Once Upon a Time I Was a Fast Running Chick

Pepper

Pepper

Pepper has written 97 posts on Salty Running.

I'm an environmental consultant 9-5 with a passion for running and it's many facets including marathons, pacing, ultras and more. Chronic left side issues have me cycling more than running these days but I still think fondly of my efforts to be sub elite a few years ago. Life is never boring and I trend toward the more outrageous in and outside of running. Who says you can't be a serious runner and ridiculous at the same time?

Fast Running Chick or Turkey? you decide ;)

Fast Running Chick or Turkey? you decide ;)

Once upon a time I was a fast running chick. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago I was 38th overall female at the Boston marathon. It’s hard to believe that in 2011 I ran a 2:52 marathon on less than ideal training with a bum foot and calf. It feels like I am worlds away from that stars-aligned moment in 2010 when I ran 2:49:53 and came in 2nd place at a large marathon. Where on earth is that runner chick now?

I’ve often thought about what running will be once there aren’t PRs to chase anymore. I run with a lot of masters, and for some it seems they just keep running, but there’s no passion it it anymore. For some it seems like the equivalent of taking a daily vitamin or watching the news. You always did it, so you keep doing it. Some don’t even lace up to race anymore. The runs are often accompanied by tales of the “good old days” and the many times they chased after that goal time that they just never reached. It has always struck me as sad. And I was very scared of becoming that runner, and even thought that by taking my running to the level I had, I was doomed to become that runner. Reach for the stars, and well, eventually you have to come back to the ground.

Depressing right?

If you had told me a year ago I would be cycling more than running, and actually enjoying it, I would have told you that you were nuts. Nothing was going to keep me from climbing back up to those stars. But for whatever reason, right now, the wannabe elite runner is in the background. She’s in there somewhere for sure, I saw glimpses of her at a duathlon a few weeks ago. She certainly was there when I paced a friend at a 10 miler a few weeks after (otherwise given my training there’s no way I would have kept up the pace!). It seems you can’t take the racing runner out of me so easily, despite the lack of training. But for now the racing runner is content to sit in the background. Content to let goals sit on the shelf for awhile. Content to ponder running in a different light.

I feel no need to join my old lunch run crew just because it is what I always did. On the rare occasion that I do join now, it’s because I miss the route, or the friends, or need to escape the office and feel the sun. It isn’t to meet some target mileage, but just because I want to. Odd how those runs don’t seem so soul-sucking now as they did before.

I’m not sure what my running future holds: visions of triathlons, duathlons, ultras, and even another go at the marathon OTQ all dance in my head. But other goals are moving to the forefront: becoming a mother; golfing with loved ones; cycling across the country; hiking the Appalachian trail; picking the saxophone back up; going to concerts; and trying out mountain biking. Whatever my future holds, it’s nice to know that right here right now, I don’t look back with regrets on the running I have done, and I still enjoy running, just for the sake of it. But once upon a time I was a fast running chick. Perhaps I will be again.

13 Responses to “Once Upon a Time I Was a Fast Running Chick”

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  1. Amanda says:

    This is a really great perspective to share. I’m working towards elite level times but I’ve never really thought about what it would mean once I reach the best I can do. Luckily I’ve got a long way to go but it’s definitely something to think about.

    • Pepper Pepper says:

      Thanks Amanda. I do think there is something to reaching a higher level of running gradually over time. I feel like I skipped over a level and maybe that is what led to my burn out.

  2. Cinnamon Cinnamon says:

    Does it have to be all nor nothing? Can’t running fast and an OTQ happen even if you’re doing all that other stuff you want to do?

    • Pepper Pepper says:

      Let’s put it this way, for me, to reach the level of running I did, I did it to the exclusion of everything else in my life. I, personally, do not know how to reach that level while balancing a healthy relationship, working 40 hours a week at a desk job, and having other social and athletic aspirations. Could it be done, perhaps. But for someone like me that struggles with moderation, I think it will be tough :) Won’t stop be from likely trying, but my guess is, that I will never reach my highest potential in running, unless running is my #1 priority.

  3. Vanilla says:

    This post comes very timely for me. I don’t have the times you do, but I was faster a few years ago. I have struggled in recent years to get back and even get faster…injuries, triathlon, bummy races and just burn out set in. Like you, I still have visions of breaking those prs, but now, I seem to be more focused on ironman. I struggle at times, but then again, I don’t want to stress out about times and not enjoy it. Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing!

    • Pepper Pepper says:

      I definitely don’t feel alone in my current position. I know several past dominant female runners who have either moved on to different sports, or motherhood etc. They still go out and rock a 5k occasionally, but haven’t gotten back to serious running. I’m sure you will rock out the Ironman! Not sure I am ready for all that yet, but I do think a few triathlons might be on dock this summer :)

  4. 38th overall at Boston? Most of us could only dream. I’m picking up on my weight work &swimming skills while a knee continues to rehab and while I miss the running my body seems to like the change.
    Perhaps your new attitude is an unconscious way for your body to tell you to back off a bit so that you can come back to elite running even stronger.

    • Morley Davidson says:

      I’m a 70 year old master’s runner who ran a PB of 2:35.53 at Boston in 1981. I still have the same passion for running/training that I did in my early years, just being competitive in my age group is enough motivation for me to “just do it” and enjoy the running experience! There is nothing to compare with the feeling of well being and fitness that I receive from running – cycling and swimming are great cross training activities – they just don’t give me the same satisfaction or results.

    • Pepper Pepper says:

      You may be right Mary Lou, in the past I haven’t been very good at “listening” to general wear out on my body. So perhaps the mental is reflecting the physical these days!

  5. Cathryn says:

    I have never been fast, but I do find I l alternate between obsessions with running and cycling over long periods of time. And I like it that way. More kit to buy :) But you’re right, it keeps things fresh. I am a great believer that there are ‘seasons’ in our lives for things. Seasons for running, seasons for cycling, seasons for something else. Let’s just enjoy those seasons whilst we can.

    • Pepper Pepper says:

      Thanks Cathryn, most days I am a bit in disbelief that I am in a season of cycling. I NEVER would have predicted I would enjoy it as much as I am. In the past it has been more of a novelty, so for me to actually choose to bike over run these days is a mystery to me :) At least I’m not choosing the couch over the bike (most days!)

  6. Marcus DC says:

    Hey Elizabeth, I’ve been following your website quite a long time and enjoyed your posts. I was really impressed to watch how you improved your running and even managed a sub 2:50h marathon!
    I never was that good, but also had pb over 10k 35:20min and a 2:56h marathon. That was back in the late ninetees. Nowadys i am still running an get a 40+ over 10k. That’s allright. I’m working 9 hours a day and do my sports (triathlon) just to relax and stay in touch with nature. It’s ok to become slower with the ages – and the runner still is in there occasionally – as you wrote. Keep up your running and stay healthy! Marcus from germany

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