Why I Run

I was talking with a friend the other day about a half marathon I signed up for in October and what my training plan looked like. When she asked how I could run so far, I joked that it’s not so hard when you run as slowly as I do. “You could pretty much walk next to me,” I said. She laughed. “But do you still get a good workout in?” she asked, “Do you still sweat? And….don’t you burn more calories the faster you go?”

Uhm.

Why yes, I do sweat. I don’t know what you would call a “good workout” but I’m plenty sore after my long runs. If I could run faster, I would. It’s not like i’m going slow because I’m tired, or because it’s an “easy run” day and tomorrow is “race pace” or a “tempo run” or a “SPRINT.” lololol. These are all in quotes because to me, it’s all the same. I know other people do these things, but for me, my 12 min/mile pace (on a good day) IS my easy run, race pace and tempo run. It’s the best that I can do, and I’m not interested in pushing myself so hard that I need a breathing treatment every hour just to stop wheezing. I’m proud of my pace, even if it looks pathetic to the rest of the running community.

But that’s not even what gets me about the question.

Calories? Wut? Does running faster burn more calories? I don’t know. Probably. I mean, the more intense the physical activity, the more calories burned right? Is that how it works?

I don’t even know. Because I do not care.

I couldn’t tell you how many calories I burn on my runs. I mean, I think the formula is something like 100 calories per mile. I probably burn around 300 calories on a three mile run. I think my running app tracks those things. I haven’t really noticed.

My first 5K! June 2012.
My first 5K! June 2012.

The last thing on my mind as I’m hitting the pavement is my mileage to calorie to food intake ratio. I have never once thought, “Oh hey girl, you ate that cupcake yesterday, so you need to burn a couple hundred calories.” or “If you want some chips at lunch you better add another mile to your route today!” I did once look up the calories in a small sonic milkshake (800ish), and think to myself, hmm…I guess that would be about 8 miles, and then promptly continued to sit on my ass, enjoy my shake and not run 8 miles that day or the next day. Because milkshakes are delicious. In fact, it has been a solid 9 months since I have run 8 miles. And I’ve definitely had a sonic milkshake or two in the last 9 months.

I don’t necessarily run to burn calories. I run because of how running makes me feel.

Stress, sleep and endorphins

I am a bit of an anxious person, and I have always had trouble turning off my racing thoughts. Because of my inability to unwind, I often have trouble sleeping. Since I started running, I have found it to be a great outlet and I believe it has helped me develop a slightly better sleep pattern. I’ve always been active — I danced nearly 30 hours a week in high school. It was also a great outlet and I think helped me with sleep as well, but it requires constant concentration. There’s no getting lost in your thoughts in ballet class.  One of the things I love most about running is putting on some tunes (which I often create choreography to in my head while I run), and having time to think. It’s precious time to me. I revel in the fact that I’m not sitting at a desk or in a meeting. I also find it hard to stress or get worked up while running. It feels really…..free. And I’m not sure how or why, but I sleep so much better when I get 3-4 runs in a week.

My second 5K -- July 2012. Steven placed THIRD in his age group at this race!
My second 5K — July 2012. Steven placed THIRD in his age group at this race!

Before I started running, I never gave much thought to or noticed an endorphin rush after physical activity. I had heard of a “runner’s high,” but I wasn’t sure it was a real thing. Like…you really feel happier after something as awful as running? Yes. Ya do. I feel more optimistic and am more productive when I head into the office after a morning run. My life is more stressful now than it has probably ever been, and I don’t know why but after a run I feel like I can handle it better. I feel ready to face the day. The day truly looks different, and I truly feel happier when I start the day with a run.

Goals

My mileage each day depends on what race I am preparing for — what training plan I am working on that month. Not what I eat. I like having goals and races and distances to work toward. I like having a plan and sticking to it. I like seeing hard work pay off. It’s like the next race is a “project,” and every mile is working toward the finished product. There’s nothing like that finish line. And for me, every single finish line — no matter the distance — is like a giant gold medal. Running is never, ever, something I thought would be such an integral part of my life. Every single step, mile and race would make high school Erin or even college Erin freak. Every day I am accomplishing something I always thought was impossible. It’s an incredible feeling. And even though I have not and probably will not ever earn a medal that isn’t a participation medal, I always beat one person in every single race. Myself.

Ran with my dad, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law (who is training for her first FULL MARATHON!) This race was my fastest 5K time -- 30:45. September 2012.
Ran with my dad, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law (who is training for her first FULL MARATHON!) This race is still my fastest 5K time — 30:45. September 2012.

Healthy lifestyle

While I don’t necessarily run to burn a certain number of calories, I do run as part of an active lifestyle I hope helps me maintain a healthy weight. Yes, I said it. WEIGHT. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it because, ugh, that shit is exhausting, and I don’t want to dive into a full-fledged discussion about body image. But yes. Running, for me, does have something to do with my weight. My weight is always fluctuating and I’ve been struggling for years to maintain a weight I’m comfortable with. Does it consume me? No. Do I think about it daily? Not really. But I do try to run 3-4 times a week, cross train or lift weights 2-3 times a week, and eat 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies a day. (Except for today which included bagel bites and pizza rolls. WHOOPSIES). In the spirit of full disclosure, I do track calories on My Fitness Pal. I do have a calorie range I try to stay within because I need that accountability. But some days I don’t stay within that range. And I certainly don’t head out for a run at 10 p.m. if I glance at my app and see that I didn’t quite hit the mark for that day.

My first 10K -- June 2013.
My first 10K — June 2013.

What is more important to me than how I look, and certainly more important to me than a number on a scale, is how I feel. When I eat well and I am active, I feel good. When I eat large amounts of highly processed food and am not active, I don’t feel good. I feel lethargic, have trouble sleeping and often get headaches. I also think fitness is NOT something that can be assessed by appearance. There have been people of all shapes and sizes who have kicked my ass in races.

