Every Mile Matters – Know Why It Matters to YOU

Every Mile Matters – Know Why It Matters to YOU
By Melissa Oltman

I didn’t start running until I was 53 years old – in fact, I made it a point to tell people that I didn’t run, and I had no interest in running. Ever. The truth was, I had been interested a few times in my life; once in high school, when I couldn’t run the required mile to qualify for the gymnastics team, and once in the 1980’s, when Jim Fixx was all the rage with his running book. I had tried to run, and I sucked at it.

But in September 2013 I WALKED a 5K at my new job, and something clicked. The people who had run looked like they had so much fun, and I wanted to feel that! So the following Monday I started the Couch to 5K app. And by Friday I had strained the medial meniscus on both knees and could hardly walk! I honestly don’t know what made me keep trying. Certainly, I had given up before, but SOMETHING stuck with me.

By January I had found Moon Joggers, and I wanted what THOSE people had too: the joy, the friendships, the fun at races. To make a long stroy short, I entered my first half marathon because “Of course you can!” from my favorite enabler and cheerleader Carolyn. It was the Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon, July 20, 2014. I was all flustered when my GPS wouldn’t work amidst the tall buildings of Chicago, so I couldn’t tell if I was keeping the right pace, so I finally just forgot about it and PRANCED my way through 13 glorious miles! It got tough that last mile – man, it was tough! But I finished on the highest high I have ever felt in my life! I could easily have turned right around and run the whole thing again.

And that’s really when things went sour. I raced again in August, and again in September – oh, THAT one was wonderful. A whole BUNCH of Moon Joggers met in Dayton, Ohio for the Air Force Marathon, and you have never really RUN until you have run with a whole bunch of people who have become friends, comrades, and teammates. I actually got really sick at that one – heat exhaustion – because I had gone out too fast, and barely limped across the finish line before being hauled into the medic tent with low blood pressure.

See, I had fallen prey to the “What’s your pace?” monster. They say that “comparison is the thief of joy” and as the months progressed, comparing myself to everyone else slowly poisoned what had become for me not only one of my greatest joys but definitely my stress reliever. Indeed, running became MORE stressful, as I would look down at that bloody Garmin 50 times during each run, and how I felt was toally dependent on that “average pace per mile” flashing on my wrist.

I ran in October and in December – I actually really loved the December race, but I didn’t sign up for any halfs after that because I noticed that not only was I comparing myself to others, but there was a sneaky little thing, even among friends, of comparing themselves to me and amongst each other.

I ran my first marathon in Little Rock on March 1, 2015, and unfortunately, I became injured on my last long run 4 weeks out from it, so the experience itself was painful and disappointing. There was so much I LOVED about it. The city itself is wonderful, the sights we passed were incredible, and the people you meet in those last 6 miles and the conversations you have are very cool, but my time goal was impossible because of my injury.

And when I finished I honestly didn’t care if I ever ran again. At first I thought it was normal – most people take time off after a marathon because the training can be pretty consuming. But I just couldn’t get it back. I tried a lot of things. I tried the positive self talk, the switching up cross training. I tried it all, but for me, the thrill was very much gone. And I really really grieved that. Running has been so many things for me.

ANd then recently, a very smart and wise friend told me, “Stop trying so hard. Don’t wear your Garmin, don’t log your miles. Just get out the door and go.” And one early morning, all by myself, I stepped out the door – no Garmin, no nothing, and just took off down the street with no real plan of where I was running or for how far or how long.  And about half a block into it, I was very aware of my shoulders relaxing, and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and just sighed. Because it just felt SO GOOD to be out there doing MY thing all by myself.

Find out why every mile matters TO YOU PERSONALLY. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be faster, but for me, personally, I am very much NOT a competitive person. It’s my hippie-everyone-wins personality. For me, running is my ME time, the one time in the day when I am not responsible for anyone else, I have no decisions to make except whether to turn right or turn left, and I am the most authentically Melissa. I love to do races for the FUN – it’s like going to a big party, for me. And I have finally learned to not only be OK with all of that, but to stand up for it, and hold tightly to it when others have different goals and needs.

Every single blessed mile matters to ME. It’s MINE – my experience, my achievement, on my terms. And I truly hope that every runner finds out and cherishes why every mile matters to THEM.

 

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