"Post Competitive" Running - A whole new journey
A few years ago I wrote about three fundamental lessons that I learned during my competitive running days and while working with great athletes as a coach. I've shared this message at summer camps, running clinics and in other talks I have given. Those three lessons still hold true but as I begin training in earnest for the 2014 Boston Marathon (for more on that see this funny video or this blog), I'm quickly realizing that I have many more lessons to learn.
In the years since I stopped running competitively I have struggled to maintain a healthy training routine, failing to stay motivated. Simply put, I've lost a connection to the activity that once was as intimately a part of my daily life as eating or sleeping. For me, the 2014 Boston Marathon has already presented an entirely new perspective on the sport and entire industry of distance running. I hope to reflect on my motivation and the greater personal purpose of the journey sometime soon. For now, here are three lessons that I've quickly learned in just a few short weeks of routine running:
1. If you want to enjoy running or simply moving in the near future, don't live a sedentary lifestyle for months at a time.
This should be self evident but somehow after a few years away and several "on again, off again" running spurts I managed to forget that I can't expect to be fit without having lifted so much as a foot in the way of running. Enough said.
2. A 34 year old body doesn't recover like a 24 year old body.
Again, this seems pretty common-sensical but I guess it's a lesson that you have to learn firsthand before you can truly appreciate the difference. I have found that some mornings I have to get out of bed gingerly despite only having taken a relaxed 30 minute jog the day before. I'm not sure what happened to the super powers that allowed me to run 15 miles a day, while coaching and finding time for a pick-up basketball game or a host of other activities. I suspect that it won't be easier at 44.
3. Negative temperatures on the thermometer are much easier to deal with when you are fit.
In the years since I stopped training at a serious level I have waxed nostalgically over wintry runs and the accompanying frozen eye-lashes. In 2014 the romance has entirely disappeared from that idea. I haven't decided for sure that the pain that I'm enduring now is really worse because I am less fit. It's also probably fair to say that I'm less motivated than when my next rent check might have depended on the outcome of an up-coming race. Without exactly pin-pointing the cause, I can definitely say that running in sub-zero temperatures has been much more challenging than I remember. On the other hand, I'm proud to say that I haven't missed a day outside and the additional challenge of the weather has provided a worthy opponent to assist in measuring out my true motivation.
I'm sure those three lessons are the first of many more in the coming months. However, the largest thing I have learned in my first month back to dedicated running is no matter the pace or speed there is something simple, natural and downright enjoyable about running hard.