, I have not run with anyone.  We met up for an early morning, easy run. My friend just ran a half marathon, so I felt kind of nervous about running with her, worried I’d be slowing her down too much compared to her regular pace. I’m not sure if I did, but she did speed me up a little bit.  And I enjoyed catching up with her while also getting in a run.

I’ve been able to fulfill the commitment to the prescribed time each week without stopping. I feel pretty good about that.  I am still motivated to train for a 10K and eventually a half marathon.  The thing I feel best about is that fat loss and “toning” are no longer my goals. I just want to be able to run continuously for at least 30 minutes, sometimes longer, without needing to take a walk break.  Given how the clinic has been going, that strikes me as a totally realistic goal.

Then I’ll work on speeding it up a bit, increasing my pace with some hill work and sprint intervals.

So there’s the report of where things stand with my running.  I am running, that’s for sure, even if I’m multi-tasking while I do it, using it as a way to read novels.  I still don’t feel like “a runner.”  It’s interesting that I feel more like a swimmer than a runner, even though I run more often than I swim.

Maybe in time I’ll start to think of myself as a runner. I feel as if I’m well on my way. And I’m pretty comfortable with where I am right now.

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