(Editor’s Note-Jeanne, shown here at the Richmond Marathon in 2014, has been part of Downtown Run Group since January, 2017. She’s the one on the right with the happy smile having just seen her friend’s sign, “I dream of Jeanne at the finish line!” She is training to run the San Antonio Rock n’ Roll Marathon in December.)
Running hasn’t always come naturally to me. In fact, it was something I actively avoided until about 5 years ago when I got a puppy. I learned through caring for him and his constant desire for walks that being in nature, alone with my thoughts, was a great stress reliever. It also didn’t hurt that I quickly started dropping excess weight. Once I saw the happiness that walking was bringing me, I joined my local running group and within just a few weeks I had signed up for my first half marathon. When I crossed the finish line in 1:59:59, one second faster than my goal time, after less than 4 months of running, I was sold. I’d never been more proud of what I’d been able to accomplish, and I knew this was “my thing”. 8 months after that, I finished my first marathon, and became a part of the elite 0.5 % of the U.S. population that has run a marathon (yes, this is the actual statistic as of October 2016 – feel proud!)
Since then, running has been my constant, no matter what life throws at me. I used it as road therapy when I met my husband, who is Active Duty Air Force, and within the span of 1 year got married, moved halfway across the country, and had my daughter, with no family or support system nearby. During that time, I realized that running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one. While running can completely free my mind, my mind can also completely inhibit my body. In this regard, I’m lucky to have two experienced runners, my mom and my father-in-law, and their words of encouragement, advice, and accomplishments that have taught me two key lessons:
- “You can physically go three times further than when your brain thinks you need to stop” – I remember my Mom telling me this before my first really long run. I was a ball of nerves staring in the face of my first 18 miler, and I had no clue how I would possibly accomplish it. Whether or not this is an actual statistic, anecdotal, or something she made up, this mantra always helps make long runs feel more attainable. If I’m on mile 6 of 18 and feel fine, I think of it in the context of “I can physically do this two more times.” If I’m on mile 10 of 18 and wanting to quit, I think of it in terms of “I can physically run 20 more, but I only have 8, this is nothing”. There’s really no way this hasn’t helped me.
- “Sometimes you’re just banking miles” – My father-in-law calls these “junk miles” – everyone runs them, and everyone benefits from them. Sometimes you just have a tough run and that’s OK. Not every run is going to be a PR, but it’s important to remember that time on your feet is still a component of training. So while these miles may not make you faster, they’re making you stronger, and just like making an investment in the bank, they will pay dividends later on.
With this advice and the company of great people and running groups like DRG, I’m able to keep putting one foot in the front of the other and feel proud of my accomplishments, regardless of where I am in my running journey.