The Pursuit of Running Happy

November 2010 – I am an unhappy runner 😦                        

Soon after the Hot Chocolate 15K in November, the running mojo that carried me across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon 2010 got up and left me. I found it impossible to find motivation to run endlessly on the treadmill or to gear up and face the wintery streets of Naperville.  I could motivate others.  I fully believed my clients could achieve their goals and each and every one of them was making significant strides towards health and wellness.  But here I stood and doubted myself.  It was only in Florida this February where I was supporting my client Jessica in her first Run Disney event that the fog started to lift.  She was going for a personal best in a 5K distance after having to abandon her ½ marathon goal upon advice from her doctor.  It was at the “Happiest Place on Earth” that I found that elusive running mojo.  Until that light bulb moment, I ran only out of frustration. Needless to say that was not the best idea.  My state of mind affected my runs so much that I avoided them most days.   I don’t know if it was finally seeing the sun after months of gloomy winter days, spending uninterrupted time with a good friend and her family, the constant happy music that is part of the Disney experience, or the most awesome race expo ever, but I could feel myself believing I was a runner once more. I realized I hadn’t really set any fitness or running goals. It’s a bit like heading out on a road trip without a destination in mind. How could I plan my route without knowing where I wanted to finish. My goal the previous year was to cover the distances in all my races ending with the Chicago Marathon and to finish injury free.  Check and check!!!  Now what? 

February 2011 – I’m an inspired runner 🙂  

Time to set new goals -Feeling newly inspired I called my husband Alex in a frenzy and told him to sign me up for the Chicago Marathon 2011. I knew that the race would sell out soon and I had really put off the decision for a very long time.  He had witnessed my struggle to get moving with a purpose after the marathon blues took hold.  I think he thought I had lost my mind, but he also knew I was serious.  Knowing that running for the sake of running was not enough motivation, it was clear that filling up a race schedule was the only choice.  Dream Big! Think Big! Do big!

It wasn’t enough to just run the same distances/races again this year. I set another goal to set official PR’s (personal records) in all distances. This means adding speed work to my training.  Words like farklet,  800’s, 400’s, intervals, hill work, and tempo runs were all going to have to leak into my training vernacular.  This old dog is going to learn a lot of new tricks this year.

I still wanted to complete the racing season injury free so I decided to adopt a run/walk strategy for long distances.  I met Jeff Galloway at the Disney Race Expo and he shared lots of wisdom and motivation regarding distance training. 

Jeff Galloway and Jessica

 He is the father of the run/walk strategy and has trained thousands of runners for all distances.  Jeff Galloway took the time to talk to Jessica and me and sent us off with a can-do attitude.  I also decided that I would never run 2 days in a row.  My body responds best to a break from the pounding of running and it just makes it more enjoyable for me. That leads me to my last goal.

I want to run happy this year. I’m aware that it won’t always be a fun run, but I’m determined to find happiness somewhere in each run I do. My joy might come from the weather being ideal, the kids joining me, going farther, going faster, or it might be as basic as being thankful for just doing a run.  I’m going to soak up all the positive energy of race day. I’m going to enjoy the experience of race day including the pre-race excitement and post-race festivities when possible. I’ll try to shake off the pre-race nervousness or post-race disappointment I might have.

Having set these goals in February, you might be wondering how it’s been since the glow of Disney has worn off.  I have been adding speed work to my training and it has been brutal!!!!  It hasn’t killed me (yet), and I’m getting faster with each session.  I’ve remained injury free and have done a distance of 11 miles using the Galloway run/walk and it’s kept me from being sore.  I’ve been pretty happy for most of my training runs.

My first race for improving my time was a mixed bag of success.  My goal for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K was to just to improve 1 second faster than my 54:30 finish time last year. Last year it was snowing, windy and frigid.  This year it was 80 degrees, humid and sunny.  Bump #1 – I do much better in cooler weather and I hadn’t trained in any kind of heat yet. Bump #2 – I was nervous. I couldn’t help but feel the burden of my first time goal. Bump #3 – I missed my goal and finished in 55:22. CRAP! I fought feverishly to be positive despite that.   I know that you are supposed to slow your pace when temps are above 60 degrees. I know that if this was last year I would’ve finished with a time of about an hour.  These are the thoughts I tried to bring to the front of my mind after seeing the time on my Garmin. I did meet one goal. I had the best post-race experience EVER with my client/friend Renee. We drank our hard earned beers and stayed to enjoy the sun that we cursed during the race. We relaxed and danced like crazy people all day.  We laughed and ate and pretended it was summer.

Renee and I pre-Shuffle sporting striped socks to be a little wacky!

 

Post race reward

 

April 2011 – I’m a happy runner 🙂 🙂 🙂

So yet again I will look at this coming year as one full of learning.  While I’m busy living my life with my family, friends and work, I have things to work on.  I will eat right, sleep right, think right, and train right. Most importantly in terms of running… I will run happy.  How will you fill in this blank?

 I will __________ happy!

Until next time…Live Well!

Toni Kuhel

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