Today is World Running Day and runners from all over the world celebrate by banging on the sidewalk. As a recreational runner, I couldn’t help but think about how my attitude toward running has changed over time. In the past decade, I have run every distance from 5K, 10K and 15K to a half marathon (four times!), And finally my first marathon in 2019. Running became a therapeutic tool for me in my 20s and eventually became a way to set goals and I challenge myself. I remember, after participating in my first 10K race, I was hooked. I wanted to see how far (and faster) I could go.
During that period, I took breaks from running to focus on other forms of fitness, but running always came back into my life. Then, as we all know, the past two years have turned the worlds around with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, I noticed that more people were running outside than usual. With indoor gyms, it was one of the few ways to exercise and alleviate cabin fever. Despite my love of running, watching others jog through the streets did not arouse my interest in joining them. I wasn’t in the right space because, like many others, I was worried about COVID. On top of that, all the races were canceled until further notice, my motivation to run just for fun was gone, and I had no interest in crossing the hills of my new neighborhood.
Rewind forward to the TCS New York City Marathon in November 2021, one of the first races to return since the pandemic began. As I watched my running friends post about it on their social media, I suddenly felt the spark come back to me. I remembered that climax after the race after I had invested all that work, and I longed to feel that rush again. So far, I haven’t run consistently since 2019 when I trained for four months in a row for the New York City Marathon. I loved my first marathon experience, and the New York City Marathon exceeded my expectations.
Encouraged by that spark, I impulsively applied for the sweepstakes to enter the Chicago Marathon and United Airlines NYC Half 2022. I guessed right after I participated in the raffle because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to participate again full time. . I thought to myself, if I got into one of these races, then it’s a sign to go back to running.
I wasn’t selected for Chicago, but I did enter the NYC Half. This was a half marathon on the list for me, because I heard how cult it is. The race route gives you a great view of the city and it is one of the few times (except New Year’s Eve) when Times Square is closed to traffic. It is also a notoriously difficult race to enter the prize game, which I knew from all the years in which I participated and was never chosen.
As much as I was excited to run my first big race in two years, I also felt fear because this was my first time training in the winter – the race took place in March. I usually avoided most races that required me to train in NYC winters because snowy, windy and icy conditions are not very suitable for runners. Not to mention, this time we were still in the grip of a pandemic and I was worried that new variants could put us at risk of getting sick during the race or canceling it altogether. After deciding on a conservative training plan that made it easier for me to get back to running, I started training in late December. I regained my stamina pretty quickly and soon felt like I had managed to run again. I set myself a high goal that I thought I could achieve if the training went well.
I adapted well to the weather as it gradually got colder, so I even ran in the snow, rain, wind and temperatures of 10 degrees. I even tried to run when the roads were icy, and despite slipping on the sidewalk a few times, I managed to do it. As long as I dressed appropriately (I swear on Baleaf fleece-lined T-shirts and Tough Outdoors running gloves), the cold didn’t negatively affect my running, surprisingly. In fact, in the days when the weather was absolutely the worst, I felt more successful and harder because I endured it.
One special race stands out to me. Through the window I saw snow and sleet falling, and I was already afraid of going out because my feet were heavy and sore. I crossed the mile to the planned eight-mile run and out of nowhere a car that passed to my left crossed a huge puddle and sprayed me. I remember how aggravating it was, because now not only was I wet, but I was also freezing. I talked to myself and said that if I could comfortably cross another mile, I would suffocate the discomfort. If it still bothered me, I would turn around and go home.
In the end, I covered eight miles, but I also appreciated being the only soul on my race track because no one else was walking by the water in mid-February. It was the equivalent of a solo run in the early morning hours during the summer to beat the midday heat and crowds.
All that running outside also helped me not to fall into the winter blues funk that I normally experience at this time of year. And that gave me a much-needed break from my work laptop for about an hour during the day, giving my eyes a break from staring at the screen.
After two and a half months of training, I came across a fix. My legs began to feel the pain that occurs when running at high strength and on hilly surfaces. After visiting the physiotherapist, I was diagnosed with tendonitis, which meant I would have to run slowly. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew it meant I would have to reduce the time to the goal I had in mind, as well as the number of days I ran. Since I have never been a runner prone to injuries, anxiety crept in and I was worried that I would have to give up the race.
This time I took the recovery much more seriously than I had done in the past. After all the work I put in, I still wanted to do this race – but safely. I was consistent in performing physical therapy exercises as well as foam rolling, stretching, strength training, cross training (Peloton rides with Cody FTW), hydration (I opted for UCAN and Cure electrolytes after running) and made sure I ate lots of nutritious food (runner) in the long run and an Olympian, Shalane Flanagan’s Smoothie Can’t Beet Me Smoothie was one of my favorites) to help recover. Recovery made running bearable at this point, when I started falling into negative space.
As I was going through this recovery phase, the mental side of running was really challenging for me because there were a lot of times during this training cycle when I wanted to throw in the towel. In the past, if I felt pain or cramps, it would go away on its own, but I could say that this time it would not be the case. All in all, I felt happy to be healthy enough (especially during the pandemic) to accept this challenge. By the time I reached my taper, or the last two weeks before the race when my training mileage was greatly reduced, I was proud to have mastered winter running and proved to myself that I could be a runner in all weathers. I still didn’t feel 100 percent (more 85 to 90 percent), but I also had to accept that I was no longer the same 20-year-old who could run endlessly without worrying about injury.
When race day finally arrived, I decided that my game plan for that day had changed. I remember reviewing some of my favorite running accounts on social media, which reminded me that races aren’t always for acquiring new PR and that not everything will go as planned. Releasing what you can’t control also removes the pressure of how you think things should go. There is a moment during the long-distance race when you know in advance that you will fight and it is easier to accept that reality in advance. I knew my tendonitis was not completely cured and I needed a realistic approach. So instead of aiming for a specific completion time, I decided to run after the experience. After all, I signed up because I enjoy running.
The race day was a perfect spring day (even a little melted, if you ask me) and the crowd was spectacular as were the scenes. I was more impressed by how hilly the trail was, despite the fact that I studied it several times and ran on the hills regularly during training. But nothing prepares you completely until you enter the density. There were parts that were great (capturing views of the city) and other parts that weren’t that great. My tendonitis started to flare up during the last few miles, which was not good, but it made it easier for me that it only appeared at the back end. That didn’t change the fact that the rest of the race still seemed challenging. I ended up not far from my average half marathon time and I felt super accomplished because I just finished it.
Running is similar to life, in the sense that there are ups and downs and that it is unpredictable. Similar to this pandemic, we have all experienced some ups and downs, but what is important is how we prepare and deal with what is thrown at us. I’m glad the pandemic has helped me get back in touch with my running roots, but I think this time my feet are ready for a well-deserved rest.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any questions you may have about your health condition or health goals.