NaNoWriMo: Race Time

This has been The Year of Running.

Though I’ve spent a goodly portion of my life running, 2013 has included two half marathons, a Ragnar and countless 5Ks, not to mention a dedication to getting up and getting out there, regardless if I had something to train for or not.

(Admittedly competing in two half-marathons and a Ragnar meant I was generally in training for most of the year.)

And here’s the crazy thing: I got kind of good.

This is the race result from the 2003 Charlie’s Ale House Trick or Treat Trot 5K:


This is the race result from last week’s Hot Chocolate 5K:

Shea 2013


In ten years, I’ve gone from running 12-minute miles to sub-10-minute miles. For years I spent hovered around the 11:30-, 12-minute mark, resigning myself to never being even in the same vicinity as fast, let alone average. And generally, I didn’t care. After all, I enjoyed running for the sake of it, not for the sport. Being good at running never crossed my mind since the benefits from running were present whether I ran like a jack rabbit or a tortoise: stress-reliever, weight-manager, blood-pressure-controller, hobby. But this year, something clicked and I started to try. Hard.

It’s worth noting that a 9:53-minute mile time is not fast in real running circles, but it’s certainly the product of effort. Unless you’re my husband, or ┬áin your twenties and healthy, it’s not a mile time that comes naturally because you’ve put foot to pavement and exerted yourself, especially on the average. And considering I’m nearing 40 and not 30, it’s even more noteworthy. I’m proud of it and still in a little bit of disbelief over it.

I didn’t all of a sudden drop massive amounts of weight. With the exception of a few pounds here or there, my weight has remained relatively unchanged in the past couple of years. I do try to primarily follow a vegan, gluten-free diet, thanks to the thyroid disease, and I think the fact that my body isn’t struggling as hard to process and manage meat, dairy and gluten can take some of the credit for my extra reserves of energy.

(Thyroid sufferers: I finally jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon. And while I don’t follow to-the-letter, I am finding that there is merit to the theory that one autoimmune disease begets another. At least in terms in how I feel. As for the vegan diet, I had to do something about my cholesterol because no matter how healthfully I ate, it never budged. This summer after going vegan-ish, it went from 260 to 203, with my triglycerides at 119. The older I get the more that worried me, and this seems to have made the difference.)

So I didn’t lose weight or do anything dramatic. I just tried harder. I focused on being more consistent with my training, and allowing myself to be uncomfortable when I did. There was never a time when it wasn’t fun or interesting, but there were plenty of times when it sucked. But more and more, with each and every run, it made more sense to try than not.

And I suppose that sounds funny to say, considering that running itself exerts energy, and it’s not a passive hobby. But after you do something rather consistently for 10 years, even consistently without effort, you struggle to find the need to change what doesn’t seem to be broke.

Though I’ve always felt like a runner, as though I’m genuinely part of that fraternity, these days I feel like an athlete, and I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.

It feels good.