Category Archives: Run Like The Wind

You Use You Lose

I fell into that trap I promised I wouldn’t fall into.  I ran a whole lot (that is not the trap) and I started racing and I liked the high and the satisfaction, blah, blah…and then I ruined it.

Running long distances is fun. I’m no marathoner, but a nice 8-10 miler on a beautiful Saturday morning does something to your psyche. It reminds you what you’re capable of, and beyond that, what you are capable of doing and enjoying.  Running races is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone, to feel that adrenaline high. And when you start doing it enough, the satisfaction of finishing is compounded with this intense desire to do better–it’s human nature.

So, I ran a couple races, started training for another. And then, I decided to follow a training plan (shocking, really). I followed the plan and, surprise, I started improving, getting faster, feeling stronger.  I started carrying my phone with me to track my pace and my exact mileage.  It was working, I’d consistently shaved off 1:30 from my average pace, even at 11 mile runs.

I was ecstatic. And proud of myself. I couldn’t wait for race day, I couldn’t wait to see the difference in my race time.

And then, when out for a long run about ten days before the race, my hip started aching. It’d been aching for a while, but never enough to stop me from running.  I was six miles out and had to turn around. I hobbled the last four miles home. I continued to hobble for about the next ten days.

No race.

Not only that, but after a rather unpleasant visit with a nurse, a referral to a orthopedic doc, X-rays and MRIs, I’ve been benched.  The diagnosis is good: tendonitis or something like that, and bursitis. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a few weeks of physical therapy and REST. As in, no running.

The good news is, no surgery.

I’m remarkably okay with all of this. Brian has been waiting for BitchSarah to emerge, as she often does when lack of exercise has the unintended consequence of closing off the release valve. I mean, for two weeks I haven’t even been able to walk my dog. And if you know me, you know that exercise is not just something I enjoy, but is a very practical part of how my life works: i.e., I tend toward bipedal transportation.

And yet, I feel like there’s a message in this. And the message is: you lost it, girl.  You lost the reason you run. If you’re just running to see the numbers decrease, to run the race and finish faster, you’ve totally lost the reason for running. And somehow, you’ve sullied the whole experience.

This lack of running has produced some interesting consequences. One, I don’t sleep as deeply or as long. My body just isn’t as tired. Two, I feel like a ginormous blob of poo, but as soon as I can start moving again, that will go away. Three, I have so much time. I started writing every morning again, I don’t feel as pressured to get an hour run, and hour dog-walk, coffee, shower, breakfast and bike to school all before 9 AM.  My life feels more leisurely.  But, I also have lost that feeling of serenity and physical relaxation that comes with a long run.

So, I’m learning. I’m learning about balance, and about having all the things that are important to me. One thing that is not, cannot, will not be THE thing for me, is a freakin’ race. The numbers just ain’t worth it.


Alright, Already

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. I know, I know. I haven’t been listening.  But I got the message, loud and clear this time.

This morning I work up with a summer cold. What the hell is that about? That’s somebody’s idea of a really cruel joke.  It’s a bajillion degrees outside, and yet you wake up feeling like you’ve smoked a pack of Lucky Strikes, slightly sweaty and feverish, with a headache that won’t quit.  Sounds like a bad hangover, right? Except it doesn’t get better after you drink coffee and eat something greasy. You feel like you’re melting from the inside out AND the outside in. Awesome.

I digress.

So, I’ve been fighting aforementioned cold for a few days, figuring it’s allergies (I guess it still could be, but another cruel joke, world).  I am lying in bed, listening to my heart drum in my ears like it does when my head is all stuffed up. And yet, I can still hear Emmett doing that thing that he does when he’s been awake for a while and waiting–he sighs. A lot.  So I get out of bed, get dressed, strap the leash on the mutt and begrudgingly (and with a sneer toward my still sleeping husband) leave the house.

We may have walked twenty minutes.  Maybe.  We were nearing an intersection on our regular route, and he did what he always does; he sat down. Right in front of me. I don’t know where the hell I was, but evidently my mind was far, far away, because I just kept going, right over the top of him.

