Running is much more than going fast and being fit. It is a release, both physical and mental. A time to get away and work out the kinks of being in a manual labor job. A chance to enjoy movement and the sun instead of artificial lighting and being constrained to a small area. It may be an addiction, but I can quit anytime I want. To lose this freedom is hard to cope with at times and can actually make life a bit more stressful.
Before I had two jobs, it was rarely a hurdle to running. Working four ten-hour shifts allowed three days to get in any duration of workout I felt I needed. Four in the afternoon is definitely early enough to get home before starting a run. The only issue is in the heat of the summer. Some people can run in any temperature, but in these heat waves, I am limited to five or fewer miles or must take the day off. Currently, the days where I work 5:30 am to 10 pm are definitely not days when I can get a run in. I only do that twice a week at the most. The end is in sight, as I only have a couple more weeks of two jobs, then can focus on getting back on the track, as my speed has dropped off this year.
With my first child, it was relatively easy to continue running. She was in the jogging stroller by the time she was a couple of months old. Runs always became naptime for her, until she was old enough to jeer me on, chanting ‘faster, faster’ whenever I was going too slow for her tastes. When she got a certain size, it was no longer an option, as my habit of running to the side of the stroller instead of behind it so I could maintain stride, was causing me to twist my torso. Then I would take her to the park so she could play while I did intervals. She is seven now, and has biked on a few of my runs and can also time my intervals. We have also done a few ‘races’, staggering the distances to make it fun. With all three of them, my fiancée and I have to either find a sitter (which can be a bit difficult on weekend mornings), or tag team, taking turns. Their events or schedules can also throw a kink into running plans. I have discovered that when possible, the best time to run is first thing in the morning while everyone is barely waking up or still asleep.
Occurring with less frequency than in the past, an internal factor that could limit my plans is hunger. Possessing a finicky stomach in regards to running, it is my habit to run with very little fuel. On work days, my food consumption stops before one, about four hours before the workout. This can be a tricky proposition, because if lunch is light enough, or work strenuous enough, I could be hungry before the bell even goes off. I will run with mild hunger, but neither long nor fast. With an actively grumbling stomach, the run must be postponed or cancelled, as I still am prone to ‘bonking’, running completely out of fuel with disastrous results. I am lucky that my fiancée is very good at cooking nutritious meals and ensuring I eat well because this is a less frequent occurrence due to her. I have gained eight pounds and feel a lot stronger in the long runs due to my improved diet.
Fatigue is the other internal factor, personally related to sleep more than physical exhaustion in my case. Rarely am I too sleepy to run, but it does happen that a strenuous run is downgraded to a relaxed run because of it. Being sleepy usually becomes a factor around Wednesday or Thursday, the end of my work week. It is funny that I have been getting up at 4:45 for over a year but still can have a problem waking up. Only once or twice a year do I feel sore, usually after a relay or hilly half marathon that I run hard.
I honestly think that most of my good performances this past six months were due more to guts and obstinacy than physical fitness. Even though I have lacked the time and ability to train in the fashion I am used to, I refuse to race at a pace I deem unsatisfactory. Losing the freedom and ability to spend that time training has made me value it that much more and I find myself making promises and plans to come back even stronger. These setbacks are temporary, and will not define my career. Life intervenes, but running has been a staple in my life for eighteen years and I won’t give it up easily.