Finding My Footing

Is this thing on? It’s been a minute since I’ve blogged. Er, actually, about five years. If you remember me from before: congrats! You are a true Salty Running devotee. If you don’t, that’s okay. My MO was pretty straightforward, maybe even trite: qualify for Boston, but ya know, keep it balanced. I felt like I had a good perspective.

Running is only a part of my life, not my whole life, she wrote, presciently.

Even after I left the Salty-verse, again and again, Boston was my goal. If you don’t do that, at least PR. If you don’t do that, why show up? I shaved some time off my 26.2 mile journeys. I teetered on the right side of overtraining. It was working.

Balance is a funny thing.

And then it wasn’t. First I bonked a race, hard, then I dropped out of another due to heat and a cranky hip. I didn’t even start another. I did run the Flying Pig Marathon in Spring ‘16, but DNFed again that fall, and then again last spring. If you are keeping track, that would be a DNS and three DNFs. That last one really stung because I felt like it would be a big one. I had hired a coach and was nailing my workouts. I wasn’t going to qualify, but I had a solid time in me.

Sometimes running is just a thing, and sometimes it seems like the only thing.

What was going on with me? The truth is, I had crossed over to the wrong side of the edge and a lot of things in my life were going wrong. People had cancer. My dog was really sick and we weren’t sure why. My career was a mess. Why couldn’t running be what went right?

Sometimes, you don’t realize that running has become your only thing.

Last spring, everything changed. I got a new job. Actually, The Job. Pretty darn close to my dream job, only there are neither puppies nor free ice cream. Slowly, and then all at once, something shifted in how I thought of running.

Just a few weeks into the job, I decided to downgrade my fall marathon to a half. Life needed to come first. This was a big career change for me, and I wanted to be sure to get it right from the outset. That meant passing on the stress and struggle of marathon training while I got settled; I didn’t want to ever say no to an opportunity because of a run.

A few weeks after that, I was t-boned while driving home. I was mostly okay – just some cuts and bruises – but my car was not. After taking ten days off and still feeling pretty shaken, my goals for my annual Fourth of July 10K were completely different. Nothing like your car doing a 180 to change the way you look at things. It was my slowest 10K ever, but who cares?

Throughout the summer and into the fall, I kept missing runs after having to move them around several times. Before, going for a run was a top priority because it provided stress relief, an escape, a bright spot in my days coping with a job I had outgrown, among other Big Problems. But now I don’t ever want my job to be the thing to give.

Finding balance takes practice.

What I envisioned as a fast fall half turned into an easy run alongside a dear friend, our only goal to run the whole way and to spend a fun weekend together. Check and check! I felt spent after and pulled out of the half I’d planned a few weeks later. I needed a break. I wanted running to be fun and not a to-do list item.

Y’all, I needed to hit reset on my relationship with running.

Finding balance takes practice.

So I ran when I wanted to and slept in if I wanted to. I went to cat yoga (twice, actually!) and also normal human yoga. I listened to what my body wanted. Then, one day, as they do, a Facebook memory sparked something in me when it popped up. It was a photo from the 2012 Monumental Marathon.

And I’ll admit, my first thought was how good I looked. But what really hooked me was how happy and fit I seemed. I remembered the race and how so many things had gone wrong, from missed connections to a dead iPod to hail (HAIL!), and how I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Eh, I’ve got this.” And I did. I was well trained but not overly so. I wanted a certain time, but it wasn’t the end of the world when I didn’t get it. It was the last race I could remember that seemed like I’d had it truly right, and I wanted that again.

I’ve struggled to explain this to some people, because I had PRs after that. As if they want me to put a clock time to this easy way of being that I’m after. But I can’t, because there isn’t one. It isn’t about time.

It’s about attitude. It’s about balance.

So that’s the story of how, in the past year, I have reclaimed my time and redefined my relationship with running. And really, truly made balance A Thing I Do. I’m not just paying it lip service or doing it just enough to come back from injury. Balance is now firmly ensconced in my being. I go to yoga 1-2 times a week. I row 1,000 meters and track my progress. I lift weights. I have some races on the calendar, but I’m keeping it wide angle and making a long slow build.

I can’t prescribe a formula for how to get there. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the path I took.

It’s easy to say you want balance when you have it, but you don’t really appreciate it until you’ve been knocked off kilter.

Finding balance takes practice. It is my practice to find it.

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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