I was pissed at myself before I even hit the ground.  I groaned in mid-air, knowing what was coming.  I hit just on the top of my kneecap, sending shudders from my hip to my ankle.  It felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer and hit my knee, trying to drive the kneecap to my shin. And there was blood all over my running shoe.  Reason number 47 why I could never be a nurse: I cry when I see blood. Anyones, but my own in particular.

Emmett whined and fluttered around, nosing my neck and arms, his ears back.  For a minute–well, probably five minutes–I really, really wanted to be angry at him. I wanted to yell at him and glare and make him feel bad for tripping me.  But we’ve been working so hard on heel, both walking and running, and he’s been soooo good lately.  And he was doing exactly what he was supposed to do, sitting at the intersection and waiting for my signal. Little did he know that my signal was going to come in the form of a belly flop on asphalt.

I left my house this morning feeling crappy, unhappy to be awake and really unhappy to be starting what seems like the never-ending workday. I was thinking about what I forgot to do yesterday, what I needed to do today, mentally checking my calendar…I was paying absolutely no attention to where I was, much less where my dog was.

I’ve been reading this book called Zen and the Art of Running by Larry Shapiro. Shapiro talks about the “right effort” or the concept of taking the negative, stripping it of it’s emotional connotations, and making it positive.  He also talks about the Zen concept of mindfulness, or being aware of the distinct feelings, one by one, that we feel and what emotions are thereby attached. By addressing these things, we unclutter our minds.

That’s what I need. I need to unclutter my mind.  To learn to be present in each moment, instead of that which happened yesterday or what might happen later today or next week.

I’ve always figured running was cheaper than therapy–I started running at a time in my life when I probably could have strongly benefited from some head shrinking, but thank goodness I ran instead.  Walking my dog for an hour every single morning has begun to be a similar form of therapy.  It is the time that I calmly, purposefully get my day in order. I bond with my dog, I listen to the cool silence at 6:30 in the morning.  I feel tranquil and…ordered…when I start the day.

This morning I started with a grudge. I was desperate to walk and be done, to get my day started so that maybe, maybe, the end would come sooner and I could recline on my couch quietly for an hour or so before I started again.

When I start my walks–or runs–with that attitude, bad things happen.  Emmett picks up on this weirdo energy and starts doing weirdo stuff. I fall. I step in dog crap. Or, worse, Emmett craps and my poop bag has a hole in it.

All these things could happen on a day when I’m calm and confident, too.

But they don’t.

So yeah. I get  your message. Unclutter. Slow. DOWN.  Take some time to not only not DO work, but not THINK about all the work that you’re not doing.

Be where you are right now.

Run, Sarah, Run: My Quest to Run the Quiet Race

Before I go too far, I’d like to state that I have been working on one form or another of an article on running for, oh, about six months. I mean, in the grand scheme, I’ve written about running dozens of times, but somehow they never seem quite…enough. So, this is just one in what will probably continue to be a lot of musings on running…because I have lots of opinions about it. Who am I kidding? I have lots of opinions about everything.

I recently made a major decision.  I have completely abandoned running with music.

The other day, I grumpily stomped up the driveway after a long-ish run and tossed my ipod on the kitchen counter.

“How was your run?” My husband hesitantly asked.

I was sipping a glass of water and glowering.  “It was great.”


He didn’t believe me. I ignored him, and headed for the shower. When I emerged, clean and fresh and relaxed, we reclined on our patio and watched the spring unfold.

“I’m giving it up. I’m not running with music anymore.” I said, waiting for his incredulous response. He just shrugged.

“I figured that was coming,” he said.  I was surprised.

We proceeded to discuss this seemingly inconsequential decision at length. He commented that in my conscious migration towards simplicity over the last year led him to believe that this added complication in my running routine would eventually go the way of the dodo. Our discussion and my subsequent musings, have manifested into a bit of a personal running credo.

I have a couple of general tendencies when it comes to running.

