Running, Running…as fast as I can…

do you think we’ll make it… (do you think we’ll make it…?)

October is meant for fall. Which means cooler temps. So why did I run 8 miles in high 80 degree weather, after spending three hours the day before outside where there was no clouds and it was WAY hotter outside? AND I got sunburned? Who gets sunburned in October!? And we aren’t talking like a cute sunburn – we are talking, holy crap call the dermatologist, you are going to die kind of sunburn.

Needless to say – it was awful.

Shortly there after, I had a friend who I am close to ask me if my time bothers me. If the fact that I’m so much slower than my other running friends really hinders my desire to run and if it makes me want to quit. At first I was offended. Was she being critical of my slow pace, in the dead of the middle morning, no clouds and God awful heat? But I thought about it before speaking, and after a bit – I realized that maybe she wasn’t asking to be critical.

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw the start of this there. This is a continuation of that very post. (NOTE: I’ve been working on this post for a week now. Thanks for your patience! 🙂 )

I’ve never been a fast runner. I think the fastest I ever got was before my surgery, while on the topamax where I had zero appetite, and was clocking a regular 10:40 mile while weighing a slender 160 lbs. I was thrilled with that, and was very happy to claim that time as my own. My running friends from work are clocking way faster miles than that, though. Eric is booking a mid 8 minute mile. Both Crystal and Valerie are faster than I am. Earl, who is doing crossfit now as the shirts he wears from time to time say, is faster than I am, and he doesn’t even run consistently. Friends of mine outside of work also run faster than I do right now.

Does that bother me? To be completely honest, I have to admit it does a little. But at the same time, it really really doesn’t.

See each person has their strengths and their weaknesses. Everyone has moments where they thrive and everything just clicks, and everyone has moments where a mile into the run you know it’s going to suck and all you should do instead is just turn around, go home, and go back to bed. It’s part of the world of running, it’s part of the world of fitness, it’s part of the world of life. For me, it breaks down like this:

I can’t stand the heat and humidity. No, really. I actually kind of loathe it. I start sweating instantly, I get dehydrated quickly, and my body temperature rises faster than anyone else I know. And that’s just while being outside and enjoying the sunshine. When we lay out by the pool, I bring an extra towel with me to mop up the sweat that ends up pouring down my face, and if we are going to be outside for any distinct amount of time in the sun I try to wear fitness stuff so I can take advantage of the dry wick. I suck down water like it’s going out of style and don’t pee nearly enough.

Try running in the dead of summer like that. My speed slows dramatically, my breathing gets more labored, I sweat a lot until I stop sweating all together, and I absolutely loathe running in the high heat. In Florida, you have to add the high humidity too and that makes things even worse. It stays hot here roughly 9 months out of the year. It’s October and I got sunburnt in high 80s with no clouds in the sky. I have friends complaining that it’s in the 50s already. heat and I don’t get along, and there are some runners out there who thrive in the heat and can run their best that way.

I love the cooler, dryer weather though.  Seriously. The colder, the better for me. Since I run hot, I love the cooler temps. It keeps my body temp down, it allows me to push harder and faster without fear of blacking out, and I just feel amazing. Friends laugh at me when I stand at the beginning of the races I do with them in shorts and a t-shirt in the freezing weather as they stay bundled up in a blanket or sweats… but I’m the one laughing when I’m running carefree and they are struggling to pitch their throwaways. Add in the lower humidity? I’m in perfect running weather. The dryer air is easier to breath, and after a heavy humid summer, is a relief. Most of the friends I run with are not fans of the cooler temps and that’s why I thrive in them.

My head still hurts sometimes. The surgery did wonders for the persistence and severity of my migraines. The occipital nerve is no longer pinched, and that has eliminated about 90% of my migraines. That last 10% is still a real issue though. I’m having to relearn all of my triggers and try to figure out what specifically can set one off. Sometimes it’s a drastic weather change, sometimes it’s exhaustion, sometimes it’s stress. I can’t figure out what specifically is causing these last 10%, but thanks to the iHeadache app, I’m able to track them but so far there is no consistent pattern. I haven’t had one due to a run yet, but they have hindered my training as I don’t run on days I have a migraine in order to prevent it from coming back.

