I’m Not a Runner

rp_Dog-Days-Race-213x3001.jpgEvery day people come into the store where I work and introduce their needs with “I’m not a runner.” They go on to explain that they only run short distances or they run long distances but not fast or heaven forbid, they run with some walk breaks. Because of these shortcomings, their thoughts, not mine, they are not a runner. I always respond with some variation of, “Of course you are a runner. You put one foot in front of another. That makes you a runner.”

But suddenly I find myself believing that I am not a runner. After almost 25 years of running I find myself with a major injury. One that leaves me thinking my running days are over or at the very least, my long distance days are over. And even as I write this I want to cry. Even as I write this I feel my shoulders droop, my chest ache, and my feet itch to get out there and run again.

Am I really done? I don’t know. What I do know is that I have to practice what I preach. I have to give myself credit for what I have done and be nice to myself about what I cannot currently do.

Running has been a huge part of my life for so long and now that I work at Fleet Feet, helping with the group runs and training programs, meeting with runners on a daily basis, not running is harder. Not running defines me in a whole new way. A way I don’t like, a way I need to correct. I was a runner. I am not a runner. Hopefully, with physical therapy and lots of work I will one day be a runner again.

Stop Sabotaging Your Training

Written by Ann Brennan

Stop Sabotaging Your Training“Okay Mom, I will rest if you will just shut up about it.”

I have heard this several times over the past two weeks. Apparently I have become the mom of the running community. I am willing to accept that role if it means getting through to the runners who are sabotaging their chances of running a strong marathon.

In the past few weeks I have run with several injured runners. Yes, injured. People with injuries that are causing them to limp on a regular basis. People who can pinpoint the cause of the injury and still refuse to take a few days off to rest.

I understand their reasoning. The plan calls for a run today, therefore I have to get it in.

But these are smart people. They are people who can understand that running is only making their injury worse, but they can’t allow themselves downtime because the plan says…

So, today, I am here once again to play mom. Today I am here to say, rest, ice, compress and elevate. Stop sabotaging your training. Treat the injury now and you are much more likely to make it across that finish line on race day.

I get that it is hard to skip a workout. The workouts are what move you forward. That 20-mile run is just the thing to give you confidence for race day. But will it do that if you are in pain the whole time? Will it move you forward if you start the race with a limp?

Yes, I am being a mom. But the truth is, YOU KNOW THIS. You know that it makes no sense to sabotage your efforts by making an injury worse. It makes no sense to push through the pain if the swelling in that joint is made worse. It makes perfect sense to nurse it. Make it better and then go out.

I am never one to say skip a race (unless there is a good way to reschedule it sooner rather than later). I understand the draw of race day. But I am one to tell you that resting an injury is always the smart move, fresh legs never ruined a marathon, and knowing you have made the smart decision should give you the confidence you need to get it done on race day.

Okay, mom is shutting up now. Sort of, after I say one more thing. Go get that ice, the compression socks, watch some tv with your feet up and for God’s sake, get some rest.

Running With My Heart

Written by Ann Brennan

Running with my heartI am driving my husband out of his mind. To be fair, if I were to tell Ann Brennan of 2012 what I am doing right now, she would be going out of her mind as well. But it is okay, because I am having fun. I am getting the training done and I will run NCR Trail Marathon at the end of November without losing my mind.

So, what am I doing?

I am running with my heart. I have no training program. I haven’t used one since May. It started off innocently enough. I was struggling with the workouts in my plan. I was struggling to get them in at all but I was also struggling with the exactness of them. I felt pressure to get it right and in turn this pressure was discouraging me from getting out the door.

After two years of struggling to want to run at all, I decided it was time to find that desire again. I wanted to love running like I used to. I wanted to get a hankering to get out there and I had to find a way to get to that point.

The first thing I did was rope in a training partner who was also not loving the sport. I asked my son, Blaise, to train for the Annapolis 10-Miler with me. All summer we went out together, getting in our miles and enjoying the time, talking and having fun. The run was almost secondary.

