Here in Middle Tennessee, we are finally starting to get back to normal after last week’s ice storm. I returned to work and my husband resumed classes on Monday, and my daughter will be returning to school tomorrow, now that most of the roads are clear.
With the-head-cold-that-wouldn’t-die now 97% vanquished, and only a few icy patches remaining on the sidewalks, I decided that Sunday would be my return to the roads. I chose to run the regular 3-mile loop that I usually do around the village as my “easy” run. I laced up my brand new, still in the box, not-yet-even-worn running shoes, and set out.
The first thing that I noticed was that the wind was from the north, and it was darn cold! Then, I began to notice how I was struggling to find a good rhythm and how my breathing was more labored that it ought to be for the pace that I was running. I couldn’t relax and my gait was choppy, rather than smooth. In the stretches where I usually pick up the pace, I instead found that I was barely hanging on at my “easy” pace. I finished my three miles, stretched, showered, and relaxed, thinking that the next run would be better.
The next morning, when I got up for work, I noticed that my legs were sore. Not sore like after a long run, where they have been pushed to the limit of glycogen depletion. Sore like I hadn’t used them in a while. Sore like I was a new runner. It began to occur to me that the combined effects of not running for almost four weeks, together with A LOT of time sitting on the couch due to illness and the inability to stir outside, had negatively impacted my running ability. I had thought I would lose a little fitness, but I was shocked to see how much I was feeling it.
Fast forward to tonight. I arrived home, donned my running gear and headed out. I decided to do my 2.6-mile route, since it was cold and dark and I wanted to avoid any remaining sneaky patches of ice that might lie on the longer route. I ran. I walked. I ran. I started breathing fairly heavily in the cold air. Big puffs of my breath kept steaming up my glasses. So I walked again. I continued this way until I finished my planned run.
When I arrived home, I was really tired. I felt like I had done a tempo run rather than an easy run. While I cleaned up and then prepared some dinner, I faced the fact that my fitness had suffering a pretty heavy setback during my layoff. It was disheartening. I am planning on running a 10K in April, and was hoping to do a 10-miler on the anniversary of my Cherry Blossom 10-mile run last year. I think I will be able to manage the 10K, but the 10-miler may sadly be out of reach.
At this point, I could have said, “You know what? This is not worth it. I don’t want to start over again, and rebuild fitness. I worked hard before and now it is all for nothing. Forget it! I’m just not going to run any more.” But of course I didn’t say that. Because I usually love running. And because I have never, ever, ever gone for a run, and regretted it later. Not even when I fell and broke my hand and had to go to the emergency room and was in a cast for two months.
Because I know that this setback is only temporary. I am not really starting over. I have been running for years, and during that time, I have acquired the knowledge to rebuild my fitness. I have an arsenal of interval workouts, pace runs, tempo runs, and long runs to help me get back to where I want to be. So I am not starting over. I am merely renewing my commitment to running, knowing full well that it will be hard at first. But every day, it will become easier to lace up my shoes, as I regain my fitness, and soon I will be back to hitting those paces, and pushing those distances.
Why am I telling you all this? Because the lessons that I have learned from running are applicable to so many other parts of my life, and probably your life too. Maybe you are trying to lose weight but you fall off the wagon. Or you’re trying to pay down debt but then go on a shopping spree. Everyone experiences setbacks. Any goal worth achieving is not easily won. And the harder you work, or the more times that you have to pick yourself up and try, try, again, the sweeter the victory will be when you finally make it.
So if you have experienced a setback, or lost your momentum in a project, that is no reason to give up. If it is something that you truly want, not just something that you think you should do because it’s expected of you, or because that’s what everyone else does, then it is worth the fight to get back to where you once belonged. To renew that commitment and begin building again. To get back to that place where the dream is clear, and you know that your actions and your perseverance will take you there.
So get up off the couch, and recommit to the dream. If you do, one day, it will be your reality.