Run from your problems?

Last Monday I ran three miles.  In a row.  And then Wednesday, I did it again.  And again.  If you know me in real life, you're probably double checking the url, certain you've wandered into something from  (that url is still available, people.)  Really, I'm almost as surprised as you are.  I do not like running, I don't aspire to run, I don't run.  Running really interferes with my laziness.  It's just so long and requires so much movement.  Running is hard, and I don't need anymore hard in my life thankyouverymuch.

Except.  Except my husband loves to compete.  And he loves challenge courses and 5K races and triathlons and running uphill in sand dunes.  So at the beginning of the year, as I was thinking through my goals for this 2012 year, I wrote down: Do 5K race, maybe as a family.  This year, more than many others, found me wanting deep, lasting change in my life.  I was on a slow slide, losing ground against depression, feeling heavier every day and living without joy.  I craved real change.  Something I could point to and say, "at this point right here, I started to change and my story was bigger because of it."  I also knew that these three babies I have carried are super cute, but they have not left cuteness behind.  Exercise was needed.  And lastly, my husband would be thrilled to actually do a race with me after 10 years of me saying, "no freaking way."

Because goals are just goals without action, I researched and put all the local 5K races I could find on my calendar.  And then I was pretty proud of myself, and exhausted by the thought of all the running potential in my schedule, so I took a little break and sort of. . . forgot about the whole thing.  It's kind of like being on Pinterest and pinning a bunch of motivational quotes about organization, and then patting myself on the back for making progress towards my organizational goals.  No, not exactly time wasted.  I like to think of it as "laying the groundwork."

March rolled around and I saw a Groupon for the entry fee for The Dirty Dash, and suddenly I was actually signed up for a 5K race.  I could not even run a mile at that point, but July was really far off, so I figured I'd have time to figure it out.  And with the obstacles and the mud, how much running could there really be?  And again, I was pretty proud of myself: look how brave I am, signing up for this crazy race!  I took another little break from all that thinking about running, and had a couple of chocolate bars to help build up my strength.

April came, and I was a crazy person my mental health had declined.  Ha.  I'm sitting here with the cursor blinking at me, trying to figure out how to describe that month, in light of my plan to be all authentic and real and stuff.  I think that's too much story for this post right now, so it will suffice to say, I was not well.  I was not happy, I was not able to cope with the daily stresses of being a mom of young children.  At that time I started going to the PPD support group I mentioned recently, and we started with discussing basic self care. Surely we've all heard that exercise helps tremendously with all facets of wellness, and mood disorders are no exception.  During this discussion of the necessity of regular exercise, I counted the weeks until The Dirty Dash, and realized I needed to get myself in gear if I had any hope of not being carried off on a stretcher.  I could see the headline: "Albany woman leaves behind three children and embarrassed husband when she dies after running 15 steps in a 5K race."

Anyway, short story loooong, I finally started running in April, using the Podrunner Interval Series to help me increase my running strength and give me something to listen to other than my desperate panting and stumbling.  (The podcasts go along with the Couch to 5K running program, both of which I highly recommend.  The original Couch to 5K program takes about 10 weeks, but if you are really starting from your couch and Design on a Dime reruns, you might want to give yourself more than 10 weeks so you can repeat a week if you get stuck and want to chuck the whole thing.)

It was not pretty.  I literally could barely run for 60 seconds.  My curious and slightly skeptical husband would ask me each time how it went.  After about six weeks, I started to smile.  Then I got really stuck, and suddenly couldn't run more than a few minutes again.  I turned to my dear old friend Google: "how to not suck at running."  I watched You-tube videos and read blogs and thought about my stride.  Seriously, how did people learn about things before the internet?  All this research helped me get my head in the game for real, and also made me realize how much my mental state was affecting my running.  The week I was stuck on had a 20 minute run at the end of it, and I had only staggered through jogged confidently 10 minutes so far.  Apparently it's hard to make progress when you have this running through your head: "Oh, my calves are burning.  Maybe I have weak Achilles' tendons.  Oh my lungs are about to burst.  I wonder if I should stop. . .what if something snaps in my leg and recoils up inside my thigh and they have to use scary medical tongs to. . ."  You get the picture.  So I started talking nicely to myself, which seemed to work out a lot better.  I came in after the next run and told my husband I nailed it.  And he says to me, "You think you can't do these things that seem hard, and then you go do them and they turn out to be nothing."