I have run for an awful long time so, though I did not have a plan, I did know what it would take to get across that finish line. And Blaise knew how to push me just enough to get better every week without making me lose the joy.

In August we finished the race just in time for him to head back to school and suddenly I worried again. How was I going to get my workouts in without him. He had been my secret ingredient.

So I improvised. I started running with the Fleet Feet running groups twice a week and inviting people to run with me on my long runs. That left me one day a week to run on my own. It turns out that was not hard to do. After all the consistency Blaise and I had built over the summer I had found the hankering.I actually looked forward to those runs again.

This weekend, I have a twenty-miler. My husband casually asked whether it would be my longest run before my marathon next month. When I told him I wasn’t sure, he didn’t get it. He follows a plan. We have followed plans all of our running lives. It is just the way you get it done. What I am doing seemed crazy to him.

But I know. I know that I may not have a plan, but I have a heart. I have a heart that is telling me that I am loving running again. A head that is telling me nothing hurts right now. And this far into the marathon season that is a huge deal. I am listening to my body and using my past experience to get there.

In March I will be running a marathon with Megan, my 19-year-old daughter. In May, she and I will be running 24-hours for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For those, I will train with a plan. I have goals for the marathon. I want to go into the 24-hour run as fit as I have ever been and I will need my coach and his plan to get me there. But for now I want to run happy and to do that I will run with my heart.

What Are My Motives?

Written by Ann Brennan

examine your motivesA while back a friend questioned my blog. His theory was that I blog for myself. I blog to get thoughts out of my head and onto something solid. But the biggest accusation was that I blog because I am self-centered.

I don’t always take comments like this at face value but in this case I thought I should think about it. How often am I writing about myself and when I do write about myself is it really in order to help others who are facing the same issue or am I just self indulging? While thinking about this I thought about a conversation I had with my son about charity. My son’s theory is that there is no selfless charity because no matter what you are giving, you are always getting something in return, even if it is just a feeling of accomplishment.

Months later I realize I may have given this whole line of thought too much attention, because after a full year of writing here part-time at best, I have come to realize that what has been stopping me is not a lack of time or commitment but a serious questioning of my motives. If I am writing for myself, am I truly helping anybody else?

I would like to think, maybe I choose to think, that the wonderful note I received from a friend this weekend, telling me how much of a difference I have made in her life is the answer. This note sparked memories, memories of other notes, posts and letters from readers who have shared their struggles and triumphs with me. Notes that have given me more credit than I deserve for getting them to the starting line or the finishing line of races, helping them see they are not alone in their struggle with depression or helping them to feel free to ask for help.

Does the fact that I do help others mean I am not self-centered? I don’t know. I do spend an awful lot of time analyzing moments in my life, looking for stories in those moments and in turn looking for lessons to be learned from those stories. But is that a bad thing? Again, I am not sure. Maybe, maybe I could help people through their struggles in a different way, but I don’t know where I would begin. What I do know is that when I hear about someone else’s journey, their struggles and their triumphs I am always looking for the life lessons for myself. It is through others’ stories that I learn lessons for my own life. It is how I process. It is what works for me.

When I started this blog, I started it as a means to make myself write. After a few short weeks I realize how many people are looking for the same answers I am looking for. How many people are feeling overweight, not able to meet their goals, afraid of taking that first step. I could have continued to write the way I did in the beginning, telling funny stories about my kids or my latest race, but it didn’t seem right. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to turn my stories into lessons. The perfect time to look for answers. Sometimes those lessons help me. Sometimes they help others. Either way, it seems like someone is winning and isn’t winning a good thing.

Finding Ironann

Written by Ann Brennan

12011175_10205951356796015_7812811752821369364_nAt the beginning of the summer I found myself thinking about my trajectory since completing Ironman in 2012. How high I had felt after completing the distance, but more importantly, how strong I felt after all the training. And how quickly I was deflated. How far I fell after my depression and eventual hospitalization.