  1. I run alone. For years, this was an absolute rule.  At first, this was a function of self-consciousness. I didn’t really want to subject anyone else to my huffing and puffing, my slow speeds, my sweatiness. But eventually, it was because I rather liked these moments alone. These days, the rule is no longer absolute.  Brian and I run together once every week or so, and have since we’ve been together. I remember when I told my family that we were “going for a run.” I’m pretty sure my sister immediately called my mother to tell her that I was indeed in love with this man. Why? Because I was running with him.
  2. I don’t really measure anything.  I do wear a watch, but mostly because I’m often squeezing in a run between classes or jobs and I don’t want to get carried away and be late.  I’m training for a half-marathon at the moment, and I’ll set general goals for myself (I will run this six miles in about an hour).  If the training plan (which I will address in a moment) calls for speed work, I’ll keep track of how fast I run a mile.  I have a general idea of what my pace is.  But beyond that, I barely keep track of mileage.
  3. Training plans. Hah.  Anyone that knows me knows that I’m not so much for plans or rules of any sort.  So, I have a training plan for the half marathon. It consists of running every other day, and once a week, a long run. Notice I say once a week—this does not indicate every Sunday or Thursday or whatever. Partly because my schedule doesn’t allow for much routine, partly because I pay attention to my body—I run the long run when it feels good to do so. I try to up my mileage on those long runs by approximately a mile a week. So, theoretically, by June 12 I’ll be running about 11 or so miles for a long run. Now. I say this tentatively. For this marathon, I’m trying to find as many hills as possible to run in preparation for the monstrosities that will inevitably be present in the Seattle Half Marathon.  Because the MKT (for those non-Columbians, this is the local, 8 mile running/biking/walking trail that starts near MU campus and intersects the Katy Trail in McBaine) is flat as a pancake, I don’t run it on my long runs, therefore finding a route that is exactly eight miles or twelve miles is more challenging. So, rather than spend too much time figuring it out, I ballpark it. I know, you’re cringing. I’m not so much into the details.

I started running because I was poor, trying to continue to exercise without a gym membership and because my head was often close to exploding.  I felt like the inside of my skull was lined with rubber and I had about fourteen bouncy-ball thoughts bouncing around incessantly in there.  Running (which, at the time, was more like walking with some light trotting interspersed) somehow coordinated those bouncy-balls into some semblance of a rhythm.  I loved the fact that I could do it anywhere—all I needed were a decent pair of shoes.

When I moved to Seattle, I began noticing a phenomenon.  One, everyone who lives in Seattle is so damn active. Good for them, I love that about Seattle. I mean, despite the rain, it’s not all that cold, weather isn’t usually all that prohibitive.  But two, all those people that were pounding the pavement had a ridiculous amount of stuff.  They had ipods, GPS thingies, heart rate monitors, fancy stopwatches on their wrists, pedometers, hydration systems. Good Lord. They had electronic devices whose purpose I’ve never been able to identify.  So much for just a good pair of shoes.  Sometimes I think “oooh, that Nike running thingie would be handy…I can hook it up to my phone and basically have a trainer and tempo music and a pedometer and it’ll tell me my route…” and then I think, oh, my gosh.  This is why I DON’T run at the gym…why would I try to replicate it outside of those four walls?

Running is supposed to keep me sane. It’s my escape, my solace.  It’s the place I flee to when the world is too much, the place that I am excited to go on a really awesomely beautiful spring or fall day.  When I am pissed off and can’t get over it, I run. When I can’t figure out how in the hell to apply Habermas to the current state of the media for the paper that’s due in five hours, I run.  When I’m listlessly wandering around the house, I run, and when I get back, I’m focused.

When I was training for my first half marathon, I did it largely without an ipod for two reasons. One, I knew that some marathons won’t allow them for safety reasons.  I’m not usually a safety-first kinda gal, but I see their point—running without one of your senses alerted could be unwise given the circumstances. Mostly, though, I wasn’t sure what the KC marathon would allow, and I decided to err on the side of caution, and train without them.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, because of a piece of advice I found in the first and best running book I’ve ever come across.  The book is called The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, and I “borrowed” it from my roommate Marilou, oh, three years ago.  I still have it, I still read it fairly frequently.  (ML, I promise, I’ll give it back. It’s in the mail right now.)  The authors have an interesting piece of advice.