Well, not exactly nothing, but I see his point.

And. . .I can now run a 5K.  My face is a scary color when I'm done, but I can do it!  (The term "rosy flush" has no place here.  If Benjamin Moore named a paint color after my face, it would be "blazing inferno" and people would get singed just picking up the paint chip.)  In two days (or one, depending on how many times the kids interrupt me before I can get this posted) I will run my first 5K since high school, my sweet and devoted husband leaving me in the dust running helpfully beside me.

I have given you this lengthy explanation of my running journey because it definitely was part of my recovery (let's assume I'm recovered for now, mmmkay?).  Here are the lessons I found in making running a part of my life.  (I am posting this BEFORE I run that 5K in case I die from over-exposure to mud, and also because the point is not the race, the point is the journey, yes?)  As I said in another post, no earth-shattering breakthroughs here, but things that might be helpful to someone else and apply to things far beyond just running.

1) Doing hard things may make you stronger, but it definitely makes you more confident.  I needed to conquer something, to feel like something in my life was within my grasp.  When getting out of bed seems like a battle you don't even want to fight, getting positive control over one little thing gets you moving forward.  Double points if it's something like exercise that makes you proud you did it, and physically makes you feel better as well.

2) When you get stuck, give yourself a do-over.  Who says I have to do that Couch-to-5K program in 10 weeks?  I am running, for pete's sake! (poor pete).  Progress is being made.  Let that be enough, and keep pressing on.

3) Some is better than none.  There were days I didn't want to run at all because I felt I wouldn't be able to complete my interval schedule.  But I would go and try, and be pleasantly surprised at the result, which was always better staying home and feeling guilty that I skipped a workout.

4) If you're tired, you might not need to stop, you just need to slow down.  See #3.

5) Tell people when you have a goal.  Find a supportive friend or two and tell them what you are trying to accomplish.  You'd be surprised how much people want to root for you.  (Ignore the Debbie downers.)  Crossing the line between goal and action is huge, and you might find that you've already become an inspiration to someone else just by getting started.

6) Believe that you can.  Self talk is powerful, much more so than we usually acknowledge.

7) Comparisons are usually not helpful.  One time I was running and just about ready to quit and walk.  I passed a girl running fast the other way, and I indulged in a moment of self-pity for my slow, wimpy, wild-fire-red-faced self.  I made it to the end of the interval a few seconds later, and realized I actually was meeting my goals.  I looked over my shoulder and saw Miss Speedy-Pants behind me.  She was walking!  We only see a snapshot of other people's lives and it's ridiculous - and dangerous to our goals - to compare that tiny glimpse to ourselves.

8)  Sometimes look back.  There are people who say "never look back," but I don't think that's always sound advice.  For example, if a bear was chasing you, I think you'd want to look back every now and then to see if he was gaining on you.  Situations like that really demand adrenaline, and I'd think glancing into a set of sharp, drooly bear teeth would give you that extra little burst to make it to safety.  If I hadn't looked back to see where the fast girl was, I wouldn't have seen her walking and realized how silly I was being.  Also looking back can remind you just how far you've come when that mailbox you were planning to run to just won't get any closer.

So now I'm a runner, I guess.  The other day Grant asked me if I wanted to do a P90X workout with him, and I replied that I thought I'd feel better if I went for a long run instead.
He laughed and shook his head, saying, "I never thought I'd hear those words come out of your mouth."


  1. I'm very proud of you!!! Congratulations and good luck!!! Love you!

  2. You go girl! I look forward to hearing about the dash! :o) As always enjoyed your words!

  3. Thanks so much girls. Great race, so much fun. More photos and details to come.

  4. Super awesome! I am so glad you found a good ppd support group. You are right, too many of us mommies just don't talk about it and suffer in silence. Here's to the next 5K! I'm training for a half in November (hah, we'll see how that goes. There will be walking involved...) *hugs*

  5. You are so inspiring and amazing and impressive...and I could keep going but you are like one step away from reaching Jesus status in my eyes. So proud of you.


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