Monday, December 30, 2013

A look back at my year of running

Every time I do one of these, it makes me feel like I'm in middle school/high school again and am filling out those surveys you used to forward to all your friends.

But the slight discomfort with most early 2000s flashbacks is overpowered by the millennial love of sharing my special snowflake-ness with you all.

Also, it's nice when other bloggers help you write your own posts. So from Miss Zippy via Pavement Runner, here is my year of running.

Best race experience? Tough question, because I didn't do a single race by myself this year, I only truly bombed one, and I had three personal-record-setting races.

As far as the actual experiences go, though, I have to set the Woofin' It 5K and the Boone County History 5K Run/Walk apart.

Unlike with PR-setting races, or simply races that were freakin' hard, the challenges in these races were always inherently funny: Of course it's hard to run up a hill when an energetic large dog is pulling you (and you're not on roller skates)! Of course wearing an old towel that's masquerading as a toga will slow you down in the August heat and humidity!

I'm not knocking serious races or completely noncompetitive ones (like the Glow Run or Color Run), but both of these had the right combination of pushing myself and enjoying myself. Particularly because one came right after the Drake Relays disaster.

Plus, the causes were close to my heart: Furry Friends Refuge and our good buddy Pam's employer.

Best run? Either I'm getting old and forgetful, or I just run too much to keep many individual ones straight. So I'm going to pick the early spring run at Raccoon River Park with Regina, Emily and Zach, because of how it broke the seal on social running for me.

I rarely ran with others back in Rockton. In 1.5 years in Des Moines, I'm sure I've done as many group runs, if not more, than in the 3.5 years I ran in Illinois ... counting races.

I knew making plans to run with others would hold me more accountable, but I had no idea it would also prove to be a fun way to spend time with people.

Best new piece of gear? My Halo headband, which I bought for RAGBRAI and continued to use the rest of the year. It's officially my favorite sweatband.

Best piece of running advice you received? Definitely the rhythmic breathing method, which I read about in Runner's World this spring.

It's significantly reduced the aches and pains I would feel on one side of the body but not the other, and focusing on syncing my breath and feet helps pace me better. I don't even care if it turns out to be 100 percent placebo effect — the benefits for me are real.

Most inspirational runner? I should be able to list off Boston Marathon bombing survivors or any of the people who tend to be featured in a Runner's World article, but right now, the one that sticks in my brain the most is Katie of run this amazing day.

In her most recent Ironman attempt, another biker hit her, possibly breaking her arm, near the end of the bike portion of the race. And she still ran the marathon portion, passing people while she did it.

If I can continue to treat this like an essay test and not a fill-in-the-blank, though, I'd like to add that my friends who push their limits — either by starting to run, returning to running or taking the marathon plunge — inspire me as well. Thanks, guys!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? Better than ever.

This was definitely a breakthrough year: I notched quite a few PRs; maybe more importantly, it seemed like most runs were generally good ones in terms of performance and how I felt; and I cultivated a group with whom I could run and do races.

When I realized that I'd been running for about five years this past fall, I half-believed it, but now, I fully believe it — because things are certainly clicking.

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