I don’t know I’m fit based on whether or not I have a six-pack (lol), or even my BMI (which really isn’t that great of an indicator, but maybe we can chat about that another time). I know I’m fit because I can take several flights of stairs and not feel winded. I know I’m fit because I can (kind of) lift heavy boxes, and run around in circles in my backyard with my dog. In fact, I actually gained weight last year training for my first half marathon, but I was in the best shape of my life. I know I’m fit because I can run 13.1 miles. And that is an amazing thing for any body — who gives a shit what size of clothes that body fits into? That body just carried you 13.1 miles. That body is a badass.

My first half marathon -- October 2013.
My first half marathon — October 2013.

Running has been one of the best habits I’ve developed in my twenties. Running challenges me, pushes me and (good lord I never thought I would say this…) brings me joy. Most days running is still really hard. Every now and then I stop to walk. But on those rare days when it feels really easy, when out of nowhere your pace is something like 10 min/mile (SPEED DEMON), when just the right songs come on at just the right time, when the weather is cool and the humidity is low, when you see the sunrise and watch the world wake up, it’s the best damn thing.

I run because it makes me happy. Because determination and perseverance are who I am. Because the running community is the perfect blend of enthusiastic encouragement and friendly competition. I run because it’s an absolute privilege. Because my health is important to me — maybe THE most important thing to me. I run because it is a gift.

Hell, maybe I would burn more calories if I picked up the pace.

But I don’t really care.

2013 Year in Review

I love New Year’s. I love reflecting.  I love a fresh start. And I love resolutions.

Some people think they’re dumb or overrated or unnecessary, but I enjoy setting goals. So here goes!

2013 was a pretty incredible year. And it went SO fast. I can’t really believe that it’s over. Here’s a little glimpse into the past year for da Heger’s (or, well, mostly me with a few mentions of Steven and Dixie).

Running thingz

Guys, I still can’t believe I’m a runner. (I hesitate to call myself that. But I guess I am). I’ve never hated and loved something so much!

Last year, I wrote a post about my running goals for 2013, and I accomplished most of them.

I ran my first 10K in June, and then MY FIRST HALF MARATHON IN OCTOBER. Never, ever, in my wildest dreams did I think that would be possible. I never thought I would run a 5K, much less a HALF MARATHON. I cried when I saw the finish line. I couldn’t believe it.

Half MarathonThe goals I didn’t reach are affiliated with time, of course. I did not get faster training for a half marathon. I just got pretty good at running slowly for a long time. My inability to finish in at least the top half of races or of my age group is very frustrating to me. I try to not let it get to me, because in all honesty, I’m breaking some pretty big personal records by just participating in races. Buuuuut it does. It really does. So, I’m going to try some more intense speed training, see my doctor more regularly to get my asthma under control, and try to be faster in 2014. But if I’m not, then I will try very hard to just thank my body for taking me the distance. After all, this body was not made for running!

Running Goals for 2014 (please don’t laugh at my times!):
5K –> Under 30 min, current best time 30:45
10K –> 65 min., current best time 69 min.
Half Marathon –> 2:30, current best time 2:43
Also, would love to get a group together to do the Brew to Brew! Come on people, it would be fun.

One week into an intermediate 5K training program, and it’s going well. I just hope I can stick with it when work picks up again later this month!

Other Stuff

2013 was filled with weddings. In fact I was a bridesmaid in three weddings in two months. It was a whirlwind, but such a blast. I love weddings. Can’t complain when you spend your weekends getting dolled up and drinking for free! Oh and wedding cake. Oh and seeing your best friends so blissfully happy. Oh and slow dancing with your husband. Weddings are the best. 

Goals for 2014

Read More
I’d love to read at least one book a month. I think it’s possible. But I will need to consciously make time for it.

Write More
At least one blog post every other week. Doesn’t have to be extensive, but at least something. I’d love to throw some personal essays or columns in there too, but I don’t want to get too ambitious. I’ve also thought about enrolling in one of those online writing courses that send you prompts and lessons. But the only ones I’ve found have been a bit expensive. Suggestions?

Volunteer More
My church (Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church) does a lot of volunteer work, ad I’ve been wanting to get more involved. I’ll make it happen in 2014. I would love to also get more involved with food banks and homeless shelters in Johnson County.

Stay in touch with friends
Many of my friends are spread out across Kansas, and the country. (HEY CHEL!) It’s difficult to stay in touch, especially when I feel like I hardly have time to see the people who live here in KC. But I will try to make more phone calls and write more e-mails, because you make time for the things (and people) that/who matter.

Travel More
In 2013 I traveled to Washington D.C. (thanks to work, although that trip included zero sight seeing), Arizona (thanks to a good friend’s bachelorette party/weekend), and St. Louis (again, thanks to work, again, no sight seeing). I definitely want to do more traveling this year (depending on time and money of course).

Europe has been on my bucket list since like….ever. Steven has promised that we will go, and we’ve talked about it for a while, but it’s never really been affordable. Although I really really hope we can take that trip this year. :-/

Would of course love to go back to D.C. or to NYC (and bring Steven with me!). I also plan to make it out to St. Louis to see my cousin. And, would love to spend a weekend in Mexico, Missouri (quite the happen’ place!) to see my grandmother. I think I might be overdoing it with all these traveling goals……

It really is going to be tough to beat 2013, but I have faith in you, 2014. Especially if you bring me a national championship for my Jayhawks (or, I’d settle for a Final Four), AND a new governor. (Er, um, yeah, training for an October half marathon during election season? Yup. This whole list is looking rather ambitious….)

Catch ya on the flip side, Internetz.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” ~ Walt Disney