Somehow, despite my best wits and self-knowledge, I signed up for a run group with Charm City Run to train for the Sole of the City 10K that happens in April in Baltimore.
April sounds like a nice month to run, right?
It sounds like there will be cherry blossoms in full bloom along the course, that birds will be chirping and there will be fluffy clouds against the bluest sky. But, in order to train for a spring race, one must start in winter.
Now, I don’t like to run outside in winter. The air is harsh against my skin and lungs; it’s difficult to figure out what to wear (you’re either too hot or too cold!); and it’s damn near impossible to justify leaving a warm cozy bed for a cold run. Perhaps I was being naive in thinking we’d have slightly warmer weather by now. But so far I’ve just seen a pattern of cold days, rainy days, and the occasional warm spike to keep us hopeful. The constant back and forth between winter and spring is a Netflix special nobody asked for.
I never thought I would be lacing up my shoes to run in winter. And yet somewhere between my solo gym workouts and group fitness classes that are so early in the morning that people barely mumble so much as a hello (listen I get it, I haven’t had my coffee yet either), I found myself craving the camaraderie that came with group runs. Running on my own wasn’t motivating enough, I needed to know what I was running to or from. Having a goal has always helped me to put one foot in front of the other.
So here I am, less than 3 weeks away from the Sole of the City 10K race, feeling the familiar doubts and excitement that come with an approaching deadline. Can I do this? Did I train hard enough? Am I pushing myself in the right way? Here are the biggest takeaways in my training journey so far:
The race is me against me.
As we start to cover longer distances my run group spreads out over the miles around the city. There are long stretches where it’s just me. Comparison of fitness and bodies robs us of our joy, robs us of the journey within self that we all must take when we’re working towards something. Even on race day,
I’m not going after anyone. The goal is always to finish what I started.
Tackle big challenges one step at a time. Interval training is difficult. You have to go out and back or up and down a hill for the sake of getting your body used to the incline and conditions. It’s good training but also not my favorite. The longer runs have become my sweet spot. On a longer run, I learn how to pace myself. There are moments where I push and where I coast. In the coast, I can check in on my breathing, take stock of how my body is feeling, and get my mind ready for the next push. Additionally, I break down longer runs into more manageable sections, and then I take care of the smaller things that need to happen for me to get through that section. Eventually, the final stretch is upon me, and it feels good.
Listen to my body, and trust it more.
Our bodies know way more than we give them credit for. I often doubt my gut reactions or how I’m feeling. But with this training session, I am learning to trust my body more. When it wants to rest, I rest. When it needs a little longer to recover, I take that space without judgment. And I’m also more intentional about the self-care before and after the run (stretching, icing, using Lush products, etc). It’s a nice harmony.
Surprising myself is coming naturally.
It’s comical that sometimes my best run time will from a day when I was literally racing in the rain. I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is for performance on one day over another. The conditions are always changing. But I’ve learned to expect beautiful surprises along the way, and to delight in them when they come.
In time, running to me can be a mindful practice and a meditation. I’m excited to see where this journey takes me, both literally and physically speaking.
Cover photo is from RUNGRL. Launched in 2018, RUNGRL is a digital media and event platform for Black women that uses running as a vehicle to impact wellness in our community. By thoughtfully curating content and events that share our voices and our stories, we are changing the existing narrative on what it means to be a runner. Follow RUNGRL on Instagram.