The Angry Runner

Our intrepid runner Kim hits a low point. I bet you she’d love some comments at the end of the article to help cheer her up! -Chris

I’m angry; a deep, seething anger.

It’s not a reaction to one, isolated experience; rather, it’s a culmination of ingredients that has cooked up this dark, brooding stew.

It’s not a nice sensation.

Not wanting to fall too far behind in our program, and not wanting to miss an entire week of running, we had decided to “double-up” our run before Wanda went on vacation. We ran Sunday, then again on Monday. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves — and then it happened. About halfway through I pulled a hamstring (I’ll be honest, I think it was a strain teetering on a pull, but it still hurt like hell). On the positive, I managed to finish the run; on the negative (as is the theme of this particular blog), I was in pain for most of the week.
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To Be A Runner, Part Five

Running can be very cathartic. Running with a partner can be downright therapeutic!

As you jog along the path, emotions can run right along with you and they can vary drastically in range and intensity. Even though you are focused on the task at hand, the events andor stressors of the day can really sneak up on you. As a runner you really have to be careful with how you interact with these emotions, particularly if you are a beginner.

Similar to when you are driving, the direction of the car will naturally follow the same direction as your eyes; your legs will move at the same rate as your mouth. Wanda and I head out on our jog, both declaring that we had frustrating days and immediately launched into a venting session. Although a much needed release it was observed that our pace had picked up dramatically as our rants became more excitable.

Learning to run is supposed to be a gradual build up (although, as eluded to in my last blog, gradual is a relevant term). If you try to push yourself too hard or too fast then your body will retaliate in a negative fashion. For me, it is always with the shin splints; and as our rants progressed, our pace sped up; as we sped up, my shins began to scream; and as they screamed I began to seethe.

Now, I have a hint of perfectionism in me (some may say that’s a bit of an understatement, but hey – nobody’s perfect). When my shins start to scream my perfectionist side translates that into I’m doing something wrong; and my pessimistic side translates it to mean that I am too inadequate to succeed. Meanwhile my optimistic side whispers, “Please stop berating yourself,” because she is polite and soft spoken and frequently ignored.

All this being said, a few interesting techniques have developed to compensate for the afore mentioned woes – from mantras, affirmations, jigs to Tourette’s. Yes, you read those correctly. Allow me to elaborate.

The term ‘run’ conjures up images of sprinting, so for each heat I automatically want to fly like a bat out of hell. Jogging, apparently, is the only thing that I attempt to be quick at in my life. Alas, my body hasn’t progressed to a point of being able to withstand the jarring impact of speed. So, to compensate, I’ve developed the mantra, “Slow, steady shuffle.” I vocalize this mantra before starting each heat just to reinforce that in order to succeed I have to maintain a slow cadence. And it appears to be working!!

The mantra is accompanied by questions such as, “Are your legs tired?” and, “Why can’t I hear you breathing!?” Questions like these are great (albeit they can be surprising – I’m pretty certain I was breathing that day) because they affirm that I am not in this alone. Someone else is going through similar struggles and we can vent together (so long as we watch the pace). Yay!

One of these affirmations resulted in an impromptu jig. Wanda and I were commenting on tired, sore legs and she exclaimed, “I feel like I want to shake out my calves.” Inspiration hit!! I wonder if shaking my legs would increase the circulation and help reduce puffiness and some of the pain? So, during one of the walking periods I broke out into a hoe-down jig in the middle of the trail. Although it seemed like a good idea in the moment the only thing it had accomplished was a hoot of laughter from Wanda (she’s so easy to amuse – it’s great!!). Now I’ll attempt a mini jig just to get her going.

Finally, the discovery that cursing helps us get through the pains, tiredness and breathlessness wasn’t lost to us. The deeper into the program we get, the more frequently and creatively the cursing occurs. We are always courteous of our fellow patrons of the trail, mind you. Just as the frequency increases the deeper we go, the cursing will subside as we enter into our cool down, celebratory phase (high fives are a mandatory celebratory response)! While discussing and laughing about our unladylike behavior it dawned on us that this syndrome of Runner’s Tourette’s is something that you never hear about – until now anyways.

In conclusion, running allows you to vent your frustrations through shared experiences, meditation, dancing and above all else – laughter! I’m still fighting my body, but overall a positive experience. On a go forward basis I’m trying to teach my optimistic side to speak from her diaphragm…

To Be A Runner, Part Four

Note: the following post is from Kim, who is an eager new runner. She’s agreed to share the story of her running journey with us. I hope you enjoy it. Have your own story to share? Send it to me via email and I’ll share your story with the world! -Chris

“…And today’s top story, the dodecahedron was almost shattered when neuroses kicked into overdrive causing a 12 train derailment. Distress calls were dispatched electronically at various points throughout the day.

