3 Lessons I've Learned Running

Running has taught me about healing. When I first started running after my father died in 2012, I didn't imagine I would be training to run my first marathon on Mother's Day, 2018. He died when I was away. I travelled frequently to visit him and care for him while he was in his last year of life, and when I left for Bali he knew and I knew that we would not see each other again.

It was tough coming back for the funeral. Our family didn't know how to do anything. It was very small, and he appeared to have made no friends during his retirement to a small provincial town. It was sad. Me and my sisters and mother had a tough time. There were arguments. Birthdays came right after his death and cremation. One of the days we were hanging around wondering what to do, my sister invited me for a run. I put on an old pair of her leggings and a pair of old sneakers, and we ran for about a half an hour. I was pooped by the end, especially as it ended with a hill and stairs. 
I was hooked! Even though I didn't know it yet. By 2013, I was running on an old indoor track. Not outside, not during the winter (Yes, actually, there are some days that it's just plain stupid to run outside). That year was full of changes. My mother got sick. She travelled the world saying goodbye to friends and family.
She followed my father in March of 2014... my sister and I ran a couple of times while we were ushering her out of this life into the next. We did an awful job. Death isn't pretty in our family. She had the highest pain tolerance of anyone I've ever met, and I have seen a lot of people in pain (I figure I've assisted around 600 people give birth, and generally that's a pretty painful process). She broke her leg years ago playing pirates with the kids, in the vineyard. She jumped off a rock and "Ahoy!" a compound fracture. She breathed through it. Just like she breathed her way out of this life and into who-knows-where.
I kept running. 
I decided I wanted to race. Racing doesn't have to mean that you're out there to actually race like a greyhound, unless you're an elite runner. For me, I'm racing against myself, and I want to get a decent time for my age and gender. I trained, kind of. I ran a few times a week, mostly on the flat suburban streets around my house. The longest I ran before the race was 13 k. That year, I also opened a cafe, where my mother's spirit might come and have tea or coffee and where she would have loved to hang out, if she'd been able. 
Running has taught me about honesty.  I've been in labor for a ridiculous number of hours, all told, with five children and insanely long labors. I think I may have ischial spines that are shaped like Mobius strips, or something. Babies can't navigate through them. I've breastfed for years and years. I've hoed fields and picked tobacco, and raised boys. I've stayed with birthing women for hours and hours and days and days, while they navigated their own special journey through childbirth.
All that to say, I know about strength, endurance, and stamina.
But I also know, now, that our bodies are full of surprises. There are real flaws, like weirdly shaped bones or weak joints, or bodies with diseases or genetic conditions. There are the secret flaws that we don't know about until, suddenly, we do. I was sure for very many years that my difficult labors were caused by mistreatment. I built a whole career on that belief. Now I'm not so sure: running has provided me with information about my body that I didn't know before, and it has also taught me that it's ok. Our weaknesses, our flaws, our crooked limbs and joints: these are all part of ourselves that we have to cherish and love if we want to keep them running smoothly.
Running has taught me about persistence.
I started my Marathon project with a 26 week training plan. I picked such a long one because I wanted to give myself lots of time to train, and I wanted to have extra leeway if something came up, like the little glitch I had way back in December. Since then, I've been doing a long run every Sunday. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday I run at least 5 k. I try to run fast for my short runs. 
In the past month, everything has changed. December and early January were cold; record-breaking cold. I continued to run outside. 

Dec 29, 2017




I was very fortunate - we went to Lisbon for a week and I ran there. People, this is runner's paradise! Hills, temperate climate, long running tracks next to the water, courteous pedestrians, other runners, and drivers. Heaven! The hills slowed me down a little, but the flat long runs were amazing.





Then back home. There's a common saying amongst runners "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear." There are so many bullshit macho sayings out there. There is absolutely such a thing as bad weather, and Montreal has it all. There's no way it is safe to run on two inches of ice covered by two inches of snow. I can and have run in very cold conditions, and snow, rain, ultra hot and dry. I trail run at 875 meters, with a dog who cannonballs into me or completely on my own in the hills. But I won't risk falling and breaking a bone due to hubris. So, I've done my fair share of treadmill running this winter.


Jan 19, 2018

Jan 26, 2018

Treadmill running is tough because it can get boring. Not only for your mind, but also for your feet. What can I say? If you have to run on a treadmill, try to challenge yourself with intervals, good music, checking your form, watching your breathing. There's fine tuning you can do on the treadmill that you can't do so well when you're running outdoors, so be content with those benefits and don't feel too bad you're not outside.
I do run outside whenever I can though. Last week for my long run, I was super grumpy because the weather was looking really bad. There was an indoor track but I didn't feel like going. I packed up and headed for the gym - and discovered the weather was great and the icy sidewalks had become slush. Yay! I ran a good 13.4 k!
Jan 28, 2018
Now? Now it's February. I did something to my back last week, running around the library with a heavy backpack, trying to find a book I've been wanting to read.


Never did find it. As I ran from floor to floor, searching for the book that the catalogue insisted was "available", my back twinged more and more. My Quadratus lumborum is cramping. It hurts. Really hurts. I didn't run all week, until Friday I did a little five k on the treadmill. I'm back on track, but grumpy as hell and feeling very anxious. Can I run a marathon? I look like Mrs. Tiggywinkle, small and slightly pudgy around the waist (5 kids). My hair is grey and my face goes red like a beetroot when I run. I sweat.
Running has taught me not to care about these little things. It has taught me to look at the bigger picture. It has taught me to be positive, to stick to a schedule, to never complain, to laugh at myself, to love life. 


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