As I thought, I realized why the task of “getting back into shape seemed so hard.” I had, without realizing it, made the task bigger than it needed to be. I was aiming for that Ironman conditioning. I wanted to be that strong again and I knew how much work that would take.

That day I gave myself a secondary goal. I did not have to get in Ironman shape again. I just had to find Ironann. I had to find the person who could become Ironman again. I had to find the confidence and the drive I had lost over the previous two years.

Thankfully, I had already taken steps in the right direction. This was not going to be a matter of starting from scratch. Meg and I had been training since January for our 24 hour walk, an epic feat in and of itself. At that point we had completed walks up to 15 hours long and we were confident in our ability to cover the 24 hours we were aiming for. I had registered for the Annapolis Striders’ Championship Series and had already completed two of the races. And I had signed up for the Annapolis 10-Miler with my oldest son, Blaise, as well as the Patriots Half Ironman. I was setting goals. I was reaching Ironann already, all I needed to do at that point in the summer was to keep moving forward and to find the strength and confidence I had lost along the way.

Coach Jeff is constantly pushing consistency. Consistency is the key to success. I put that idea to the test this summer, I went back to my favorite quote, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time and I forced myself to get every single workout in. Even in the week after completing the 24 hour walk with Meg in July, I ran with Blaise, just to make sure I did not lose momentum.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed I am stronger. I could feel it when climbing uphill. It was clear to me when Blaise and I started pushing our mileage higher with less effort than I expected. But it was not until this weekend that I realized I had found the other part of the formula. I had found my confidence.

This weekend, as I completed the Patriots International* Distance Triathlon in Williamsburg, I found myself struggling. I had not put in enough swims over the summer so a good day in the water would have been tough for me. Unfortunately, I did not have a good day in the water. Just as we turned the corner to head back for the final half of the swim, a storm came in. The waves kept me from being able to sight. I drank far more river water than I would like and at moments I felt like I was swimming on a treadmill, making no progress whatsoever. In other words, I had the worst swim of my life.

When I left the water I was gutted. I wanted to cry. Worse yet, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t. Because you eat an elephant one bite at a time and because I love the next bite of the triathlon. I pushed on. It was after coming off the bike that I found Ironann. After leaving everything on the bike course, my legs were shot. I began the run by walking and again, almost crying. And that’s when it happened. That’s when a little voice inside, said, “It’s an hour, Ann. Not 24 hours. Not even two hours. Just an hour.” And suddenly I found myself running and better yet, I found myself enjoying the run. Enjoying the fact that I have a body that can carry me through the waves of that river, along that bike course 3 miles per hour faster than I have ridden all summer and finally through this hot and humid run.

Along that course I found that old confidence. The belief in myself that pushed me to try Ironman in the first place. Along that course I found Ironann.

*I stepped back from the 70.3 distance because of my work schedule.

Running For Joy

Written by Ann Brennan

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWhen I started Ann’s Running Commentary 9 years ago, I had just completed the Marine Corps Marathon with a 20 minute PR. I was on top of the world. Part of that joy was the PR but, the bigger part was that I had been running for joy. I was not looking for a PR that year. Instead I had been running because it was fun.

But I have often said that running is an evolution. We start for one reason and continue to run for different reasons and these reasons are constantly evolving. Over the past 9 years I have gone from running for joy, to running to qualify for Boston, to running to lose weight, to literally running for my sanity, and back to running to lose weight. Somewhere along the way, the joy I found in running went away. It became a job.

Over the past few months I have let everything else go and I have run for joy once again. I did not plan it this way. The truth is that I started this summer with a completely different plan. I wanted to run a fast Annapolis 10 Miler in August and I had a plan. Get my oldest son to run with me and push me until I met that goal.

Blaise and I started running together as soon as he got home from college and suddenly my outlook on running changed. I couldn’t wait to get up at 5 a.m. to run with my son at 5:30. Not because I looked forward to the act of running but because I looked forward to running beside my son. We went from two days a week to three days a week and are now running consistently 4 days a week.

