This December rolls around to find me in a melancholy mood. The past year has been a challenging one to say the least. I am back to running after an extended time off due to illness. Not my own, but that of my husband. (More on that story later.) For now I will tell you that starting over with a running routine can feel just like running for the very first time. It does not matter how many marathons you have to your credit or how much of an experienced bad ass you think you are next to the New-Year's-resolution newbies when the calendar lands in January. Running that first three miles can feel like 103 miles. Your body does not remember how to gracefully reengage in the running arts just because you decided to lace up your Asics after months of avoiding them. Your knees don't stop aching magically once your legs knock off some of the rust. Your shin splints don't stay at bay just because your starting pace matches that of the old lady walking to the neighborhood pond to feed her ducks. The extra pounds you gained during your layoff don't stay out of your way, because every foot fall feels like ankle weights have been strapped to your lower limbs. It just is not that easy, Tito. And you aren't that lucky.
However, the road back to the running regime is predictable thank goodness. I can usually expect to feel like a pathetic poser for the initial four or five weeks back. After that things start to feel natural again. My back of the pack shuffle begins to resemble some shadow of a running gait once again. My schedule starts to shift to accommodate some weekend miles. My running buddies start to include me in the "night before" texts to scope out who's in and who's out for the next early morning running event. I start to feel whole again and my mileage slowly increases. Before you know it, I start scanning the race calendar to give my running routine some focus. When I start considering the weeks of training needed to complete a particular half marathon, then I know I am officially back in the saddle again.
My little group of running divas always picks one big destination race for our fall calendar. We train and run our heavy mileage in the thick Houston humidity during the relentless summer months. Our reward that keeps us focused is the fact that our destination race always takes on the characteristics of a grown up girls weekend. We work hard, love hard, and train hard during those summer long runs. However when that fall race weekend rolls around, we take everything out of gear and just enjoy the time for what it is. Time with our best girls is always the best part of the trip. This year's fall trip was to the Philadelphia marathon. Because my layoff fell right smack in the middle of the training period for Philly, I was unable to actually run the race. It was heartbreaking to come to terms with the fact that of everyone in your running group, you are the only one that won't be rewarded for months of hard work and discipline. You will be the only one that won't have the delicious satisfaction of seeing a goal through to the finish line, literally.
Not being able to run Philly with my girls sucked royally. It felt like crap to be the one left on the sidelines. I still made the trip, thankfully, and had a really good time cheering everyone else on to some of their best racing times of the season. Still, I wanted a medal and leaving Philly without one hurt a little bit. Instead my first race of the season came in the form of a half marathon relay just last weekend, in which I ran the second leg with my uber sassy pal Dora. It may have only been 6.5 miles of asphalt, but it might as well have been the final 6.5 miles of a marathon stretch. I loved being a part of the racing festivities. It was no replacement for Philly, but it was a decent enough consolation prize and I relished it. I kept a silly grin on my face like a goofy kid for hours after receiving my medal. It was not a finish time worthy of being on ESPN's highlight reel, but it was mine and that's all I needed. I was back on my feet and felt cocky enough by the time I got home to sign up for another half marathon. No relays for this one. Just me doing the entire 13.1 miles on my own. I plan to make it worth the long wait.