running

Six things I love about running and six things I wish I could change

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Running and I have a bit of a love-hate relationship. Or maybe it’s best described as unrequited love. The way it works is that I love running but it doesn’t always love me back.

Actually, if running and I had a relationship status on Facebook it would say “it’s complicated.” These days I’ve been running quite a bit, racing even, and loving it, but I need to watch out that I don’t love it too much. When you read these lists you’ll see why.

Here’s my list of what I love about running and what doesn’t work so well for me.

Loves:

1. Simplicity: I love that all running requires is a good pair of running shoes. (And even that’s debatable, read To go barefoot or to wear “foot coffins”? Searching for a middle ground….) I mean I also have an iPod, some fancy winter running gear, a reflective coat, and running specific shorts and t-shirts and bras. But it’s easy when you’re traveling to bring that stuff along. Running works well with traveling, unlike swimming (finding pools in far away places is tough)and biking. While I have traveled with my bike a fair bit I never bring it along for work trips.

2. Seeing new cities when I travel: Walking is nice but it’s slow. I love arriving at a hotel in a new city asking the concierge for a good running route and then heading out to see some of the sights.

3. How friendly other runners are: Runners are really really nice to other beginners. Lots of smiling, waving, and encouragement. You’ve got to love that.

4. Accessibility: It’s also a form of physical activity whose practitioners go out of their way to make it easy. You can’t shake a stick in our small city without hitting a group of people out doing a “learn to run” clinic. The entry level for fitness is generally pretty easy, wonderfully easy I’d say. Walk one minute, run one minute? Count me in. I’ve taken 5 km and 10 km clinics and volunteered at a few of them too.

5. Winter running: I love running in the winter. I love snowflakes landing on my nose. I love the crisp crunchy feel of snow underfoot. I love the quiet. But most of all I love being able to be outdoors when it’s Canadian winter cold. This was a wonderful surprise to me. Over the years I’ve found the cold harder to bear but when I’m running I’m delightfully warm. Only Winnipeg was cold enough to put me off running. The hotel concierge was right. It was too cold to run out there even with all my cold weather gear. I went back to my hotel in a taxi, with frost bite. I had a really great Santa Shuffle run one year with a friend and philosophy colleague (Hi Rob! ) and we had deep snow up over our sneakers. Everyone thinks you’re so tough but really it’s the best kind of run that there is.

6. I love running with my dogs. I especially love running with dogs on trails through the woods. Actually I love these things independently too but then I’d be over six! Tracy, have you done any local trail running? Running through the woods is glorious. Remind me to take you to Komoka Park sometime.

So far so good, right? Running and I were made for each other. Clearly. Here are photos of me running through the years and a bit more of my running story. A dear friend, an avid cyclist, says he prefers riding to running because runners never look happy. Not me. I smile while I run.

But here’s the sad part of the story…

1. Running gives me evil stress fractures. Evil because they take two months of inactivity to heal, serious inactivity, not even walking is okay. I had a disabled parking permit even while they were healing. And it’s not bone density. They tested that and I’m a bone density rock star, the goddess of bone density. Both times it started out as shin pain that went away while running and hurt like hell after. I’ve had gait analysis done and no good advice there. So now I’m just committed to running short distances slowly.

2. Related to the above, I’m not a natural “take it easy” kind of person. Running short distances slowly is nice and all but I like being fast. I have fond memories of hill repeats and speed work at the track. I know how to get faster and it is very hard to hold back. Now “fast for me” isn’t fast really. At my fastest my speed work still equaled my best friend’s easy day, though he was a guy and a former competitive runner. I’ve tried to reconceptualize what I do as not running but rather “jogging with dogs” and that helps a bit. I’ve also stopped running with my heart rate monitor. That’s strictly now a biking thing.

3. As much as I love winter running, I’m not so keen on sweaty summer running. Heat stroke, sun burn, needing to carry lots of water, and sweat. Ugh. I’m not a fan. But I think that’s true for lots of larger runners.

4. Runners are an evangelical lot. Theirs is the one true way. I’ve met so many runners who only run, who fear lifting weights, and who hold other athletic pursuits in contempt. They’re such purists. Read Is there life after running?

