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After giving my Achilles almost a full two weeks off, I started running again today.
It was a good run – a nice 8:20 pace, which was not too fast, not too slow. I felt strong and did four miles.
I had missed running, but not the running I have done most recently – chore-running.
I missed the way I used to run. When I would look forward to each run all day, when I would get up at 4:30 a.m. to run just because it felt so good. I knew I had moved away from that, but I was not clear just how much until this two-week break from it.
Life without running has been pretty sweet. I had more energy. I had more time to work, I spent more time with my family. I had (even more) sex than usual.
I worked out, of course. I took some spinning, did some 20-mile bike rides, climbed a lot of stepmills. But I also took four real rest days, days I spent my energy on writing instead of running and sleeping instead of calculating pace and distance.
And even though I was happy to run again yesterday, I am also sad to see that go. I think the burnout of the past few months and the relief of the last two weeks has taught me something: I am not a lifetime marathoner.
There are people who run 20 – 30 marathons, but I don’t think I am one of them.
This is not to say I am not a runner. Give me a half-marathon or a 10-miler or a 10k any day. I will train and work my bum off to get 1:40 or 1:15 or 45:00, but once I qualify for Boston and run it? That’s it for me.
Oh sure I may change my mind. I may hit 35 or 40 and want to see if I can get another BQ at that age, but I am not interested in making marathoning a way of life.
At my last marathon I met a woman in the elevator. I was nervous and she tried to make me feel better.
“Honey, I have run 80 of these and I just stick to the back of the pack and enjoy it.”
It really envied that. It has been almost a year since I “enjoyed running.”
Instead of the role it used to play in my life – freedom and empowerment – running has become yet another “thing” weighing me down, yet another chore. And sure, it may be easy for some to say, “then relax your standards, don’t stress so much about pace” and they would be right. Except that I can’t. That is not how I roll and it is certainly not how I run.
I may never be able to “chill” enough to not run for my personal best speed, but I can at least relax a bit about what distance I cover at that pace. And let’s face it: I loved running more when my longest race was a 10-miler. The last time I “just enjoyed it” was before I started training last summer.
Training like that takes physical and emotional energy I would rather devote to the other activities that give me pleasure – advancing my career, spending time with my children, enjoying my husband. This is not to say I don’t want to exercise, I just want it to fit into part of my life rather than become it.
The last year of my life has been lost to running and I think part of my burnout has been the feeling that it might never end. I kept calling myself a marathoner and I set myself up for this feeling of internal tread. As in: Dude, I may never be able to climb off this treadmill.
So, I will meet my BQ and then I will run Boston. And then I will stop running marathons. Indefinitely.
I will look for news kinds of races – maybe an ultra marathon (which is a huge time commitment, but a different kind of slow, endurance training), a sub-20 5k, a nice, long trail run and many more half marathons.
But I am hopeful that his fall I will qualify and next spring I will run Boston and that will be my last marathon for a while.
I don’t want to run 20 marathons. But I do want to run. I want to run forever and I want to preserve what I love about it, before it became a chore.
Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.