My Running Story
I remember a time in my life before I started running - about 15 years ago - when I had a lot of pent up energy and frustration that I did not know how to channel in the right way. I had already been practicing yoga for nearly five years and, while movement and breath on the mat helped me to focus and feel good, I still felt like I needed another outlet - a way to achieve strength, endurance, and weight management and to further settle my mind.
My first attempt at running was nothing to write home about. But I felt so good after it was over and, much like yoga, I began to realize how I could manage frustrating, negative thoughts by running them straight out of my head as I picked up speed or tackled a hill.
I started to increase my miles. A lot. In 2005, I ran my first marathon. I trained for over a year and half, running almost everyday (I committed to taking one day off per week) and dedicating to one long run (10-18 miles) a week. At the time, it did not make sense to me to combine yoga and running. If I did a yoga class on a day off, I would later only feel soreness while I was running in my shoulders from Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and other upper body and core strengthening asanas. So I stopped yoga altogether. If I was to run a marathon, I really just needed to focus on racking up miles and training my legs for the endurance. Or so I thought.
One morning in early 2006 - months after the marathon - I suddenly felt a shooting pain across my low back, and down my legs. Many doctors visits and muscle relaxers later, with no real answers as to why or how the pain occurred, and weeks in bed with limited movement, I was convinced I would not run again. As I searched for answers, I focused more deeply on my yoga practice, finding important relief but nothing close to full recovery.
Eventually, I found a sports therapist who conducted a holistic review of my skeletal and muscular system. He found severe muscle spasms across my lateral muscles, glutes, and hamstrings and a severely underdeveloped core musculature system. Years of pounding pavement with little strength training, limited stretching, and lots of other poor life habits - sitting for long periods at work and poor posture - had led me to this place. After quite a few sessions of muscle and spinal manipulation and my low back, glutes, and hips finally started to release. Most importantly, no more painkillers!
More than a year later, I started running again - short distances only. I had already done one marathon so I had nothing to prove and nobody to prove it to. I blended in yoga, sometimes doing both in the same day. I started to feel a lot better. Rededicating to my yoga practice after injury gave me a sense of peace, strength, and possibility. Discovering that running did not have to equal long distances and potentially debilitating pain was exceptionally enlightening. Weaving both together in a way that balanced my energy, strength, and focus was totally liberating.
When in 2012 my husband ran his second marathon and I helped him to finish the last stretch from Mile 19, I could almost embody his sense of accomplishment and gratification, only it was not my own. Joining the "real" runners to help him finish the race ignited a reawakened desire inside of me to go the distance and test my body's boundaries again. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, perhaps I was going insane? But if the definition of personal leadership is to learn from your failures, push your comfort zone, and improve yourself in the process, maybe I was just growing as a human being.
I spent much of the next six months researching running techniques, reading articles on proper footwear, fuel, etiquette. I'd been running for nearly 11 years but never really took the time to think or analyze how I was doing it. No boxer steps into the ring and starts swinging; no swimmer dives into a pool to 400m of freestyle; no baseball player swings his bat to a home run; and no yoga practitioner climbs into Bakasana (Crow) without a teacher to show them the way. Most sports require technique, training, and regular coaching. So, why do we as runners just starting pounding the pavement without much thought?
Runners have an advantage in that almost anybody can walk out of the house and work up to a slow jog or run with no guidance, no training. But we are severely disadvantaged in that running is such an easy activity to just go and do, we do not seek proper training first. Welcome to the Runners' Corner!
While the results of my first marathon were disastrous in every way except having finished; the second, third, fourth, and fifth marathons were tremendous growing experiences for me as a runner, yoga practitioner, teacher, and human being. Not only have I learned to ward off injury, I have become stronger, faster, and healthier in the process. At 39 years of age, I am more fit, flexible, and energetic than the first time I crossed the finish line.