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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Musings on the running life

(Note to the reader: I know, I have been a slacker regarding musical clips in my last few posts. I hope I am making up for that today with a bunch of tunes hidden in the text - red font.)

Start running, they said. It will put you in shape, they said.

It will make you feel wonderful, they said.

"They" were right.

With the exception of a few details. Here's what nobody told me about running, that I wish I had known from the beginning.

Forever it will take to become a seasoned runner

I was in an okay shape when I started, yet the first outings were plain torture. I used what I call the "Couch potato to 5 K" plan. It's a good program. But I have to admit the first few times, jogging for one minute non stop was almost out of my grasp. I kept looking at my watch, thinking "When is that effin' minute ever gonna be over?"

Well, I am happy to announce that this is no longer a concern. With very gradual increases I have been able to run longer intervals and distances. At the moment I am 7 weeks into a half-marathon training program, and it's going very well. Yesterday I ran for about an hour and a half without a pause, something I wouldn't dream of doing just a few years ago.

Running partners you should definitely consider

It took me a few years before I even considered running with a running partner. I was too self-conscious, mostly of my noisy breathing (I am an asthmatic). I couldn't begin to fathom how I would be able to run beside someone without annoying them big time with my huff and puff, let alone how I would ever manage to have a conversation while running! I was also worried I would not run fast enough, and earn the reputation of the one who holds everyone back. (I should have known that the running community is a very accepting and respectful and supportive one.)

One day, my friend K announced that she was looking for a running partner for early week mornings. I thought, "okay, why not?" Now I wish I had started running with a friend long before. Running with K has been so refreshing! Now in a much better shape, and totally able to 1) breathe pretty much silently 2) hold a conversation, even when running uphill 3) run at a reasonable pace for quite a while... I fully appreciate the fact that a running partner's presence takes the focus away from your discomforts; running conversations make the runs seem much shorter, with the added benefit that they give you an opportunity for sharing and venting. K calls our runs her "fix". I guess there are worst addictions in life! (Speaking of which... my running apparel addiction is getting kind of out of hand; I think I own more running outfits than all other kinds of outfits put together!)

These days I am in the process of training an additional running partner, who should be ready for long runs in about a year or so. For the moment my main concern is to let her empty often so that there's no overflow in the house, but soon enough those excretion issues should be resolved, and we will be able to focus on more interesting types of training. Here are some pics of that beloved future running partner of mine:

By Tamara McFarland at Unleashed Pawsabilities

Unexpected dangers you will encounter

It's happened again: K and I were accosted by a fellow runner about halfway through our run.

"Are you heading in this direction?, she asked, because I need to warn you that I just saw a coyote in the ditch!"

We modified our route.

Friends you will become with the foam roller

Who said that to improve your running you only needed a good running plan? Why did nobody tell me I would also need a stretching plan, an icing plan, and a rolling plan?

Running might be one of the most straightforward, "little-equipment-is-needed" activity, I'm sorry to say that it is time consuming. For my typical weekend long run, I have to go through the following steps:

1) get dressed, have a bite to eat
2) massage my own butt with a lacrosse ball (to release glutes and IT band)
3) gather my equipment (reflective band, head lamp, wildlife pepper spray, water belt)
4) run
5) ice my knees (to save on time I also have my post-workout snack at that point)
6) wait until they defrost, then stretch
7) roll my IT band on the foam roller
8) shower
9) get dressed and ready for the rest of the day

How do people get anything done?!?

Now my extensive background in foam rolling calls for a little course on the topic.

How to use a foam roller to release your IT band 101:

1) Lay sideways on the foam roller.
2) Move around a little bit until your face suddenly twists into a hideous grimace. Ow.
3) Put more pressure until your mouth suddenly utters a stream of expletives.
4) Stay there and roll on the area while moaning and groaning in unbearable pain. If you find yourself screaming and begging for an epidural, even better. (I didn't even get epidurals when I gave birth, for goodness' sake!)
5) Only stop when you are able to breathe normally again.

