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I have a love/hate relationship with running.
In addition to time in the weight room, I had to run as a part of summer training for cheerleading each year in high school.
I’d run in the morning on my own and then at nightly practices three evenings a week before try-outs. As a result, I definitely had plenty of endurance, but I was never fast.
Throughout the season, we’d run several miles a day; the combo of weights and running helped my teammates and I stay strong and fit.
And I grew to crave the high I’d get after a good run. Somehow, running (which I loathed) became a bit of an addiction that lent itself to joining the track team each spring.
Though cheering was always my priority (we competed, and were respected as a sport at my school), I was equally committed to the track team. The 800 was my race of choice for some reason, and I came in dead last every single race I ran.
Yup, you heard me, dead last.
But it didn’t matter; I loved the idea of challenging myself and had lots of friends and teammates cheering me on and it was fun to me, even though I wasn’t any good. I just loved being part of a team.
Back then I was very fit, but given my endurance strength vs. speed, I’d have been much better suited at a longer distance race. I just never gave it a shot.
Then in college, I went through a very bad break-up freshman year that tore me to shreds and left me afraid to ever love again.
Running became my source of salvation, my escape. Just me and my thoughts. Running was therapeutic, cathartic. It made me feel alive. When I ran, I wasn’t worried about anything but the road ahead. No body image issues, nothing.
Running made sense, too. I didn’t like my university gym, and felt much more at home running the streets of DC’s upper-northwest corridor … traipsing through Spring Valley and along Mass. Ave., Nebraska Ave., and Wisconsin Ave.
Along those beautiful tree-lined streets over the next three years, my heart began to heal. I didn’t run compulsively or obsessively; just when I felt like it, which was probably a few days a week.
Then senior year I met my now-husband and life just got insane with juggling our nascent relationship, friends, school, and an internship.
Running was put on the back-burner, and ever since, in spite of working out on a daily basis, I only run on occasion–usually when I can’t get to a gym or am traveling. (Running is one of my favorite ways to explore a city).
Sometimes I’m inspired to just zone out and go for a solo run; sometimes my husband and I go for a run together on the bike path behind our house. But running is no longer part of my regular routine, and with winter about to hit Michigan, it’s not likely going to be one any time soon.
That said, I will make an effort to do it when time/weather permits. This past weekend while home in New Jersey, I ran three mornings and it felt absolutely incredible.
Each time I set out, my muscles felt stronger than the day before, and I could feel my body just giving into the movement I crave. I could literally feel my hip flexors open, my quads loosen. I found my stride, and conquered huge hills that I don’t have in my neighborhood here in Michigan.
The truth is, running doesn’t come easily to me, and that’s probably why I love and loathe it at the same time. I love the challenge, love to push myself.
But I’ve shoved it so easily aside over the years because sometimes I just don’t want to work hard, and prefer to sweat it out on the Precor with arms for an hour — even though I know running is a better overall workout for me.
Fortunately, I’m going to be in Chicago for the next few days for a work event, and there’s nothing I love more in that city than a sunrise run along Michigan Ave. and then out to Lakeshore Drive.
So if you see a girl running with the wind at her back and a smile on her face, it could very well be me.
How about you? Are you a runner? Does it come naturally to you?