For the Love of It
by Christine Erickson
Hi, my name is Christine and I am excited to join the Moon Jogger Fleet’s Voyage to Venus this year. By the time I found Moon Joggers you guys were nearly back from the Moon Voyage. I am an aspiring marathoner and ultrarunner and I think I’ve found just the place to keep me inspired and motivated. I have been an intermittently active person for most of my 46 years, but I’ve never considered myself an athlete. As a middle-aged woman recently returning to and falling in love with running I hope to share how the sport is shaping me physically and mentally.
January seems a fitting month to talk about motivation. People make resolutions and start out strong with new diets, workout routines, and commitments to change bad habits. But how many of us have made the same resolutions from one year to the next? Sometimes it’s hard enough to find our motivation; how do we keep it alive throughout the year? This is a question I’m still in the process of answering, but I’ll share what worked for me this past year.
I’ve been an on and off again (mostly off) runner for many years, but I never really liked running. In my early twenties I stuck with it long enough to actually start enjoying it. Memories of my first runner’s high lured me back to the sport many times over the years. I had no plan. I had no goals other than usually to lose weight. I would buy fancy running shoes with each renewed effort and I would quit long before their treads showed much wear. I never read about running or learned ‘how to’ run. I would just run—very slowly—for as long and as far as I could in search of that elusive runner’s high. Although, I viewed running as drudgery and something to get over with as soon as possible, I also related to Christopher McDougall’s sentiment in Born to Run, “I didn’t love running, but I wanted to.”
Last year I became a runner. I have no tales of hard won races or grueling distances, but I am an athlete. I used to think I was not good enough to be an athlete. We tend to think of and recognize only the athletes at the top of their game and forget all the others who show up every day for the love of the sport, not because they are the best or hope to win. How did I go from dreading running to loving it? I’m still surprised myself.
Healthy longevity is my motivation in my ripe middle age. I’m an ER nurse and I see firsthand the devastating effects of poor diet and lifestyle. I have always been in relatively good health and I’m still in better shape than most people my age; however, given that over 2/3 of the American adult population is either overweight or obese and nearly 50% suffer from at least one chronic illness, the bar has not been set very high. I am striving for optimum health with the body I have. Running is my midlife crisis!
In addition to running, I immersed myself in reading about running. Who knew there were actual techniques to running? I learned about pacing and cadence and intervals (oh my!) I learned about Chi Running, fartleks, FIRST training, barefoot running, evolution running—the list goes on and on. I read about runners. Not every story was as inspiring as Born to Run (which made me want to get out there NOW), but I learned about the spirit and personalities of runners. Though no two are alike, common themes laced through their stories and a strange thing happened; I started to identify with these people. I started thinking of myself as a runner.
I also started trail running last year. This was huge for me, especially in the beginning, as I could enjoy the beauty of the trail and not be overly focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Although I did try to incorporate techniques I’ve read about, I mainly just enjoyed getting out there. I kept track of my distance, time, and pace but I didn’t let it rule my run. Some of my best runs have been when my phone wasn’t charged and I ran technology-free. I love the gadgets, but they won’t make me a better runner any more than the fancy running shoes did.
Although I love running now, there are still days I struggle with motivation. Runners are fond of goals and I’m learning why. My goals last year were broad; run every other day, keep running through the winter, run a little farther every week. So far, so good. This year I have more specific goals. I’m aiming for Officer status which means upping my mileage. I would like to increase my speed, but what really interests me is increasing my distance. As I mentioned at the beginning I’m an aspiring marathoner and ultrarunner, but the furthest I’ve run is just over seven miles. However, the thought of going further tickles my brain and there are moments on my long runs when I feel like I could keep going much longer if time allowed and if I was geared with enough water and food.
I mostly run alone, but I enjoy meeting others in the running community and this has been an important part of keeping me motivated. When I’m not feeling it, all I have to do is go to one of the runners’ forums and read about how awesome everyone else is feeling after their amazing runs! Or, when I’m making excuses not to run because of the cold weather, there’s a video of some chick in a red evening gown running in arctic temperatures!
I gave up on running when I was a teen, because I didn’t have natural ability or speed; my attitude was ‘why bother’ if there was no hope of winning. I never gave myself a chance to run simply for the love of it. Although I still have a competitive nature, the only race I’m running now is with myself. This allows me to celebrate others’ remarkable achievements without feeling any less an athlete myself. I am looking forward to giving and receiving motivation from my fellow Moon Joggers in 2014. Venus or bust!