Monday, May 31, 2010

Running With A New Perspective

Six months ago, I ran because I felt had to. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to get out there and hit the pavement. What changed me was training for my first marathon, running Boston for charity. Exactly how this transformation happened is a mystery to me, but I have some ideas.

Running for Kaya, I was often struck by how much my perspective affected my behavior. Many times I was struggling with fatigue, wanting to quit, and then I thought of children living on the streets of La Paz. All of a sudden I found a source energy that I didn’t know that I had. For this reason, I recommend running for a non-profit organization. A friend of mine became enthusiastic about a certain organization, and she asked them if they would apply to be a Boston Marathon charity so she can run for them. They are in the process now of applying!

Listening to worship music while I run has become a way that I spend time with God. I used to think of my “quiet times” with my Bible on my couch as my best time with God. Now, when I plan my week and the runs that are scheduled in it, I get excited about the time I will have with God on those runs. I look forward to getting to hear the worship songs on my iPod, like “Gloria” by Watermark, “See What a Morning” by Keith and Kristyn Getty, and “Agnus Dei” by Michael W. Smith. Running in beautiful places like Fresh Pond or along the Charles River draws me even closer to Him. I love both listening to worship music on its own and running on its own, but the best is getting to do the two simultaneously.

Until this experience, I thought of running as a solitary sport. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Both my training and the marathon itself were communal experiences for me. In fact, two of the friends who started running with me have started dating seriously and are currently on a Memorial Day weekend vacation together! The morning of the marathon, my sister flew up from Dallas, TX, eight-months pregnant. I hadn’t even asked her to come, but she just wanted to be there. I’ll never forget seeing her jumping up and down on the sidelines as I turned a corner on Heartbreak Hill.

The city of Boston came alive to me as I was running. I have never experienced Boston as being so friendly, supportive, encouraging, helpful, gracious and inspiring as I did on April 19, 2010. I connected with so many strangers that day. Jean, a qualified runner from New Hampshire whom I met on the T on the way to board the buses to Hopkinton, told me her favorite blister bandage (Hannaford brand). To me, this information was gold! I couldn’t believe how many people turned out to cheer. A friend of mine who was waiting in the crowds to see me said she was so touched watching a father explain to his daughter how important it is to help the runners. He was handing orange wedges to her so she could hold them out to us. A friendly stranger offered me a pack of “Gu” (a sports food) when I looked tired. A grandmother offered me fresh baked cookies. I wore my name taped on my shirt, and people shouted encouragement to me the entire time.

One of the joys of this experience came from overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Last fall, my knees would hurt whenever I went up and down stairs. I worried that my cartilage was wearing down or I was getting arthritis and my running days were coming to an end. After six months of strength training, I have virtually no knee pain anymore, and I run at least three times a week. One key has been not to do squats and lunges, which my podiatrist said are not good for women. I regularly hear people say that they don’t run because their knees hurt. What they may not realize is that while some people may have serious knee problems, knee pain also may go away when the muscles around the knees become stronger. Also, at times physical discomfort inhibits people from running. I found that wearing CW-X brand of running clothes helped a lot. In short, these days, there is a solution for most problems.

Now that the Boston Marathon 2010 is over, I’m setting new goals to keep my muscles from hitting a plateau. This weekend, I’m running the Rock n’ Roll half-marathon in San Diego, and I’ve set a goal time for myself. For anyone out there who is feeling inspired, the home page of Runner’s World will help you find any distance of race in any city you want to run. It’s a great way to support many organizations doing amazing work.

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