I don’t run as consistently as they do. I have friends who run every day and can do that without any issue. Miles and miles, every day. I want to say that I can do that too, but the truth is I just can’t. Sometimes it’s a work thing, sometimes it’s a migraine thing, sometimes it’s an exhaustion thing, and sometimes I just don’t want to and need a rest day. I wish I could go and run for miles on end every day like they can, but I just can’t. Right now I aim for 4-5 days a week, minimum 3 miles each time. I’m trying to get more comfortable and bump that up to 4 miles each time. But it takes time to re-train your body into doing the things that you used to do.

And I’m getting better. I’ve been consistently running 3 miles between 36 -38 minutes. And that’s decent for me. I want to get back down to 34 – 36 minutes, but it takes time. It takes training. It won’t happen overnight, and that doesn’t bother me because I know I am doing the best that I can.

Ultimately, I’m slow, and I’m okay with that.  I’m not one of those people who has to score awards every time I race. I don’t care about where I place in my age group, so long as it isn’t last. I don’t need age group awards, or first place trophy’s, or any of those other things to make myself feel fulfilled and satisfied with my running. I’m not competing with anyone else but myself, and yes – sometimes it’s hard to remember that. It’s especially hard when people I am close to start flying by me as if I am standing still. But I am not competing with them. I’m competing with myself, with my couch, and with the people who told me I was too fat to run or that I couldn’t do it.

Every time I hit the pavement, I win. Every time I tie on my shoes, go out there and run – no matter how long it takes to run, or how far I run – I win. Every time I finish a race, I win. Every time I earn a medal, I win. They are my badges of honor, my show of completion and accomplishment. Sure, I have goals: I want a 33 minute 5k, and I want a 2:30 half marathon time. I want to train for my first marathon, and finish in under 6 hours. Hell, under 5 hours. But that doesn’t mean I define myself by those goals or by my running times.

I define myself as a runner by going out there and running. So, to my friend who asked if I was embarrassed by my times and to anyone else who can’t vocalize that same question – there is no reason to be embarassed or ashamed. You should be proud regardless of what the clock says. You are out there, doing something only a select few of us are doing, and that takes guts and determination.

I’m proud of myself every time I get out there and run. And you should be too.

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8 thoughts on “Running, Running…as fast as I can…

  1. Heidi (http://legallyheidi.com) says:

    I love this! I’m with you in the 30+ minute 5k range – I pr’ed at 28:11 (after a LOT of work) before i had my son and since I’ve had bad leg/low back issues that slowed me down bunches keeping me solidly in the 32-38 minute range. But as long as you’re having fun and it’s enjoyable who cares 🙂 There’s always going to be “back of the pack” runners (as i once saw us referred to in Runners World) but running doesn’t have to be about speed. Just getting out there and lacing up your shoes is awesome :)My first marathon was 7 hours, then 6 1/2 and then 5 1/2 and then 6. I’ll never be a 4 hour marathoner. I’ll likely never be a sub 2 hour half marathoner – but I love running for the sake of running – not for the medals. Seriously, this post was great 🙂 🙂 Adding your blog to my reader 🙂 🙂

    • jljohnson says:

      Aww!! Thank you!! And I agree. I don’t think I’ll ever be a sub 2 hour half! I’ll be happy hitting a 2:30! That’s my goal! I also followed you back on Twitter! 🙂 Welcome to my insanity! 🙂

  2. runswithhope says:

    What a fabulous post! You hit the nail on the head, you DO WIN. Every. Freaking. Day. Lace up and smile cause you my dear, are doing a hell of a lot more than most and that should make you feel proud.
    I have some similar goals of a sub 30 5k and a 2:30 half, and someday a full. But for now, I am happy with my efforts and time cause a I am a runner not matter what! ❤

  3. littlemoreeachday says:

    Love this! I’ve been thinking lately about the possibility that my current PRs may be my forever PRs – that I may never be any faster. I was so happy to realize I’d contine to run anyway. Running is about so much more than speed. 🙂 – Jess

  4. Jennifer LE (@runningwithpugs) says:

    I am another one who will probably never be any faster. Part of it has to do with lack of actual ability (my body does not feel built to run), and the other part is the fact that I don’t need it badly enough to bring trainers and coaches and nutritionists into my life.

    Sometimes, it’s hard, but I am also lucky that my super fast friends are so absurdly encouraging and supportive, so really, the only negativity is what I turn on myself.

    Running is personal: victory will look different for everyone, and if you are doing what makes you happy, then nothing else matters.

    In the meantime, I wish I could join up with your running group. It is so hard to find someone who runs at or around my pace, which makes for some very lonely and dull long runs.

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