When I completed my swimming “career” after 14 years, I remember standing on a pool deck for the last time in a swim suit with a dripping black cap curled into my fist and I wondered ‘what next?’ I was burned out on swimming long before I ever completed my career but DEEP down in my chest and the bowels of my stomach, or just my bowels, I knew that I would miss it, on some level.
It turns out I did miss swimming. Not so much the act of swimming but the team aspect. I missed my friends and coaches and my life that surrounded swimming. Those things shaped my life for good and bad. I have mentioned in the past that I have run off and on my whole life. I used to walk home from school and peer through the chain link fence at the track and field kids or watch the cross country kids running around thinking about how to make the jump from swimming to running. I have spent time running through many towns and cities, numerous treadmills and tracks – new and old, up massive hills and flat as pancake plains. I ran races and loved it. Then I stopped for a long time. I injured my neck at some point and stopped running altogether for another long period of time. I resigned myself to the fact that I would just be in pain and I would never run again. Thankfully my cubby mate and partner in a specialty at work said ‘NO go to see this lady for acupuncture. She can fix it!’ And lo it helped, not only did it help, it made it better. I ran a little bit then I got pregnant again.
It was not until 2009 when Missy was eight months old that I finally felt I really did want that thrill of running back. I started on a slow road back to running. There have definitely been times when I have stopped since then. I have taken breaks because of exhaustion or an injury. The truth is age has taught me that if I am feeling burned out I need to do something new. I have tried yoga and strongly considering swimming, never actually getting into the pool, and biking and weights. But definitely the theme of the past three years has been running.
The thing I know about running over that time is that I have found my tribe. I see runners and I feel like they are my brothers and sisters, my little running family. I feel like there is common goal amongst runners. Some are fast and some are slow, some are new to the sport and some are not. I literally cheer people on my mind. There is one girl; she would think me a total freak show if she knew this: every time I see her I am totally thrilled for her, I want to give her a hug and said YOU ARE AWESOME! I remember her first runs when she was weighed much more than she does now. She would walk/run up the path in the early days. Now she is running half marathons and is a part of a larger running group in town and she looks amazing having shed all of the weight. She is my hero.
I remember my own plodding first runs, the first time I ran 5 miles with my running partner and how I did not want to tell her how badly I wanted to barf nor that it was the longest mileage I had run in 15 years, my first 5k, my first ½, my first marathon. With each year that passes I find myself happier and more content from running and I wonder what I will do if one day I cannot run. I hope I continue to find firsts, I hope I continue to feel strong but mostly I hope I never get burned out, that is always my go to sport.
I love the challenge running presents to me. I was talking to M Bug about PRs yesterday. I told him what PR meant and how when I run I am not chasing anyone but myself.
When you go to a race, any race, people cheer. I cheer for total strangers because they are a part of my tribe and it feels good to get and give cheers. It boosts someone. You never know who you might cheer for and that cheer could give them boost to finish the race, get a PR and finish with a happy smile on their face.
I think everyone can be part of this tribe. It is non exclusive, we have fun and we are hard working.
I love that runners share with one another about the best things for races or the fuel or clothing or shoes they like or what makes a race good or bad. How to conquer the hills or what training program is better, what runs are great for training. Most simply I love the waves, head nods or smiles on the trail while running.
While I left my swimming career behind almost giddy, I hope I do not find myself holding a pair of shoes wonder ‘what next’ any time soon. Unless of course it involves what next in the context of what race will I run next!