…If no one is chasing after us?
If you ask me if I consider myself a runner, I would say no. I run once a week, usually 3 to 4 miles, 6 in a good day. I’m slow and, even though I don’t normally struggle, some days I feel I’m going to die if I give another step. But running is part of my fitness routine, not only because we run in Crossfit, but because I religiously go out once a week, and when I don’t, I feel itchy (you could also add a ‘b’ before that).
This weekly date is relatively new. It started two years ago because I had to train for a half-marathon. A good friend of mine wanted to run a 10k in the Chicago Rock n Run for her birthday in July, but another good friend of mine, who’s a runner, told us that she was going for the half. Someone said, “why don’t we do the half as well?”. By the time I realized it had been me, my birthday friend had already said “Yes”.
Before this, my relationship with running had been more off than on. In 2009 I did my first 5k after training daily for a couple of months. Before that, I ran every so often, and I’m pretty sure my longer distance was not even a mile. In 2012 CrossFit happened, and that’s when I became able to do 5ks without training specifically for them, simply because I gained the endurance needed doing WODs 4 times a week.
To finish the half marathon alive, which was my goal, I had to put myself on a weekly running schedule, where I would run an extra 0.5 mile each week, beginning with three. My training started in March, when the weather in Miami is mild and bearable, so adding 0.5 mile to my weekly run didn’t feel like much. By the time I reached 7 miles, it was already summer, when it’s scorching hot, muggy and all you breathe is mosquitos. Some weeks I had to re-run the same distance as the week before, because if I gave one more step I would burst into flames. My last run ended up being 9.5 miles two weeks before the race. Thankfully, on race day, Chicago graced us with an overcast sky and a temperature in the low 70’s, which made the run a walk in the park (I finished it at 2:16, which was glorious for me).
After the race, I found myself longing for my weekly running date. I missed that time with myself, where all that mattered was quieting my breath and my mind. Where I let myself get lost in the music, to distract my body from the pain. Where I felt my worries melt away with every step I gave. So, I decided to continue running, even if I wasn’t going anywhere.
I wondered if the reason why I got “addicted” to it in so little time was Runners’ high: that feeling of euphoria that runners might experiment in long runs, attributed to the brain’s release of endorphins, as a response to physical stress. I have experienced this, that moment when your body completely submits to your brain and it continues moving out of sheer will, despite the pain and the tiredness. Instead of feeling like crap, you feel on top of the world. I’ve been able to translate this to Crossfit; since I started running, I have more stamina and endurance, but more important, more mental resilience.
When I ask real runners why they do it, I get many different answers: to be fit, to be healthy, to de-stress, to get rid of their demons. In my case, the answer would be because I can. Because my body allows me to do it. Because feeling the air in my lungs, the wind in my face and the music in my ears make me happy.
I ended up doing another half marathon in November 2018, this time in Ft Lauderdale. Running by the beach as the sun rose was enchanting, and the heat only affected my previous time by one minute (2:17). As I crossed the finish line I decided that I had been there, done that, and that I wasn’t going to train for another half, at least for a year. But I still run weekly. Some days I run for speed, some others for distance, depending on my mood, the time allotted and the heat. I’m not discounting another half in my future, but for now I’ll just run because I want to.
My runner friend once told me that whenever a runner sees a street sign showing the number of miles to get to a place, they think “I can run that”. I told her that I do that from time to time, even thinking how long it would take me. “Then you’re a runner” was her answer. I don’t consider myself one; I just like to run.