It’s that time of year again: the time to reflect on the year past and evaluate how well you lived up to your expectations from this time last year, as well as look ahead and determine what you’d like to accomplish in the year to come. If you’re like me, you probably did not achieve all the things you wanted to. Which seems to happen every year. At least I’m consistent!
I thought about looking back to one year ago and seeing where I was, running-wise, and then remembered that I’ve been keeping track of my workouts for the past three and a half years – so maybe a dip farther into the archive would be fun.
I use MapMyRun to track my workouts. I started using it the spring of 2015, about a year after I had decided to take my health more seriously. I’d lost 25 pounds in 2014 and, during that year, had focused my workouts mostly on a Tracy Anderson routine I did several days a week in my living room. Running (not to mention lifting anything heavier than 3 pound weights) was an afterthought, something I did maybe 30 minutes a couple of times a week to burn calories.
I’d always liked keeping track of things (in 9th grade, I spent months charting the outfits I wore to school to ensure I wouldn’t repeat a shirt within the span of three weeks) and thought that I’d remain more motivated to keep up my running if I could see actual progress on a page. The spring of 2015, as I lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and ran on my building’s treadmill or in the very flat McCarren Park, I simultaneously began using MapMyRun and RunKeeper each time I ran. I couldn’t decide between the two and thought I’d use both for a few weeks to see which one I preferred. In the end, MapMyRun won.
Although I use Garmin to track my runs today, I still input my workouts on and have all of my runs automatically transferred to MapMyRun. Because of this, I have a nice way of taking a look back at my progress. Which is what I am about to do right now in this post!
I thought I would look back at the past four Octobers, as that month seems to have been fairly consistent, and this past one was the month leading up to my first marathon so it’s a nice contrast to the others.
I was three months into living in L.A. at the time. I had discovered this very L.A. thing called “hiking,” which I loved and tried to do at least twice a week – one short hike to Griffith Observatory and one long one to the top of Mount Hollywood. I was still doing the Tracy Anderson routine, some Fitness Blender workouts, and some running. I rarely if ever ran anything longer than 4 miles. I ran everything easy, and my paces were mostly in the 10:15-11:00 range. The class I took on the 10th was a hip hop dance class that I believe I was terrible in.
I tried working out most days, but wasn’t super consistent. If I didn’t have time or didn’t feel like it, I wouldn’t work out at all. For the most part, I did okay. Not a star athlete by any means, but somewhat determined to make exercise a part of my daily routine.
Also, I should mention that at the time (and really, for the next two years), I didn’t have a full time job or specific daily routine that involved a career. Working out most mornings was a way for me to set somewhat of a schedule for myself so I didn’t feel like a crazy person. Usually, I succeeded.
A year later, I was still living in L.A., but wouldn’t be for much longer. I was hiking less – I still loved my weekly 6 mile hike up to Mount Hollywood, which I would do usually solo and early in the morning to avoid the heat. It would take me two hours total, and it was one of my favorite parts of the week. I think that hike had spoiled me and the shorter 2.8 mile hike up to Griffith Observatory got too easy and boring, so I didn’t do that one as often anymore.
I’ve always been a sucker for keeping streaks (I’m currently on day 821 of Duolingo, thank you very much), and I think part of what tracking my progress did was kept me motivated to not have a day where I wasn’t doing something. My goal was to work out every day, and I was pretty good at keeping it up.
At this point, I had stopped doing Tracy Anderson and was using Fitness Blender exclusively for all of my strength training workouts, having gone from using 3 pound weights to 5 and 8 pounds. Sometimes I even ran and did strength training on the same day.
I had become more serious about running, yet even one year later, my Sunday long runs were still hovering around 6 miles. I was trying to increase that distance each week, but there was still a part of me that was afraid to really go for it – like I was afraid my body wouldn’t be able to handle it or something. Like I would break. At least I’d gotten over my fear of running two days in a row. I don’t know why that ever scared me in the first place.
I think for a long time I thought I was made out of glass.
The following October, my life had taken a drastic turn. The December before, I’d moved back to Long Island to care for my mom, sick with cancer. In September, I started a job in the city to which I commuted two hours a day, five days a week. October was a stressful month – it was the month before my mom died and she was in bad condition. We had hired a live-in caretaker to help out so I could go to work. I still feel a little guilty about taking a job at the time, but I was really in a desperate state, financially, and couldn’t pass it up.
Maybe as a way to cope with all of this, I had gotten really serious about running. It was more than just a distraction; it was the only time I felt truly at peace. It consumed me. I’d run my first races in a long time that past summer and was surprised and delighted by how much I was improving. My regular run paces were in the 9s, maybe dipping into the low 10s for easy runs. My 5K race pace had gone from 8:30 to 8:05 in a few months. At 43, I ran the Cow Harbor 10K in September faster than when I’d last run it at age 25. I couldn’t believe it.
I’d had some heel pain towards the end of the month, which resulted in me taking 90-minute yoga classes in lieu of my long runs (which topped out at about 10 miles at the time). Other than that, I generally felt pretty strong and excited about what my future looked like as a runner.
My mom had always been a big supporter of my running, and at this point, due to her illness, I sadly could no longer communicate with her about my progress. But I knew I couldn’t ever stop. This was my life now. I would never go back.
The following year, like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, my life had thrown me yet another twist. My mom had died, we had sold her house, and I was back in New York City, where it all started for me and where I think I’ve always felt most at home. In October I was finishing up training for what would be my first marathon. I had done my two longest runs to date in this month: a 20 and a 22 miler. Still strength training, still on that compulsive daily workout streak.
The 2 mile run on the last day of that calendar was the day before the TCS NYC Marathon. Even before race day, I had already accomplished something I didn’t think was possible even a year earlier. I spent so many years thinking about running a marathon, somehow convincing myself I probably didn’t have what it takes. That my body wouldn’t be able to handle it. That I didn’t have a “runner’s body.” That I was made of glass and would break if I tried.
By October 2018, I’d proven to myself that I’d been wrong. I could run a marathon. I didn’t even need the race to know this. I knew it. The training itself was life-changing, and I had never felt more confident in my life. Now I know that if I put in the work, I can accomplish anything. It seems so simple (maybe because it is)!
I still have goals, as I think all runners do, no matter their level of achievement. I’ll save those for another post, which I will write soon, because one of my goals is to write more on this blog.
This post was more long-winded than I’d anticipated (not sure why I anticipated me NOT being long-winded), but it was nice to be able to see just how much things have changed in the past few years. Some for better, some for worse. Mostly better, I’d like to think.
I’ll end with some advice, which is mostly to myself. No matter what your goals are right now, if you feel you’re stuck in a rut or think you’re not improving as quickly as you’d like, trust me: stick with it. Hang in there. Keep going. I promise, you won’t break. Unless you are literally made of glass, in which case, how are you even reading this?!