“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.” – Julie Isphording
I am tamil and I never ran growing up. May be occasionally to catch an ice cream truck, or the ‘mittai wala'(candy man), but never just to run. It was an alien concept to me, and also as a kid with dust allergy and asthma, I was asked to keep out of our school’s dusty playground. When I came to US in the early 2000s and met few friends that ran races, I was surprised people would pay $$s to go run.
Fast forward, when I turned 39(I still lie about my age to my weigh machine but don’t you?), something in me wanted to try the idea of Running. I wanted to see what it was all about. I ran like 2 miles on a treadmill, probably about 11:00 min pace. I didn’t think too much of it, but went back again next day. So I ran through summer of 2015, trying to run 25 miles a week. I never had any close friends that ran races regularly, so I had no idea of the races people run! Once in awhile I will read someone doing a marathon, but running 26 miles even today seems like life consuming task. After few months, my aimless running to just run, came to an end just out of pure boredom and the lack of real goals, and finding no purpose! It seemed like I spent more time taking selfies during these runs, than understanding the idea of running. After a while I went back to my Body Pump and Body Combat Classes, which I believed exist to keep people thin, so we can eat more snack without gaining weight!
I started dating my boyfriend Matt, late February 2016/Early March(we both have different versions of when we started dating, and we still haven’t settled on an anniversary date yet), and one of the thing he and his friend Shannon were doing was to do one race a month. So I signed up for Carlsbad 5000 Race for April, with them, and ran my first ever 5k, along with Shannon’s friend Priscilla. Priscilla has been running for last 10 years, and a real runner. During Carlsbad 5000 5k I tried to run along with her as if I am her running buddy, and without realizing, how fast or slow I was running, I ended up finishing my Carlsbad 5000, with 7:58 Pace(Priscilla finished with a 7:27 pace, and got one of those cool ‘First 250 finisher’ medal).
I don’t know what would have happened if it was 8:01, but something about seeing 7min in the pace, made me think I could run! I signed up to run La Jolla 5k that was few weeks after in that April, when Priscilla ran her half marathon there, and ran a 7:39 Pace. I thought to myself it is not an accident that I ran.(Little did I know La Jolla 5k is one of the easiest 5ks with about a mile and a half of downhills). After that, I signed up to run at OC Marathon/Wahoo’s 5k which was in May first week , and ran a 7:43 Pace. Every 5k I ran I felt horrible, my lungs were hurting, throats drying out. But when I saw the finish line, and I read my finish pace, I wanted to Run again! I wanted to run a better time, and I wanted to run with less struggle!
I would go home, read online to see how to run, and how to run faster, and I would go back to run again, and struggle miserably! I just knew it wasn’t easy. I talked to people I met at the races, and I talked to people who ran faster! I was given tons of words, Strides, Fartlek, hill training, hill repeats and what not. I was like a kid in kindergarten with a calculus book. It made no sense, but I went back and asked more! But mostly I have been running on my own, making my own mistake, and if get lucky have a friend or two explain me few things and getting better along the way!
In all of these trial and errors, I didn’t realize the concept of ‘time and training’. I would see this guy Roberto Ferrito in most every 5k races I ran, and he is my age, in his 40s, but would always end up taking one of the age group awards, with a under 6:30 pace, and I would be super amazed at his speed. While trying to figure out how to record keep my race times, I stumbled upon Athlinks.com – this website that tracks everyone’s most every race results and this site data, opened up a whole new way of looking at running. It is like a time travel into people’s running past. I saw Robbie’s time go from 7:30 to 6:15 over the course of 2012 to 2016. I went back and asked Robbie about how he gotten faster and it helped me with a perspective I didn’t have before, which is ‘you don’t wake up and run faster, you work your way up to your speed over time’. In a single response, Robbie helped a lot with my training tips and how in his late 30s, he picked up running and trained hard to get to the speed he runs now. That helped and opened up a whole new door for me to train. Athlinks in a way helped me to and ask the right kind of question to understand what it takes to run faster.
Since April 2016, I have run about 12 races in LA, OC and San Diego areas. I figured I learn by mistake, so I am allowing myself to make mistakes. Some mistakes are easy one to recover, and some aren’t. I went and ran my first half marathon on May 30, 2016, without much training. But I learnt that IT Band would give out if you increase miles like that without training! That was the first time I even knew where exactly my IT band was!
It has been interesting learning to run and to have run about 12 races in the short few months, with about 52 race miles. But in all of this, what I have learnt this year, is that, I really love running. I like the gratitude I feel every time my Garmin ForeRunner beeps at the mile mark. That beep reminds me, how grateful I am to be able to run, and for the health, and the people I have in my life, that support me and love me! Running usually keeps me away from things physically but I feel more close with everything I have in my life, when I run! Its a joy I would never be able to explain in a blog post, but I will try with this blog! But, I just know that Running is my happy place!