Running | It's Not You, It's Me

One of my goals for 2017 was not only to get my shit together as far as health and fitness was concerned, but to get back into running at a competitive a better headspace. 

When I left Chicago in 2015, my passion for running evaporated with my move. It was mostly mental and a carryover from my disconnect with the sport that began in 2013 after running the Chicago Marathon. I had my first injury that was going to end up being chronic, and my friend/mentor who inspired me quit running for a couple of years to start a family. I don't know why the combo took the wind out of my proverbial sails and hurt my psyche so badly, but it did. 

I kept running through the 2014 season, but it was full of fail and frustration. I had some highlights, but my training was garbage and I couldn't mentally get myself back into being motivated. A whole lot of life was happening at the time, too, so I've decided to forgive myself for all of it. Running had become my escape and my therapy during some trying times... the tragic and sudden loss of my best friend, the loss of my home in a flood, the breakdown of my relationship with my kids' father... running was my salvation from all of that. It gave me something else to focus on, a whole community of friends, and self confidence in my abilities. Somehow, running had now become a taunting nemesis of mine that set up camp in my head and made me feel bad about everything. 

As 2015 began, I was still struggling mentally with running and dealing with a chronic injury that made things even worse. I was stuck in the elite athlete mindset that I could just push through the pain. I skated and ran on a broken ankle for months. After that reconstruction, I skated before the staples were even removed. However, I like to pretend that I wasn't 17 at the time of that injury and I will always bounce back like a raquetball. A torn labrum in my hip in my late 30s is a whole different animal. Up until my move to Atlanta in late March of 2015, it would be a series of training, race, extended recovery, rinse and repeat; because I simply could not accept that my relationship with running had to change. 

Did they make me a poster child for denial yet? Geeze, the more I write about these last two years, the more I think I should have my picture on the denial Wikipedia page.

The move to Georgia was an epic disaster for any training routine and running died. I still had those bursts of training and sort-of race victories that made it look like I was going to turn the corner and get those 2013 glory days back, but the mental anguish and frustration only got worse. I had a hard time adjusting to the heat and topography, my work and travel schedule exhausted me and made training inconsistent, and life was still kicking my ass emotionally. It became this vicious cycle of suck. 

Then in the summer of 2016 I had a bad break in my foot and ankle, the same one reconstructed in 1996, and the ortho had a frank talk with me. To summarize, he said the Olympic dream died 20 years ago. Stop being hard headed or you're going to be doing water aerobics for the rest of your life. You, Jenn, are pushing the big 4-0 and you are now made of something other than rubberbands. Not old by any stretch of the imagination, but not indestructible. 

So I did other things. Hiking, yoga, dance, all things I love very much and enjoy doing, but there just isn't the passion for them I have for running. I can't let go. Running saved me in my terrible times since I was a teenager. I had to have a conversation with myself that I would have with any other friend in my situation. 

First, I had to be kind and forgive myself. Yes, the 'Great Identity Crisis and Rumspringa of 2016' left me the heaviest I had ever been in my adult life by November. But it wasn't the morbid obesity I made it out to be. I was still fit, and OMG CALL THE COPS A SIZE 8 INSTEAD OF A 4. I could jump on the treadmill and run 5 miles without stopping. Slow miles, but more than the average American who hadn't really trained in 4 years. That was a gift. When I started running in 1995, I couldn't run a mile without puking. When I came back to running after having my kids, I couldn't run a mile without praying for death.

Remember when you got back into running in 2012? You cried before church because your 'fat' pants were tight. The 3 mile loop you ran, you walked some of it. 

It was very easy for me to kick rocks and look at pictures of race victories from years past and get bent out of shape about it. We all do that. It's like when you have a bad breakup and start romanticizing that dickhole a month later when you're lonely. Selective memory is stupid and I have no idea why our brains are wired that way. 

Like everything I set out to do in 2017, I told the truth to myself about things. I'm never running another marathon. But you know what? Brian Boitano doesn't do triple axels anymore. He still skates and you're loving his return to school figures. They didn't knock on his door and demand his Olympic medal back. I'm not starting from a place where I can't run a mile. I'm starting from a place where I can run five at an easy pace. Great! So become a middle distance superstar and coast through some 10ks and Half Marathons for funsies. You get the same damn medal at the big races whether you run fast or not. 3-peat the Steamboat Classic in the 4 miler. Finally win that god-forsaken Scarecrow Scramble you've missed over the last five years. I'm thinner and faster than I ever have been when I started, so maybe quit being a baby that I can't run a sub-2 half marathon anymore. Doc was right...the Olympic dream ended 20 years ago. This is the only body I am going to have, and if I love running I have to change the way I think and feel. 

So, I'm not going to look at the race medals on my wall over the treadmill as ghosts of how great I was anymore. Now it's just, "Once upon a time, I was in my early 20s and won all of the 10ks in the land...then I had babies and I ran 10 marathons and 23 half marathons after that... yet I have never placed in the DAMN SCARECROW SCRAMBLE 5K." 

And then the next chapter becomes, "I got injured, but I didn't quit. In 2017, I smacked myself in the head, told myself to snap out of it, and in June? I three-peated at the Steamboat Classic in the 4 miler. Then I FINALLY WON THE DAMN SCARECROW SCRAMBLE IN OCTOBER." 

I'm going to write about training, too because it helps, even if like, 3 people read it. It helps me process and be more accountable, but this time I promise not to devote entire posts to my socks. 


Jennifer Gulbrandsen