There were no casualties; however the resulting shock waves reverberating against the walls of the dodecahedron caused momentary episodes of heart palpitations, shortness of breath, extreme lack of focus and overall, general numbness. A thorough investigation into the root cause and preventative measures began immediately, taking priority over the demands of the intended train of thoughts.

A general sense of calm spread throughout the dodecahedron when orders arrived from the voice of reason to simply BREATHE!”

The start of our repeat of week two felt good. Both Wanda and I were looking forward to getting together for our run. Our dedication was proven on day two as we headed out on the trail in the cold, wind and rain. Gliding along with the gracefulness of Newton’s Cradle (hey, the parts all move gracefully…they just bounce off each other a little bit), skittering the bright orange slugs populating the path, Wanda and I celebrated our dedication. We are in it for the long haul! This is something we will accomplish! We are goddesses!! You know the typical celebratory candor. And then the inevitable happened.

I read through the entire program.

Now I had claimed to have read the program prior to starting it. Truth be told, I had merely glanced at it while trying to accomplish two other tasks simultaneously. So here I was, feeling confident and excited about what we were accomplishing when my own curiosity sabotaged me. I needed to read the details; to mentally prepare for the coming weeks. Hidden within the details was a very deep-seeded, thought provoking question:

In what universe does doubling something translate into a gradual build-up?

Week two’s addition of thirty seconds brought the jogging time up to a minute and a half. Week three dictates that we double those efforts to three minute intervals. Double!! What the hell?!?!

This is the point where derailments began to happen. Thoughts began tripping over themselves vying for precedence and focus. Past failures haunted me, partnership accountability taunted me and potential bodily inadequacies flaunted at me. This very powerful onslaught produced one prominent exclamation:

Panic, I am your bitch!

Being the giving person that I am, I decided to share my panic with Wanda. Three frenzied emails later I decided to stop bombarding her. She wasn’t even going to see them until later that evening anyways. So, in an attempt to calm myself I tapped into my inner mantra, “knowledge is power.” Not an original mantra, mind you, but one that I truly believe.

Step one was to organize the data into something that my brain will process easier. So, I created a chart. I put in the program data that was pertinent to us and removed the rest. I added missing information, like total times. Finally, I made it pretty because my brain likes pretty things and you need to do what works for you. Done! Emailed to Wanda (this was email number two – the first being the panicked ranting of a mad woman).

Step two was to research (knowledge is power; knowledge is power, knowledge is power…). I flipped over to the internet and started my search: learn to run tutorials, running techniques, mechanics of running, preventing and / or dealing with shin splints, the biology of a shin splint. Done! Email emailed several links to Wanda (this would be email number three).

Finally, later in the evening, a subtle chime carried the voice of reason through the haze of panic; a simple, but poignant text from Wanda which commanded, “Kim, BREATHE!”

And I did.

Positive energy in…the dodecahedron remains in tack. Negative energy out… the trains were slowly righted onto their tracks. The overall sense of panic has diminished into cautious hesitation. And this runner is going to continue to chug along…

(Missed the first few posts in this series? Wondering where the hell the dodecahedron reference comes from? Read the rest of the series below!)
Guest Post – To Be a Runner, Part One
Guest Post – To Be a Runner, Part Two
Guest Post – To Be a Runner, Part Three

To Be a Runner, Part Three

Note: the following post is from Kim, who is an eager new runner. She’s agreed to share the story of her running journey with us. I hope you enjoy it. Have your own story to share? Send it to me via email and I’ll share your story with the world! -Chris

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” -Tennesee Williams

Thirty seconds is a full blown road trip!!!

Week two seemed harmless enough. We were instructed to add 30 seconds on to the jog time bringing it up to 90 seconds. My mind accepted that as a nice, slow progression. A slower progression than the last learn-to-run program I had attempted. This seemed doable.

Yes, I had deluded myself into a false sense of security.

In the context of fun, thirty seconds is a blur. In the context of life, thirty seconds is a sigh; a wink. In the context of exercise, however, thirty seconds is an agonizing wait. Each second counted down feels like a full minute of self inflicted torture.

And there I am, jogging that mandated extra thirty seconds. My legs feel heavy; my breath starts to become laboured and my thoughts turn against me! Geez woman, it’s only thirty seconds! Are you really that wimpy? Are you really that out of shape?

“Whew! Thirty seconds really make a difference!”