Relax, and repeat after the next run!

Pissed off you will be at relapses of the Winter

A few days ago it was so mild that all the snow melted. I got so excited when I saw the grass I almost composed an ode to the spring; I seriously considered at least writing a haiku. We spent hours outside, enjoying the warmth of the breeze and sun rays, listening to the birds. We put away boots and scarfs. When we ran, doing so on a dry surface at last was almost orgasmic.

On Saturday morning when I got up for my long run, the ground was covered in white powder. I tried to remain composed; this is only March, after all, and it's to be expected that we will get more snow. I reluctantly installed my traction aids on my sneakers. Then in order to decide on the number of layers I would wear I checked the outside temperature (wind chill included).


Seriously, Mother Nature? SERIOUSLY?

Now I was really pissed. While grumbling an assortment of bad words I won't repeat here, I dug for my balaklava and mitts.

Seriously? !"/$%?&*()

Got out the door, still in a foul mood. Luckily K was there waiting for me down the street. She emitted a comment on the weather, but as soon as we got going, we also got busy with other, more important conversation topics: how she hadn't slept a good night in a week (she has 3 young children), and how tired I was of my puppy's jumping and nibbling. As we kept ranting, we barely noticed, but the sun got up. Eventually we couldn't ignore it anymore: the absolute beauty of the scenery. I regretted not taking my camera.

Really, one has to admit it was a ravishing sight for a Christmas morning. Only one problem: this was MARCH 16!

Oh well. The good news is we ran our long run like troopers. The rest of the day, at random moments I would surprise myself thinking: "Why would I worry about anything, this day is a good one, I ran my long run this morning".

This coming April 13, my team Alung the Road and I will be running for research on lung diseases (Lung Association of Nova Scotia). To support us, please don't hesitate to make a donation right here. Thank you so much for your support!


  1. Hi Julie! I read your reply on Dr. J's blog. I totally agree with your point. Yes, it's hard not to feel sexier when a woman looks so much better(!!!) from heavy weightlifting. And the feeling of "woman power" and capability from heavy weightlifting is sexy.

    :-) Marion

    P.S. Following you too. :D

  2. Thank you Marion for your comment! Kudos to you for taking charge of your fitness! I'll definitely check out your blog. :-)

  3. Some have said that running is boring, only exceeded by talking about running, lol, but not the way you talk about it, Julie!

    Interesting that I had asthma as a child. I hated it and never gave it power over me, and one day, it was gone!

    Running has been the foundation of my fitness life for years. My first experience with running was in high school and I can almost still remember the nausea :-)

    Possibly being masochistic, I then ran track in college for a couple of years. Lying in my bed before track meets where I ran the 400m and 200m my pulse would be well over 120 from the fear!

    I then ran again like a boxer to be in shape for fighting tournaments as a martial artist, and eventually I just ran for myself. It's a great way to see places and discover things you will never see on a tour. I remember feeling fear as I ran some isolated pathways in old Jerusalem, even more than running in the bush in Africa where I was warned that I was not on top of the food chain here and the need for caution. That did lead, on top of my training at altitude in J-Berg, to the fastest 10K I ever ran at around 38 minutes, lol! While studying in France I would sometimes run 18 miles in the park because I likes how the French for 18 rhymed with sweet :-) I meet a French runner there and we became friends. His lovely little daughter would talk excitedly in French and all I could make out was the phrase, "American Cowboy." I sent her a photo of me on my horse among other gifts when I was home again.

    Running has been a wonderful addition to my life in so many ways!

  4. Hey Dr. J!

    Thanks again for all those interesting - and funny - anecdotes! :-)

    With running my asthma has diminished considerably (so have my migraines). I could add higher energy levels, more stable mood, ... the list is endless. Running truly is a panacea.

    I like the saying (by a runner): "My sport is your sport's punishment".

    I have wonderful memories of running in foreign countries; I think I will write about that in a future post. :-)