And that consistency is part of the joy. Knowing that the run is there, that I am going to do it, no questions asked, makes it fun. It is no longer a chore. It is part of my life.

Lately, Blaise and I have taken to inviting others to run with us, whether it is an impromptu pub run, a friend who just needs someone to help motivate her or a group of local runners getting together for a run on a tuesday night, we are enjoying the extra company.

After Ironman I never really found that love of running again. For many reasons I forgot about running for joy. Instead, I ran for purpose. Today, I run because I want to, because I love the sound of my feet on the pavement, the feel of the sweat dripping down my face, and the company that is doing it with me. Today, I run for joy.

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Danger: New Bike

Written by Ann Brennan

New BikeEvery Christmas Blaise gives me books. He gives me autobiographies and some fiction but mostly he gives me adventure books. In the beginning these books came without warnings. But it didn’t take long for him to learn this was a bad plan. Almost every book after that first year came with a caveat, “Don’t try this at home.” You see, I have a problem with visions of grandeur. I read about an adventure and immediately want to strike out on my own adventure.

Yesterday, Blaise let his guard slip. Yesterday, I came home to a brand new bike in my front hall. No special occasion. He just bought it to surprise me. And he succeeded. This was the most awesome surprise he could have possibly given me.

My new bike is a fitness bike by Trek. Blaise bought it because my last hybrid was a gift from my father-in-law 22 years ago and has outlived its original life expectancy by at least 5 years. These days I find myself borrowing my daughter’s bike anytime I want to ride trails instead of road. My new bike (Zane named her Black Betty) is meant for adventures with the kids. Something not quite as fast as my tri bike but still pretty sporty.

The problem is that after taking it for my first real ride this morning, a 22-mile ride along our local rails-to-trails path, visions of grandeur struck again. I came home ready to take on all sorts of new adventures. Yes, I can ride with the kids. We can take some rides along the B&A Trail, probably head out and do the airport loop, take it into DC and ride along the Mall or Mount Vernon and ride one of my favorite trails. But, wait, there’s more. There always is with me, right?

Blaise and I could take it to the Mount Vernon Trail, ride the 20+ miles to Theodore Roosevelt Island, lock up the bikes and run the trails on the island and then ride back to Mount Vernon. Or we could take it to Pittsburgh, have one of the kids drop us off and then head back to DC along the Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal. Or we could take it on the train to New York City and ride all along the different paths in Manhattan and Brooklyn, or we could…

I could go on and on and on and, of course, as I write this and want to say it is a cautionary tale about new bikes and where they might lead you, I find myself instead wondering what you think. Where should I take my new bike. What trails should I venture out on? What cities have paths between them? Where would you go?

Running Through Our Family

Written by Ann Brennan

Fat ShamingI am not a morning person. I hate getting out of my nice warm bed even for coffee. But I really hate the idea of crawling out of my nice comfy bed to go outside and become a puddle of sweat. There are no two ways about it. I just hate morning runs. Except, suddenly, I don’t. Suddenly, I am excited about the prospect of waking up each morning to run. I still hate starting my morning as a puddle. But I love that my oldest son is running with me these days.

I meet him down stairs. We pull together a couple of waters and head out the door for an easy 3-6 miles through our neighborhoods and I love it. I seldom look back on any run in my life and think, boy did I regret that. But these runs I actually look forward to. The opportunity to talk to my son about his life, about his job and and school, about my job and both of our plans for the future is a true gift.

But today as I thought about this I realized that running has been a gift for us as a family for as long as we have been a family. My husband and I started running together shortly after we got married. We ran through the streets of Charlotte, coming to realize we could be athletes if we chose to be. When our children came along we took turns pushing the jog stroller. As they grew we took them with us on short runs. Running with Meg made me a writer. I may have never started this blog or written anything else had I not run that first 5-miler with her, afterwards writing, Raising a Runner. And now, our youngest son has joined in the mix, running his first 5k this spring and running with our Kids Run Too program at the store.