“Do something for yourself. Go for a walk—by yourself.  Leave the walkman (ok, so it’s an old book) at home. Leave the day behind and as you walk, listen.  Listen to what you’re normally too busy to hear. Nature. Your body. Your heart. The Higher Power at work in your life, if that’s your belief.  Listen to the “yeah, buts…”and ask yourself if you are going to continue to let them control you, or if it’s time that you took control of them.  Granted, running a marathon is certainly not the only way to exercise control over your life….it will change your life. That’s a promise.”

There are so many fantastic things about this book, the main one being the philosophy of “create your own reality.” Simply put, you construct your conditions. You choose your destiny, and if you chose to overcome, you will. This running manual is far more about the mentality than the physicality of a run.

They advise against running with a hidden agenda; for example, running to lose weight or micro-managing your times. Ultimately, they say, these are peripheral goals that have more to do with our own expectations for ourselves and our own levels of self confidence.   Instead of finding the simple act of running rewarding, we set ourselves up for a disappointment by placing inappropriate expectations on ourselves and the experience.  There is so much more to ponder there, to discuss. I could write a whole blog about our competitive nature as humans, our socially conditioned desire for more of everything, and how we conceal our pain and suffering—and, conversely, our joy and revelation—by acquisition of something beyond ourselves as opposed to within ourselves.  I think about this condition of human nature a lot…every time I feel like a little “retail therapy” will fix my mood, or when I think a good evening of extravagant food and drinks is necessary.  Again…this is a topic for another blog.

I’ve read countless articles about how we, and our children are more and more disconnected from nature, how caught up in our techno-brilliant world we are.  I decided it was time to stop and listen.  I’m a good talker, I’m techno-savvy, I’m a good communicator and I’m certainly a good conversationalist. I think, though, that I can use a few lessons in listening.  Not just to someone else, but to the world in general.

I’ve decided that running, for me anyway, has to be about the soul.  It is meditation. It is quietude. It’s where I center and go forward—literally.  This is not the way for everyone, and I realize that I am getting awfully close to New Age.  But I’ve found that I run the best when I listen, when I can hear the way my feet sound on the pavement, the way my breathing resonates, when I can see how my dog perks his ears at the oncoming traffic, or how that hawk has been circling, watching over me, for the last half mile.  When I stop adjusting my ipod, looking at my watch, worrying about the time I’m losing when I let my dog pee on some unsuspecting telephone pole, I feel more connected. I feel more in the world, more part of it, rather than just a blur running through it. And that’s a good thing.

Real Big Girls

The other night, Mr. Beahan and I were having dinner and talking about actresses. We were actually debating the relative merits of Gwyneth Paltrow vs. Kate Winslet. I am an avid Kate fan, Titanic notwithstanding. She is amazingly gorgeous, smart, funny, she’s a super classy dresser, and she looks like a real person, dammit.  And then Mr. Beahan uttered the following “yeah, I like Kate. I’ve always been attracted to curvy women.”  I couldn’t help myself, I chafed at the comment.  It has always been my belief that men tend to insert “curvy” when they really mean “chubby.”  This may or may not be true, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that no one says “curvy” and means “thin.”  And I look at Kate Winslet, a “curvy” woman and don’t think chubby at all, I think real and normal and amazing hips and thighs and breasts. And then I think, I’d love to have her body, but I don’t. So what does that make me? If Kate Winslet is “curvy” then I most definitely fall one step below that, which is “a little more meat on the bones” or “more to love” and definitely “chubby.”  And my brain is whirling itself into a tizzy so fast at this point, I put my fork down and check my watch to see if they gym might still be open.

I admit, I have a bit of a complex. I’m tall, I’m 5’10”. And before all of the short women out there berate me for complaining about my height, just hear me out.  I’ve always been tall, even way back when I was in grade school.  I come by it naturally, my dad’s 6’5” barefoot.  I spent my formative years being shoved in the back row of pictures, towering over everyone, including the boys, and being told that I should play basketball. As if a few extra inches would make up for my dismal lack of athleticism.

