Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Starting vs Starting Over

I'll save you the suspense... starting over is way harder than starting.

When you first start running, it sucks, no doubt. Making your body do something that it hasn't done before, something that requires strength and endurance that you just don't have, doesn't sit well with your body. It will hate you and take its hate for you out in the form of pain, sweat, chafing, and despair. And sometimes vomit.

You will want to quit, often.

But there's a silver lining around that cloud of agony... you're starting from zero. The instant you start to improve, as soon as your body starts to adapt and get stronger and fitter, you feel the difference and you can enjoy the feeling, and the knowledge that you are better than you were.

Every improvement is a new high.

When you're starting over, you may not be starting at exactly zero. Today, I officially started back after almost half a year of overhauling and rebuilding. I'd say, on a scale of 0 to 10, I'm starting at a 2, maybe 3. But it still sucks. My body still hates me. The real tough part to take is that I know how great it is to be in excellent shape. I still remember when running was easy. When running fast was easy.

Today... wasn't easy. It was supposed to be a group run with work-based running buddies, one of which was also "starting back". Between the two of us we'd be able to keep the pace under control by reining in the young gun who would be going out with us. That was the plan, at least.  Until the other guy bailed. I was left to face the humiliation of being the slow guy, alone.

Note: When starting back, try to do it in the spring, or fall, or any other time than a day so impossibly  miserable that the National Weather Service "Heat" Advisory is upgrading to a National Weather Service "You Can Bake A Potato In Your Car" Watch, and finally to a National Weather Service "People Are F-in Melting, Man" Warning.

The youngling was pretty cool about running with me, the slow guy. When the stifling heat forced me to walk, the he hung back. He even tried to perk me up. "No worries man, I get it... you're not half the man you used to be." I think in is mind that was a compliment.

I survived. It was miserable. It was more miserable when I though about how far I am from where I was just a little over a year ago when I smoked this same dude during a speed workout.

But here's the choice I have... I can be the guy who used to be a pretty decent runner, before he got hurt, and then put on a few pounds, and then couldn't quite get back. Or, I can be the best runner I can be today, and strive to be the best I can be tomorrow, and just accept that it will be a long road to get "back", whatever that means. I may never be as fast as I used to be. Maybe I'll be faster. Probably not. But if that's my goal, it's going to be quite some time before I feel good about where I am.

For now, I'm going to try to take the view of the first time runner. Every day that I feel better should be its own reward, and enticement to run tomorrow, or whenever it stops hurting blink.

Good running,

Image from here.