Today is Global Running Day and runners from all over the world are celebrating pounding on the sidewalk. As a recreational runner, I couldn’t help but think about how my relationship with running had changed over time. In the last decade, I have run every distance from 5 km, 10 km and 15 km to a half marathon (four times!) And finally in 2019 I ran my first marathon. Running became a therapeutic market for me at the age of 20 and eventually became a way for me to set goals and challenge myself. I remember when I took part in my first 10K race, I was thrilled. I wanted to see how far (and faster) I could go.
During this time, I took a break from running so I could do other forms of fitness, but running has always found its way back into my life. Then, as we all know, the last two years have turned the worlds upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, I noticed that more people were running outside than usual. With the gyms closed, it was one of the few ways to exercise and alleviate the cabin fever. Despite my love of running, watching others run through the streets made no interest in me to join them. I was not in the right position because, like many others, I was afraid of COVID. In addition, all races were canceled until further notice, my motivation to run just for fun waned, and I had no interest in roaming the hills of my new neighborhood.
Fast forward to the November TCS New York City Marathon 2021, one of the first races to return since the start of the pandemic. As I watched my runners friends write about it on their social networks, I suddenly felt a spark come back to me. I remembered the post-race maximum after giving all that work, and I longed to feel the rush again. At the moment, I haven’t run consistently since 2019, when I trained for four months directly for the New York Marathon. I loved my first marathon experience and the New York marathon exceeded my expectations.
Motivated by that spark, I impulsively signed up for the raffle to get to the Chicago Marathon and United Airlines NYC Half in 2022. Right after entering the raffle, I guessed it because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take part in running full time again. . I wondered if I got into one of these races, then it’s a sign for me to go back to running.
I wasn’t selected for Chicago, but I got to NYC Half. It was a bucket-list half marathon for me because I heard how iconic it was. The race route gives you excellent views of the city and is one of the few times (except New Year’s Eve) when Times Square is closed to traffic. Getting into the raffle is also a notoriously difficult race that I have known from all the years I have participated and never been selected.
Although I was excited to run my first big race in two years, I also felt scared because it was the first time I had trained in the winter – the race was in March. I usually avoided most races that required me to train in the winter in New York, because snowy, windy and icy conditions are not exactly suitable for runners. Not to mention that this time we were still in a wave of pandemics and I was afraid that the new variants could endanger our illness during the race or cancel it altogether. After I decided on a conservative training plan that helped me get back to running, I started training at the end of December. Perseverance returned to me fairly quickly and I soon felt like I was running again. I set a noble goal for myself, which I thought I could achieve if the training went well.
I adapted well to the weather as it gradually cooled, and I even dared to run in snow, rain, wind and 10-degree temperatures. I even tried to run when the roads were icy, and although I slipped on the sidewalk several times, I was able to do so. As long as I dressed appropriately (I swear on Baleaf tops with fleece lining and Tough Outdoors running mittens), the winter surprisingly did not negatively affect my running. In fact, on days when the weather was the worst, I felt better and harder because I could handle it.
One particular run stands out for me. I could see that it was snowing and raining from the window, and I was already afraid to come out because my legs were heavy and sore. I was a mile to my planned eight-kilometer run, and out of nowhere a car passing by to my left ran over a huge puddle and splashed me. I remember how aggravating it was because now I was not only soaked but also frozen. I amused myself and said that if I could comfortably drive another mile, I would vacuum the discomfort. If it still bothered me, I would turn around and return home.
In the end, I finished the eight miles, but I also appreciated that I was the only soul on my running track, because no one else was walking by the water in mid-February. It was the equivalent of running solo in the early summer hours to beat the midday heat and the crowds.
All that running outside also helped me fall into the winter blues funk that I normally experience at that time of year. And it gave me a much-needed break from my work laptop for about an hour a day, which gave me a break from staring at the screen.
After two and a half months of training, I ran into a snag. My legs began to feel the pain of running at high volume and on a hilly surface. After visiting a physiotherapist, I was diagnosed with tendonitis, which meant that I would have to calm down while running. Although I was reluctant to admit it, I knew it meant I would have to reduce the time to goal I had in mind and the number of days I ran. Because I was never prone to injuries, anxiety seeped into me and I was afraid I would have to drop out of the race.
This time I took recovery much more seriously than in the past. After all the work I’ve done, I still wanted to do this race – but safely. I followed my physiotherapy exercises as well as foam rolling, stretching, strength training, cross training (Peloton rides with Cody FTW), hydration (after running I opted for UCAN and Cure electrolytes) and made sure I ate a lot. nutritious foods (long distance runner and Olympian, Can’t Beet Me Smoothie by Shalane Flanagan was one of my favorites) that helped me regenerate. Thanks to the recovery, running at this point was bearable when I started to fall into a negative headspace.
As I went through this phase of recovery, the mental side of running was really challenging for me, because during this training cycle there were many cases where I wanted to throw a towel in the ring. In the past, when I felt pain or tingling, it worked out for myself, but I knew it wouldn’t happen this time. Taking all things into account, I felt happy that I was healthy enough (especially during a pandemic) to accept this challenge. By the time I reached my peak, or in the last two weeks before the race, when the training kilometers had dropped significantly, I was proud to have managed the winter run and proved that I could be a runner in any weather. . I still didn’t feel 100 percent (rather 85 to 90 percent), but I also had to come to terms with the fact that I was no longer the same man in my twenties who could run indefinitely without fear of injury.
When the day of the race finally came, I decided that my game plan for that day had changed. I remember going through some of my favorite running accounts on social media, which reminded me that races aren’t always about getting a new PR and not all of them go according to plan. Letting go of what you can’t affect will also remove the pressure on how you think things are going to go. During a long distance race, there is a point where you know preventively that you will fight, and it is easier to accept this reality in advance. I knew that my tendonitis was not completely cured, and I needed a realistic approach. So instead of focusing on a specific target time, I decided to run for the experience. I ended up signing up because I enjoy running.
The race day was a perfect spring day (even a little too warm if you ask me) and the crowds were spectacular as well as the sights. I was more determined by how hilly the track was, even though I studied it several times and ran the hills regularly during training. But nothing will prepare you completely until you get into it. There were parts that were great (capturing views of the city) and other parts that weren’t that great. My tendonitis began to spread over the last few miles, which was not a good feeling, but I was relieved that it did not appear until the end of my tail. That didn’t change the fact that the rest of the race was challenging anyway. In the end, I finished near my average half marathon time and I felt great that I had just finished it.
Running is much like life in the sense that there are ups and downs and it is unpredictable. As with this pandemic, we have all experienced ups and downs, but the important thing is how we prepare for and deal with what is thrown at us. I’m glad the pandemic helped me get back in touch with the running roots, but I think this time my feet are ready for a well-deserved rest.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or medical advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions regarding your medical condition or health goals.