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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Things I (may or may not have) learned running

(Inspiration for this post, came from the here)

Before I was an endurance rider, a blogger, or a vet student....I was a runner. 

Most of my "big" running days occurred preblogging - here's some pics from a marathon that I posted early in the life of this blog.

Most of my running occurred BEFORE I owned 2 horses.....And then when I unexpectedly had one horse again (colic will do that.....), I was too busy overriding my one horse to seriously run again.

Things have come into balance, and not withstanding some unfortunate injuries (spraining my ankle half way through my ride and tie last year comes to mind....) I'm finally started to integrate running back into my life as a habit again.

I was a runner before I was much of anything else, and it's been a constant thing in my life as far back as elementary school.

The only label that predates running is "horse crazy".

Fortunately I've found a sport that nicely combines my love of running and "horse crazy" - endurance (and ride and tie).
Even if running isn't your thing, we've touched on the subject how it's both less painful and extra gratifying being a more fit rider in the sport of endurance.  Running is how I chose to be rider fit. (BTW, if you share a love of horses and a desire to be "rider fit" I encourage you to join the facebook group, "Rider Fit".  It's a great place to be encouraged by other horse people trying to achieve fitness goals in order to "do good" by their horses and themselves. )

This is how I've justified an entire post talking a lot about running and very little about riding :).

I've recently discovered Pinterest and I have a board devoted to things I love and want out of running.  I came across this and decided to compare what she learned running to what I think my lessons learned our (and maybe come up with a couple of my own!).

Granted, I don't think I've EVER been able to run consistently for 3 years - motivation loss, injuries, burnout etc - but I have more than a decade (OMG I just realized my first marathon was over a DECADE ago!) of sticking with this sport and STILL I get butterflies in my stomach when I know I have an awesome run planned and that has to count for something right?

"What I've learned in on-again off-again running" :) (as compared to 10 things I learned during my first 3 years running) - note that I don't cover all 10 things since this post was getting long....go to her blog and fill in the missing numbers.

1. It gets easier. 
...You don't feel like you're going to die after every run, just some of them."
 ==>LOL so true.  Totally agree. I'm starting to feel better in a week (usually about 3 runs).  I start absolutely craving runs at the 3 week mark.  But those first couple of runs? OMG you've never heard such a wheezing, snotty, congested person shamble along.

2. I prefer morning runs to any other time of day
"If I go in the morning, it's done and out of the way. I feel so great the rest of the day from getting my heart pumping and legs moving, and I didn't take away from any normal "day" time.  "
==> I believe in morning running.  There is some research that says morning is "best". However....I've always been an afternoon runner. More of my runs have been done at 4pm than at any time of the day.  I LOVE how I feel after a morning run and everything she says is true - it feels like stolen time.  BUT......I also really really love sleep.  And I have a hard time with nausea in the morning which isn't a problem for easy or tempo runs, but really starts to affect me during intervals. I know morning running works: I was the most consistent runner I have EVER been when I lived in an area with active mountain lion activity and I was told that running in the morning was lower risk than the evening.  But....that internship ended and I moved back down to the valley and once my pillow called me and I have never been able to consistently run in the mornings again, despite making real efforts to.  Besides the the often said advice of "Find something that works for you and stick with it" - my specific advice from my running experience would be "pair running with another activity, whether it's getting out of bed in the morning, lunch time, or getting home from work or school".  If lunch time = run time, or I immediately change into run clothes without sitting down after getting home, I'm much more likely to run.

3. My stomach can't handle much (or any) food before a run
"Articles and advice are great, but at the end of the day you just have to do what works best for you. There isn't necessarily a right or wrong way to prepare for a run."
==> I sort of agree. The new research on carbohydrates and hitting walls is compelling.  We will talk later about that in an upcoming nutrition post (true in our horses and there's some other complexities with horses too). I would argue that sometimes eating NOTHING before a run is better than eating something that is going to start a cascade of blood sugar spikes, HOWEVER, if the simple carb thing (Gu's come to mind) works for you and you have no complaints..then who am I to say you are doing it wrong?  I'm lucky.  For as much trouble as I have eating during endurance rides, I am EXACTLY the OPPOSITE running.  I can eat ANYTHING and be perfectly happy. Except gummy bears - ate some late into a marathon one time and they did NOT go down well and from that moment on they sort of squee me out.  And red bull type energy drinks are NASTY but who knows, maybe it tastes better when you aren't currently running double digit miles? And while we are on the subject, I'm DONE with lemon lime flavored electrolyte drinks - it's the flavor usually provided at aid stations.