Each of these experiences has lead to a family of runners, opportunities to run together or to cheer for each other at events throughout the year. I am not a morning person, but I am a family person. I believe in the power of running, the power of family and the most of all the power of running as a family.

The Power of Running

Written by Ann Brennan

the power of runningI started working at Fleet Feet a little over a month ago. I knew I would have fun because, well, it’s a running store and who among us doesn’t love being in a running store. And I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I thought it would inspire my writing as well. I knew I would meet people who were just starting on their running journey. I would meet people who had already started seeing real health results from their running and I would meet people who were taking on challenges they had only dreamed of in the past. But I had no idea that the national campaign for Fleet Feet stores across the nation would coincide with my biggest beliefs on running.

For years I have written about the power of running. In August Fleet Feet Sports is kicking off a campaign called the Power of Running. As I sat watching the latest webinar on this program I wanted to get up out of my seat and cheer. This is what I have talked about for years. The power of running for good; the power of running for fun; the power of running with others; and the power of running to inspire.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that when one door closed in my life (the closing of Spark Running), this is the door that opened. I believe I have found a place that matches my love for running ounce for ounce. And it does it in a way that starts small, with the first customer that walks through the door every day and ends big, with a corporate backing that truly believes in the power of running to change lives.

If you have followed along with my journey in the past few years you know that running has taken a smaller role in my life. I have been focused on my family, our mental health and our mission to help bring depression out of the darkness. But running has not been pushed off the table and in the past several months it has once again changed the way I live my life.

The power of running for me right now comes from the power of running together. Whether it is with my Wednesday morning Moms Run Club or the rest of the week when I am up by 5am to run with my wonderful 21 year old son, I am motivated to run more every day because of these runs. Running with my group or with my son I feel the need to be up, whether I want to run that morning or not. I feel the need to work harder so I don’t slow them down. And to stay active on the other days in order to make my group days even better.

The power of running never fails to amaze me. More amazing still is how much my running life has flowed into my regular life and vice versa. Suddenly the power of running has become the power of living as a runner. After two years of struggling I find myself loving every minute of this running life again.

Suicide Prevention Walk

Written by Ann Brennan

Suicide PreventionOne week from today, 19 year old daughter and I will begin our 24-hour Walk for Suicide Prevention. This journey began for us shortly after Megan was released from the hospital in April of 2013. Meg had been hospitalized for suicidal ideation and although we were clearly beside ourselves with fear for her future, we decided as a family not to allow her depression to be a point of shame for her. Had she been hospitalized for cancer or a heart defect or any other other medical condition, there would have been no shame, and we wanted to make it clear to her there was no shame in her depression.

Within days of her release, she and I started fundraising for our first Overnight Walk with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We raised almost $5000 between us and we went on to walk 16 miles with a few thousand people through downtown Washington, DC.

The following year, even as we struggled with our own depression, we became advocates of bringing depression out of the darkness, stopping the stigma. We talked and wrote about our struggles so that others might feel more free to speak up and ask for help. We wanted people to see that depression is not a weakness, that we understood that asking for help was hard but that when you did ask for help there were people out there willing to lend a hand. We wanted to make depression and suicide part of the conversation.

Through this advocacy, we decided it was time to step up our game. Last year, with no real training under our belts we took on our first 24-Hour walk. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done, covering 42 miles along the Allegheny Passage. We walked through the night and raised over $2500 in the process.

This year we set a bigger goal, $10,000. We are less than a week away and we still have $4990 left to raise, but we are not giving up. We are asking everybody we know to dig deep. Empty your penny jars, shake out your winter coats, or write us a big ol’ check to help us meet this goal.

Since February, Meg and I have walked close to 500 miles in training for this walk. We have spoken to people about depression every chance we have gotten and we will continue to do so. And next week as we take on this crazy walk of ours we will cover close to 60 miles, thanks to the training we have put in. We know we can make a difference.

Please help us to do this. Help us meet our goal of $10,000. Every penny counts.