Friday, August 16, 2013

Why I Stopped Running

I didn't see it coming, but it appears that I have officially stopped running. No hard feelings, but running for me has simply... run its course. I feel a little bit like Forrest Gump. I ran for a year, and then I stopped. That was that.

Backing up a little, I started running about a year and a half ago, when my daughter urged me to join her in a Disneyland 1/2 marathon. It was perfect for me to have a long range goal like that, because I had never been able to stick to exercise of any kind, and I really, really wanted to. (And to be honest, I always love an excuse to buy new shoes.) I was also excited about the idea of being a vegan runner, and sharing that experience with my readers. In the process of training for the race, I got healthier than I'd ever been in my life, lost a lot of weight, and found strength I never imagined was possible, both physical and mental. I ran the race, had a blast, and came home convinced I would always be a runner.

I signed up for another 1/2 marathon with See Jane Run, along with one of my sisters and a couple of friends, which we did in June. I was excited to have others join me, and I even applied to become an SJR Ambassador. Surprisingly, they took me, which further inspired me to inspire others to lace up their running shoes. That race was fun too, and having friends there made it even better. I was already planning to maintain my training at home so I would be race-ready at all times.

Race day was a warm, sunny morning in Alameda, which quickly became a hot morning. The course was flat though, and mostly along the bay, so it was pleasant and interesting, if not as exciting as Disneyland had been. It all went pretty much as I expected until the last mile or two of the course, which was on a steeply crowned city street. There was no flat part of the road there, so running on a slant was the only option. With about 9 minutes to go, I started feeling pain in my right hip, and by the time I got to the finish line (a whopping 16 seconds faster than my Disneyland time), I was in serious pain and limping.

I was barely able to walk for several days after the race, and when I tried to run again at home in Taos, the pain had me back to a walk within a few steps. I got on my foam roller and allowed my aching IT band to rest over the next couple of weeks, thankful that I was at least able to keep walking every day.

A funny thing happened while I recovered from my relatively small, but annoying race injury. I began to notice that I enjoyed walking a lot more than I enjoyed running. It was easier for one thing, although I knew I was still getting a good workout. I liked the slower, less frantic pace because I was more able to look around and take in the scenery without fear of falling in a pothole or tripping over a rock. I didn't have to carry water or wear special clothes, or head out before dawn to avoid overheating in the summer. And surprisingly, I was not gaining weight, which for me has almost always been an issue. In fact, I lost a few pounds. I'm not sure of the physiology, but I suppose it could have been because my body was no longer in fight-or-flight mode, and was not hanging onto fat to sustain me.

The more I walked, the more I didn't want to run anymore. Now that my hip has mostly healed, and even though I still enjoy a sprint down my favorite (smoothly paved) hill, sustained running still hurts. So I've given myself permission to just keep on walking, and to never run another 1/2 marathon again if I don't want to.

I'm grateful to that year of running for many things. I reclaimed my body in a way I didn't think was possible "at my age." I found inner resources I never even suspected were there. I made myself proud, achieved a difficult goal, and in the process, inspired a few other people to make changes in their own lives.

Now I'm a walker (a fast walker!) who waves at passing cars, talks to the dogs and horses along the way, looks up at the sky and the birds, and breaks into a joyful run from time to time. I can't imagine that I'll ever go back to being a non-exerciser because I feel so much better when I move. Running taught me that, and setting that goal of the first 1/2 marathon was what it took to keep me going long enough to understand that I wanted to keep going, race or no race.

My goal these days is 3 miles a day, which is just twice around the block. No big deal, and just right for me. When I do that 5 days a week, I get in 15 miles, and that's not nothin'. It's my calm time, my thinking time, and often the time I come up with my best ideas and inspirations. And it's good for me. Some say even better than running, which I'm not really sure about, but would like to be true.

One thing hasn't changed from my beginnings as a runner. Walking, like running requires the right shoes, and in my book, any reason to buy new shoes is a good one. Long range goals used to get me going. Now it seems to be footwear. Whatever it takes, right? And if only for the shoes, I'm pretty sure I'll have to try tap dancing once we get to Portland. Yes, definitely tap dancing. And I'll walk to class.


Teri said...

I prefer walking to running, it is a calmer sport. Are you moving to Portland?

Kim Miles said...

Trying to move to Portland. Have to sell our house in Taos first. Slow going in these parts...

Jean said...

Once again a very inspiring and interesting post. I was just reading about exercise and how to recharge after you have a) lost interest, b) lost your team partner with whom you ran/played a sport, and so on), and
c) aproximately 6 other reasons why exercise would no longer be a priority.
Exercise in and of itself is not enough to keep people going. This is a FACT.
There must be an additional reason. For example, having FUN, to keep people going.
You figured it out ALL BY YOURSELF, as usual.
I congratulate you on your flexibility, and your creative way of dealing with this experience, and how you persevered, turning it into a very good one. You gave great AND WISE reasons to keep going! love , jean

Kim Miles said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Jean! I love having you there!!!