Well meaning relatives would say things like “Wow, you’ve gotten so big. And tall.” And I’d stand there, staring at them, trying to decide if this was a good thing or a bad thing. “It’s ok.  You know, all the supermodels are really tall.” They’d reassure me, which did nothing but make me more certain that my stature was at the very least, a flaw.   I spent most of my teens being pretty sure I was everything but feminine because of my size and that I’d never be truly a delight to look at because I was “a big girl.”  I’ve passed up amazing high heels because they’d make me taller than my date and prayed for the Lord Above to please God let me fall in love with someone that is bigger than me already. Thankfully, God complied and sent me Brian, who is indeed, bigger than me.

Now, let me pause a moment and just be clear about something. I am thirty years old, I am an avid runner and I love food with every fiber of my being.  When I look at those BMI chart thingies, I fall in a healthy weight range for my height and age. My brain is pretty sure no one sees me coming down the street and thinks “whoa, wide load, coming through.” I just want to be clear about that—I am not complaining about my weight.  And most days, like 95% of days,  I look in the mirror and feel mostly alright about myself. But sometimes I think, you know, I’d like to lose ten pounds, or get back in that dress I wore when I was superskinny at 25.

That’s when I remember that in order to lose that 10 pounds, I’d have to give up eating bread. And chocolate. And probably drink less.  And certainly abandon our weekly Shakespeare’s Pizza tradition. And then I inevitably decide I’d rather keep the 10 pounds.

I believe in food. I believe in what it does for us physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I believe in the  calm I feel when I’m in the kitchen chopping onions and tomatoes for fresh salsa, when I’m picking the cilantro right out of the garden or when I can smell the arugula from across the room.  I believe in the realness of it, the way an avacado feels when it’s just ripe, and the juice that oozes out of a perfectly fresh Missouri strawberry in May.

I do not believe in fake food. I am adamantly opposed to soda, particularly the diet variety. I truly believe that high fructose corn syrup will kill us all, and someday, our children will look down upon soda drinking the same way we look down on smoking.  I refuse to buy margarine or non-dairy creamer or Velveeta or fat free salad dressing. I don’t exactly know what happens in those labs that make that stuff, but I’m pretty sure it ain’t good.

You can call me a snob, that’s ok.  My friend Tracy calls me a foodie, and I wear that badge proudly.  And I certainly am human—I eat the occassional Taco Bell.  But I truly believe we are what we eat, what comes out of us (I’m speaking figuratively here, folks) is only as good as what we put in. Therefore, we have to take care of ourselves, feed ourselves only the best and we will reap the benefits.

Which is why I won’t drink SlimFast shakes to lose the extra ten and put on the size 6 dress.

But it is also what makes me so sickly sad about what we’ve done to our vision of women, of beauty and of health.  That we have constructed a society where angles are better than curves, where deprivation is preferred to pleasure and where a number (i.e., your weight on the scale, the size of the dress) is more important than how you physically feel.

I was really bummed out about this for a good solid day. Really feeling bad about this conversation—not so much what my husband said, because I know he loves the curve of a woman’s hip and if I had a dollar for every time he slapped my slightly overfed ass and marvelled, I’d be wealthy enough to hire a trainer.  I was mostly feeling bad about the fact that I, a woman secure in my womanhood, comfortable in my skin and confident in my looks, would revert to that kid who shrunk everytime she was called a big girl. It saddens me that we are raising our girls this way, so that even the strongest of us still fight that construct every single day. And we can blame men, and the media and Hollywood, but we also need to recognize our responsibility as well. We as women need to address our own bias—as aunts and grandmas and babysitters and teachers, we need to remember that every comment means something to a little girl out there.  Wouldn’t you rather your comments from one grown-up woman to a little woman-in-the-making be supporting beauty in all forms, rather than reenforcing the idea that beautiful looks one way: skinny and blonde and white?

So, the Beahans have learned a lesson from this one. Mr. Beahan will probably not jokingly remark about my “birthing hips” anymore, and I will everyday remember the amazing power of butter and cheese and really amazing chocolate and step away from the bathroom scale, and when I cuddle up with my favorite little bitty girls, I’ll tell them how beautiful they are no matter what.