5. Related to the above fear of weights and sports, there’s also the cult of distance. It’s hard to avoid. I’ve been there. If 5 km is good, 10 km must be better. Next, a half marathon. It’s the leap between ten and the half that resulted in stress fracture two summers in a row. So many runners have marathons as their goal and I’ve never really gotten it. Speed, yes, but long slow endurance running makes me yawn.

6. Running shoes: Debates about running shoes and proper running form drive me batty. So too does the cost of high end running shoes. You need two pairs if you’re running regularly. I’ve tried barefoot running and I like it on athletic fields. I’m not sure if I’ll ever run barefoot on pavement like my daughter but I’ve moved to more minimalist footwear for some of my dog jogging.

So that’s the ledger, the pros and the cons of my short running career. I can say for certain that my life holds no marathons but I’ve wondered about getting fast again at shorter distances in the 5 to 10 km range. The good thing having gone down the shin stress fracture road twice is that the feeling is familiar. I can stop before I get hurt. I might try it this winter when my outdoor options get limited, no rowing or biking in the snow!

15 thoughts on “Six things I love about running and six things I wish I could change

  1. Love this! I found myself nodding along to your list. I always tell myself running is both the easiest and hardest thing to do in the world: put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing it. These are the things I’d add to the love/hate list:
    Love:
    – the “fresh legs” feeling when you’ve taken a day or two off and your legs are just ready to go! You feel unstoppable.
    – running in the fall, especially on trails. Takes me back to high school cross country!
    – crossing a finish line and PR-ing. Best feeling ever, even if you want to throw up.

    Loathe:
    – sports bras. Specifically, having to double or triple up for support, then you have to deal with chafing.
    – sidewalks that aren’t shoveled in the winter. Agree with you on winter running, which I love, but please people – keep your sidewalks clear or else I’m going to have to run on the road and we know cars hate that!
    – digestive issues that can, er, crop up when running. Thank goodness for discreet bushes.

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    1. I jog around 5k now on a very relaxed path. Call me lazy but it’s me-time and I enjoy it. Love the simplicity and the frugality of it. My running shoes costed £8 and good enough for me.
      Loathe the obsession, the pressure of sports bras and the apps with a calorie count.

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  2. I’m only just starting (Wk4D1 C25k this morning. Woot!) and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve always been a walker, for decades, but I do enjoy a little speed. I actually like to sprint, but that’s hard to do with C25k. Every once in a while I sneak in a short sprint though. 🙂 Of course, my sprint is someone else’s warm up pace, but I still feel bad ass when I do it.

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  3. I definitely understand the thing about distance — or at least, people who evangelize about distance. (I also know more than a few runners who are happy training for their marathons and half marathons who in no way minimize others’ distance choices.) Me, personally, I want whatever distance is approximately my equivalent of an hour-long loop. Due to what you mentioned about seasons, I find that my ideal distance trends a little longer (10k or so) in the winter to shorter (5-7k, or less, if I’ve woken up after 6am) in the summer.

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  4. Great post! I honestly just had huge lightbulb moment. You are so right about falling into the distance trap and the how the goal almost always has to be the magical marathon! I used to run and got caught up in it all and trained for 1/2 marathon with friend. Half way thru training I pulled out because I was bored! I haven’t really ran since. After reading this I realised I prefer shorter bursts at a faster pace ( like rpm classes or quick fast bike rides). I have just never applied same concept to running. Maybe a new summer goal of improving my time over 5km using intervals etc. feeling excited about possibilities!!!

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    1. Nice. I was chatting with a friend recently who runs 3 km everyday because she finds 5 km tedious. She runs the 3 km fast and enjoys it. Whatever works! I’m much more excited by speed goals than distance goals.

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  5. I’ve encountered my share of zealots in the running community too. I like to counter their silliness with a little dose of reality:

    5000m not a distance for serious or “good” runners? Tell that to Tirunesh Dibaba.

    Barefoot is best? For some people, maybe. But in spite of all the research that’s been done on the topic, there remains no compelling evidence that any one type of footwear (or lack thereof) is the optimal choice for all runners. (I’m one of the freaks who, in spite of doing most of my running in shoes with a built-up heel, doesn’t heel strike. So I’m always ready with a demonstration of the invalidity–at least in my case–of that particular argument against shoes.)

    As for runners who only run, I’ve certainly known people who do this out of personal preference and/or scheduling constraints, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone advocate the idea that running-only is the optimal training choice for peak performance. All the serious runners I’ve known would think that idea absolutely daft.

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