Until today, I had the winter running blues. It’s been an exceptionally cold winter here in Missouri. Not just a cold winter, but a frozen, slushy-junk-on-the-sidewalk kind of winter. Since at times I find it difficult to navigate dry pavement, my sense of self-preservation dictates that I stay indoors and off the sidewalks when they’re icy. That leaves me with the option of the treadmill (or dreadmill, as I’ve heard it called.)
When I first started running, I used the treadmill a lot. I always was self-conscious out there on the roads of O’Fallon—like the people in the cars would know I was only pretending to be a runner—so I opted for the dingy basement. My treadmill at home was old and had experienced a leaky battery so the controls that tell you how fast you’re going and how far you’ve run didn’t work. I used the clock in my husband’s workshop to see how long I ran. Since I was slow and all my friends who were “real” runners ran a lot faster than me, I was running solo anyway so it was the perfect way to get miles in. Even if I didn’t know how many miles I ran.
I didn’t start running a lot outdoors a lot until last fall when I trained for my first half marathon with a training group at Big River Running, a local running store here. Before that, most of my outdoor running was when I was coaching Girls on the Run at the elementary school playground. Not exactly scenic. But with the training team our long runs were in parks and through nearby subdivisions as well as the high school track. This was when I began to enjoy running. Even in 90+ degree weather I thought being outside was part of the experience that I enjoyed most. I also loved the camaraderie of running with a group. The miles fly by when you’re with other humans with a common goal.
I trained into the fall and did the half, followed by a couple 5Ks afterwards. Then it was December and the swirl of Christmas activities pulled me away from running—exactly what I was afraid would happen. It was dark early and cold, although not too bad, but I was busy and not training for a race. So I didn’t run (and I need to add I got crabby).
In January, the training team started up for a spring half marathon. Knowing that I need to have a goal to motivate me, I signed up again. So far I’ve gotten to go to two trainings out of six—and one was cancelled due to ice. All the other long runs I’ve done on the treadmill. Alone. And I’ve started to wonder why I ever liked running so much. Audio books aside, running on the treadmill takes away my favorite parts of running—the outdoors and the people—and reduces it to the part that’s just sweat and being out of breath. When I’m running with the group my fear of getting left behind keeps me on pace. I hate to admit it, but on the treadmill I am able to dial it down when I’m not just feeling it, so I end up dragging out the torture even longer.
So yesterday I went to the park, hoping to find it cleared off enough for the long run with my friend Amy…it was not. And I dreaded the treadmill run slated for today on my training calendar. But something happened today that shook my blues and made me happy. I went against every instinct I had, and didn’t look at the mileage as I ran. I set it up on my pace and kept it there…never slowing down because I wanted to quit. I gasped and was red-faced; it was not pretty. But I felt the way I used to feel after I ran. Tired, but accomplished. Like I hadn’t “cheated” on my training plan. It was a great feeling.
Tomorrow’s training run is four miles. And it will probably be on the treadmill again. Bring it on.