Running Again

After my physiotherapy was so successful in getting me ready for my bicycle trip in India I decided it was time to try to address my other challenge: Running.

I started running in 2014 when I had decided I’d say yes to as many things as I could. A friend suggested I run a 5K and despite hating running, I decided I would give it a try. Six weeks of the “Ease Your Way to 5K” app and I was at the starting line and ran my first one. Along the way I learned something: Running was not the experience it was in phys ed class, feeling bad because I’m the slowest with my lungs burning. There was good music, there was scenery, and when racing there’s also hundreds of other people along for the ride all happy to be there. I was hooked and ran longer and longer until by 2016 I was able to run a half marathon. But after a long vacation, I was back down to 5-10 km. And over the upcoming years, things started feeling worse with tons of shin pain. By 2018 I gave up.

Now I’m back with new shoes a friend recommended and a plan to do less pavement running and more running on trails. I’ve done three runs so far. The first on the treadmill in our apartment, the second on a relatively warm day (+2 degrees!) outdoors. But today was the best so far. It was an unseasonable +16 degrees – the warmest weather I’ve felt since I was in India in December. I put on my shorts and t-shirt and didn’t need to bother with any other warm clothes. No hat, no gloves. And off I went. I took a turn toward the mountain bike trails near our home, wanting to get in to the woods.

Trail running is really lovely – there is no traffic and no car exhaust. On the other hand, it’s harder. The trails near me are on the side of a hill so there’s lots of climbing and descending. It’s a great workout but will leave your legs a bit sore. Today, with all the snow melt and last week’s rain it was even more challenging. The trails were sloppy with mud. Downhills were as much “skiing” as it was running, and uphills sometimes required that I plunge my hands in the mud, grabbing on to branches or rocks to pull myself up. It was excellent!

When I got home I was trying to explain to Sage why I like running so much and I realized it. It feels, for me, very much like a mind-altering drug. It doesn’t just change my mood and outlook. I hit upon the perfect description. When I run, my mind feels like it does when I have lots of coffee. It’s sharp, moving quickly, full of inspiration and happiness. On the other hand it doesn’t leave me hungry, grumpy, anxious or too keyed up to focus. I’m excited to get to the point where I can run for longer than thirty minutes again.

Another side effect of trail running – you get to relive your childhood playing in the mud.

Do you run or do other exercise? Or is there something else you love to do that transforms how you feel so much that you need to do it regularly?

5 thoughts on “Running Again

  1. Your photo reminded me of the mud stripe up my back from my bicycle riding as a kid. I like resistance training and medium weights. I like challenging myself a little at a time. It gives me great satisfaction.

    1. Weights are fun but I admit they don’t give me the same ‘altered mental state’ that high intensity aerobic exercise does so I don’t often do it.

      I know that stripe well – I used to have fenders on my bike to prevent it but now with a rack and a couple of panniers that also tends to reduce the issue as well.

  2. Yay for new shoes & real running trails! That’s awesome that you’ve got back into running, Todd. I’ve never heard the feeling described as you just drank coffee… that would make even me try it haha.

    1. It’s funny but most aerobic exercise is like that for me. Apparently it dumps a whole lot of compounds in to your bloodstream that make you feel good. I knew about endorphins, of course but recently read about endocannabanoids also. No wonder I feel so happy after exercise!

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