Aw Wanda! My friend, my running partner, my support – thank God you said that! Knowing that I’m not alone in this thirty second revelation permits me to stop berating myself – and to vocalize. Those extra thirty seconds seem to increase their pace when you are allowed to bitch about them.

Together, we drive through to the end; a total of three additional minutes of jog time are now objects in the rear view mirror. With a celebratory high five (yes, I am an ‘80s child) we feel good. We are happy with ourselves and are confident that we can complete this program!

And then, as is the norm, a train switches tracks. A flashback of my previous attempt to run strikes a blow to my confidence. Memories of the pain in my shins caution me. So, at the risk of holding my partner back; wasting her time, I breathe a deep, internal sigh and request a thirty second time loop. Much to my delight, Wanda is agreeable and my confidence is once again boosted. I can complete this program – one thirty second interval at a time.

As we shape this program to our needs; making it our own, week two will repeat into week three and our thirty second road trip continues…

To Be A Runner, Part Two

Note: the following post is from Kim, who is an eager new runner. She’s agreed to share the story of her running journey with us. I hope you enjoy it. Have your own story to share? Send it to me via email and I’ll share your story with the world! -Chris

My mind is a dodecahedron housing a railroad terminal; an intricate system shunting no less than twelve trains of thought at any given time. Each thought a freight train with multiple engines and double-stacked cars. Normally a smooth running, deliberate process, shunting can sometimes misalign causing a massive train wreck.

In short, I’m a processor; combing through every detail and weighing every option prior to making a decision. It’s a slow deliberation, painful to those awaiting my answer or response (mostly felt by my husband, but thankfully he’s grown accustomed to waiting for me). I am far from being a spontaneous, spur of the moment type girl. So, when day one of the first week of the running program was upon me I experienced a momentary derailment.

“What have I gotten myself into?!”

“Why have I set myself up for yet another failure?!”

“What if I hold my partner back from achieving her goals?!”

“Why didn’t I think this through?”

And there it was, at the bottom of a barrage of questions – the thought process. Being in the moment, that fateful day; caught up in the excitement of my friends’ accomplishments I had pounced on the idea of partnering up with my friend to start this running program. An uncharacteristic moment had brought me to this instance of absolute dread. As I tied my sneakers preparing to meet up with my running partner, Wanda, the shunting continued: “I had already tried something similar and failed.” “I don’t want to do this.”

“Whoa! That can’t be true.” I berate myself through internal dialogue (part of the twelve train journey). “After all, I had agreed to do this and I had opportunity to opt out. Besides,” the internal dialogue continued, “You made a commitment and you are accountable to her.”

Once all trains were back on track, I met up with Wanda and my trepidation was lifted by her positivity and enthusiasm. Joking about what we lack (coordination, gracefulness, stamina and air) we head out on our journey. Jog one minute and walk for two. We survived that one unscathed; we simply had to do it five more times. Jog one, walk two; jog one, walk two. Before we knew it, we were done, we were happy and we were scheduling Day 2!

Upon completion of Week 1 I felt good. I was still able to walk (always a bonus) and the exercise was relaxing. It dawned on me that my uncharacteristic moment of spontaneity was a good thing and perhaps I should try it more often. Ah, but those twelve trains consistently chug along and the realization that it wasn’t an impulse decision was formed. I had merely recognized an opportunity to accomplish something based on two years of research, attempts and desire. Sigh!

Slightly deflated that I’m not becoming an “in-the-moment” type girl, I once again switch tracks to be proud of my accomplishments for the week, happy to have someone to be accountable to and share the experience with and a little bit apprehensive about Week two (Yikes!!!).

No worries, the commitment is there. I, my running partner and all twelve of my trains will chug along into Week Two…

Guest Post – To Be a Runner, Part One

Note: the following post is from Kim, who is an eager new runner. She’s agreed to share the story of her running journey with us. I hope you enjoy it. Have your own story to share? Send it to me via email and I’ll share your story with the world! -Chris

I’ve embarked upon a journey to become a runner. Not that I have aspirations to be one, mind you – no dreams of crossing a finish line or completing a marathon. Oh no, I am merely on a mission to quiet my mind!

Let me explain. As a teenager I used dance as a stress release. Every day I would lock myself in my bedroom, closing the door on the outside world. The music would play loud enough to drown out the sounds of reality and I would move unabashed to the rhythms. My mood would dictate the choice of music and the aggressiveness of the movement. And I’d dance! Some days, when necessary, I would dance until I collapsed onto the floor, gasping for air with my heart thundering in my ears – and I felt relieved and calm.
Continue reading “Guest Post – To Be a Runner, Part One”