This monthly column, written by Amy Little, is specifically written with new runners (and/or returning runners) in mind. Amy considers herself somewhat of a newbie, having taken several years off from the sport, and having been back at it, consistently, since December 2011. These columns are simply straight from the heart stories and advice from someone who has been there.
I remember my return to running, like it was yesterday. Clear and cold, in Boise over the Christmas Holiday, 2011. I was already down 20 pounds of the 60 I eventually lost, every remaining pound left on the pavement in a pile of sweat and tears, a salty emotional mess. I laced up my brand new shoes, they were white and baby blue Nike Vomero’s, and they felt like I was running on clouds.
I didn’t own a stitch of dri-fit clothing, nor did I have anything remotely resembling the proper gear for a cold weather run. It was 18 degrees, I didn’t care, and I couldn’t wait to get out the door.
How many times had I started and stopped? I lost count over the years. I never gave it a thought this time. I pushed all the “what if I give up agains” out of my memory. My sole focus was on enjoying the journey.
It had been a long one, at that. Years of on again, off again running. Years of yo-yoing weight loss and gain. 75% of my life had been spent underweight, I was not used to having to fight to stay healthy. But I believe, ultimately, that finding my fight was the key that unlocked the door of the life I was meant to live: active, healthy, and a good example for my children.
My plan, to start, was a combination of a walking warm up to one song on my iPod, and then an easy jog to the next song, then back to a walk. I figured six songs would get me close to 25-30 minutes and my goal was 30.
I stuck to the rhythm: walk, run, walk, run. My lungs were unaccustomed to sucking in frigid temps but I ran anyway, and I smiled the whole time. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20, and in this case perhaps running outdoors in 18 degrees wasn’t the best idea. If I had it to do all over again, I can 100% guarantee you I would still go for a run, regardless of the weather.
It wasn’t long before I ditched the run/walk combination and completed a three mile run, with my friend Cyndie, who would quickly become my Best Running Friend. Running three miles, at the time, seemed impossible, and it seemed so far. That is, until I ran it. Within just a few months I’d run a 5K, and 8K and then ran my first ever relay, the Epic Relay from Beaverton to Eugene.
Three miles became my warm up, my short run, and before long I was adding hill repeats and intervals into my running plan. I started to focus more on speed and gaining mileage, and I lost sight of the reason I started running in the first place: because I simply wanted to, because I found my fight.
It took me awhile to recognize the signs, the giant flashing neon warning sign that screamed: “You’re burning out.”
I’d delay a run, cut it short, or just not go at all. I hadn’t realized that almost two years in to my running journey, I stopped running because I wanted to, and gradually, ever so slightly transitioned to feeling like I had to.
I remember, all too clearly, the day I found my fight again. The day I remembered what it was like to run for the pleasure of it, the simplicity of knowing all I need is a good pair of shoes and a clear road ahead. It was Christmas day, 2013. Almost two years to the day I started running again.
Some folks joked that I went for a run that day to escape the craziness of the day at home, but I didn’t. I ran because I wanted to. I ran because I could. On an uncharacteristically clear, cold and dry December morning, long after the ceremonious gift opening had commenced, I laced up and went for a run.
I dressed for the occasion, this time head to toe in dri-fit, with a hat and gloves made for running. Garmin charged, iPod cued, I stepped outside for a nice, easy solitary run with no mileage plan set, no route mapped.
I remembered, as I ran with no agenda, what it felt like to run because I wanted to. I realized how much I missed just stepping outside to a path unchartered.
I felt the sun kissing my cheeks, I heard the swish of the gravel beneath my feet, I noticed the tall trees on my path, standing still like guardians, looking down on me as I slowly, but surely, with every step of my feet, found my fight again, and remembered what it felt like to run just because I love it.
And, I smiled every step of the way.