Monday, March 10, 2014

Jess Goes Running: Finding a Rhythm (Again)

It is very possible that we are finally seeing the end of winter in Chicagoland.  Granted, there are a few days within the next week where the temperature is going to dip into the low 30's and tomorrow night we are apparently supposed to get some snow (UGH), but by and large, Spring seems to be moving on in.  This, of course, fills me with immense amounts of excitement, because A) I really don't like winter and B) warmer weather means I can be outside all of the time!  And start running out in the elements again.

To say that my running routine tanked a bit over the last few months would be an understatement.  I am sure I've talked about this before, but I am using this space in part to keep myself accountable, and it is important for me to own up to my choices and/or decisions, even if they do not always have the best outcome.    So.  I blame it on a number of things, but I take full responsibility for all of it.  Between work being busy, weather conditions being so damn cold/snowy that running outside wasn't even an option, the holidays, getting sick a few times, my inability to enjoy/tolerate running on the treadmill, and packing and then moving, the thing that suffered was running.  I can tell, too, that my fitness has decreased a little bit and I am in slightly less good shape than I was a few months ago, at, say, the Hot Chocolate 5K.  It's a little disheartening, and I have had a little bit of difficulty getting back into it.

On the other hand, though, it shows me that what I have been doing--running and trying to eat a little better--has been working!  And so what I need to work on is finding a rhythm again.  I went for a run last week on one of the warmer days, and it felt amazing to be out there, my feet hitting the pavement, my form capable and strong.  I'm never going to be the fastest runner out there, and frankly, I am okay with that!  It's not about being fast, or winning races, or anything like that.  It's about being the best possible version of myself.


Earlier this afternoon, I finished that third paragraph, looked at the clock, and then decided, why not?  I still had a little over an hour before I needed to start getting ready to leave for work and the weather app on my phone said 48 degrees and from that beautiful front window of mine, I could see blue skies and sunshine.  Within 5 minutes, I was lacing up my shoes and locking the front door.

The walk from the building to the entrance of the apartment complex was my warm up and by the time I reached the path that heads east to its terminus at Fullerton, I was ready.  I had a great workout playlist going, and I'd worn the perfect amount of layers.  I'm still working on increasing my speed (both in general and from the lack of running in my life the last few months) but damn, it felt good.  I found a good pace with my breathing and movement rather early on and I soon found myself completely in sync with my surroundings.

Once I got to the corner of Fullerton and Wolf, I turned left and headed north.  I kept running until I got to the high school, where there were long, rather deep puddles across the whole sidewalk, due to the snow runoff.  Here I walked quickly, around the puddles when possible, otherwise very quickly and carefully.  Luckily I had worn two pairs of socks, and I had prepared myself for the possibility of it anyway--an occupational hazard of running in Chicago in the spring.

I kept going past the high school, to Wolf and Diversey, and it was there I decided to turn around.  Which meant I had to go back through those puddles (so glad I only had to deal with that for two blocks).  I was starting to get a little tired, but I knew that it wouldn't be long before I was turning onto Fullerton again.  And then, I noticed a man on the other side of Wolf, running the direction I had just come from.  He saw me at about the same time, and then something amazing happened: he pumped his fist in the air a few times and smiled at me.  I beamed back at him and waved, feeling suddenly energized for the remaining part of my run.

The community aspect of it all is amazing to me.  I will be the first to admit that running is a rather solitary practice for me.  I'm not opposed to the idea of running with a partner or with a group, of course, but 95% of the time it's just me and the pavement beneath my running shoes.  But there are moments like the one I had today, where two complete strangers are tied together in the shared experience and accomplishment of running.  We all have different paces and different experiences but I believe the world is a better place when people are nice to one another and encourage one another, and it is fantastic to be apart of something like this.  To be able to give a smile and a nod or, in this case, a wave across a busy street.

 All in all, I ran 2.12 miles in 27:55 which is slow, but considering that I had to walk through those puddles, I'll take it for now! Though the forecast calls for snow on Tuesday night, I hope to be able to get a run in before work.  It would be fantastic to get out there and explore somewhere new... maybe I'll continue east down Fullerton, or perhaps I'll take the bike path again.  I find myself grateful for the opportunity, for the experience...  settling back into the routine, all for the love of running.  To say I am excited to see where the road takes me is an understatement.  I sure am one lucky woman.

(20 days until the Shamrock Shuffle!  Can't wait!)

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