Over the years I've sort of honed my running food - more from other dietary issues that have come up in my life - gluten sensitivity, and sometimes lactose sensitivity, tendancy to go hypoglycemic if I eat simple carbs etc.  But in general the food has been a non issue for me and I've been blessed with a GI tract of iron that hasn't had me running for the bushes during a race (knock on wood!).

5. You cannot underestimate the power of a good pair of shoes
Have to admit I've done a complete 180 degrees on this one.  Up until a couple of years ago I preached the virtues of a well fitted running shoe specific to your style and type of running.  I diligently tracked mileage and time and bought extra pairs when one worked really well, because they would change season to season and sometimes not fit as well.

Nowadays I run barefoot. Mostly I wear moccosins, and I replace them when the soles wear through and rocks keep getting in.  I've gotten injuries directly attributed to shoes - either because they were worn out, or because they were the wrong shoe.  I've never had an injury directly attributable to going barefoot. And, in going barefoot I've resolved several chronic pain issues that I did not attribute to shoes, but just running in general. 

Barefoot isn't for everyone and to make it work I think it has to be a lifestyle change - not just a change that you make for running.

And it's not like my running moccasins are any cheaper than my old fancy running shoes.  Still $100 a pair!  And they last only marginally longer.

I do agree with her on socks. Do not underestimate the value of good socks and if you are still doing athletic socks in those white cotton things, move on already!!!!  Break down and buy 1 or 2 good pairs that you save only for running or whatever.  Your feet will thank you and sometimes just getting to wear those socks is enough motivation to get out the door :). (BTW - I've loved several socks over the years, but my current fav is SmartWool in their various forms.)

7. Sometimes it's more fun to run with someone
...and sometimes it's not.  I used to think I wanted a running partner. It's never really worked out pace or schedule wise with anyone.  And I've discovered I really rather run alone.  Running is the ONE time my usually very logical mind day dreams. I'm not sure why, but it's very special to me and if I want to run with someone, I'll sign up for a race.  Otherwise I really really want to run by myself (and sometimes that includes leaving the dog or horse at home).

10. You don't have to run if you don't want to 
Number 9 is so important to me, I'm saving it for last. 

Not running if you don't feel like it? Even if it's on the schedule?  It took me until LAST YEAR to learn this lesson.  OMG.  I am such a slow learner.  If I don't feel up to a run, or didn't sleep, or want to ride instead, or just take a day off, it's OK!!!!!!!!!  Seriously folks - I consider this revelation the biggest break through I've ever had in running (or riding).

9. You don't have to be fast or skinny to be a runner
 The fast part I figured out a while ago.  It took me a while to accept that while I might feel like a runner, I'll never look like a traditional runner.  It took doing 3 marathons and never losing weight or significantly changing my body.  And doing endurance and other crazy physical things that "proved" to me that I WAS in good shape, even if I still looked squishy.  Reading that "20 minute" book helped a lot - that's when I decided I exercised because it did far more than weight loss - I was exercising because it made me smarter and happier.  And since I love running the most, I decided that exercise=running.  And it has nothing to do with weight, my image, or anything beyond "it makes me feel good".

On pinterest I see a lot of running "motivational" quotes - some I relate too and some I don't.  Weight loss, body image, running away from life --> these are not the things I run for.  What does running mean to me? Here is a taste:

Most of the images have credits embedded :).

Now, Go out and DO something.  And if you are of the equestrian persuasion (and you don't have to be a runner!) than stop by the rider fit face book group and say hi!



  1. #10 has become extremely important for me, in riding anyway. Sometimes I just don't want to, and I'm finally ready to quit listening to the nagging voice saying "but champions don't take days off". Sometimes if I want to sit on my butt with a mug of tea and a book and PJs, that's ok! It's better to refuel my brain and my body than to burn myself out because my nagging inner self tells me that's what I'm supposed to do. It's kind of how I'm stumbling into other sports with O... just because I feel like I'm 'supposed' to do exclusively eventing doesn't mean that it HAS to be that way, why not try other things?

  2. re: #7: YES. Running with other people is the only thing I know that's worse than riding with other people. There are times/places/situations when I've been very happy to trot along beside somebody else on a horse, and I really enjoyed being part of a team when I was running as part of a team, but when it came to the actual _running_ part of the program? Company was the opposite of what I was in it for.

  3. I love the running quotes - I think many of them would probably apply to endurance too, especially that last one!


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