Running Lessons

Lady Dare and I finished another Shamrock race today! This is our third annual Virginia Beach St. Paddy’s Day Pilgrimage. We started this ladies’ weekend thing a few years ago. I was interested in running a half marathon and so was Lady Dare. We decided to up the ante with a semi-destination race, and thus our yearly trip to Virginia Beach to run too far began.

We ran the half our first year, the full last year, and dropped back down to the half again this year. We like Shamrock because it’s a well-organzed event with a whole lot of swag: Irish stew and Yuengling at the finish, a race shirt, a hat, a medal, and usually another goodie at the end. This year was the 40th Shamrock and we got hoodies! The weather is  cool enough for comfortable running and warm enough for sitting on the beach with your beer after.

I was very happy with my result: less than 2 minutes off of my half marathon personal best. I’m also very happy because I barely trained for this race. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but work has been so busy, winter is dark, and I’m so lazy. The longest run I did before racing was 5 miles. I do not advocate this method of racing. I’m going to be a lot more sore than I would be if I’d trained properly. My right foot is really hurting. As satisfying as my race was, I was not smart about it. I would never take this approach to a full marathon.

But while I was running, I was thinking a lot about how I trained and how it’s possible to just go out and run 13.1 miles without much preparation. Experience is part of it. I’ve run two marathons, a half before this one, and plenty of shorter races. I don’t get nearly as nervous as I used to about longer distances. I’m still anxious, but I have a much better sense of what to expect from the experience (and long races are a lot of experiencing!). At some point, I learned my body has a pace it can maintain (not a very fast one) for a pretty long time. I only found this pace recently and it was only when I found it that I realized how much I wanted that pace. Let me explain.

I struggled for a long time to make myself a runner. It’s something I enjoy, but starting out, I never would have said “I’m a runner.” I would say “I run.” The reason is that I always got tired so quickly and needed to walk. Or I thought walking during a run meant I wasn’t in shape, or that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough, or, or, or… Then, sometime last year, things just fell into place. I think it happened while I was training for the Shamrock marathon, but I didn’t realize it until I started “training” (i.e. running a couple of times a week with Margot and not very far) for this year’s race. I could just, go. I still stop and walk every so often, but the whole running experience just feels better. It’s not effortless, but it’s a lot less stressful. I love that. And it’s what let me line up at the start this morning, confident I could finish this race.

I did something new this morning too, while I was running. Lady Dare told me a couple of years ago that she uses long races to think about the people she loves and carry them in her heart. I can’t remember if she said she does this to music, but I used songs to try the same thing. I made a playlist for the race and with each new song, I’d think about someone I love for the duration of the song. Here’s a sample:

  • “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver and “Let Her Dance” by the Bobby Fuller Four – Himself. They’re songs we dance to.
  • “Deep Red Bells” by Neko Case and “I’m On a Boat” by The Lonely Island – Lady Dare (Posseeiiiiiiiiiidon!)
  • “Another State Line” by Abi Tapia – my Mum, because we moved around a lot growing up.
  • “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars – my sister because she’s in Austin and gets to go to Barton Springs (not all the links are super deep and meaningful, ok?)
  • “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley – Fosterfamily! I can just imagine them dancing to that one.
  • “Rosette” by Le Vent du Nord – The O’Ferrelys, who first lived together in Montreal.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture and I already feel sappy enough. The point is that this exercise helped pass the mileage and was a nice way to reflect on the people in my life and how lucky I am to have them all. I realize this post has a lot of run-induced navel-gazing, so maybe it should also serve as a warning of dangers of running?

On that note, my sore legs and I are going to bed.

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