A return to blogging about running! Yea!
I haven’t written much about running since my return home from The Gambia for a very simple reason: I didn’t do much running in August and September. This blog is about Rum Runners Relay which was on September 24 so it’s a few weeks late. What can I say? This time my writing was at LSD (long slow distance) pace.
I was a little bit weary of doing Rum Runners because of the status of my “training.” Quotations required because what I had been doing really didn’t qualify as training in my world. I took all of August off. I was slow to jump back into my Asics Speed Stars in September. Several friends asked me if I was having a crisis. No crisis. Just very little running.
I thought that Rum Runners would kickstart my training when my running vacation ended in September but that didn’t really happen for a few factors I’ll talk about in a minute. I thought that having a race on the horizon would help me reclaim some of my love for training. Not so much. I hung around the track a few times with my training crew and continued to feel zero desire to run around its 400m length.
When Relay weekend rolled around, my training log for the 2 weeks prior looked like this:
Week 1: 25km. 3 runs.
Week 2: 25km. 3 runs.
Workouts: not a single lap run around track since June, 2011.
Way to go, Erin!
On Saturday morning, relay day, I was really excited to spend the weekend with runners. I love a relay weekend. I love being surrounded by the running community. I was not too sure what to expect in terms of performance when I lined up for Leg 7. I chose Leg 7 for its distance: 9.4km. I rationalized that I could 9.4km with zero training. I was not aware that Leg 7 is the hilliest leg…
I felt some false pressure to perform throughout the day. I know that it was false because I’m the only one who felt it. I know that I put it on myself. At least 3 people asked me if I was running the whole 110km relay myself with my Gambian fitness. I felt like all of my Gambian fitness had disappeared. I was running on fitness from two measly 25km weeks. I didn’t wear my flashy Asics Speedstar 5s because I don’t like wearing them when I don’t feel fit. I tried to explain my “fitness” to as many people as possible so that they wouldn’t judge my performance. Also false- I know that no one out there was going to judge my race performance. I only felt like they were going to.
Ultimately, Leg 7 was exactly what I needed to get my love for training back. I relished the feeling of lining up with other runners- ready to race. I no longer cared that my performance would be way slower than my best capability. When the gun sounded, I was just so thrilled to be out there racing. I rarely toe the line of a race without a specific goal and it was liberating to not have a goal. Didn’t even matter that a downpour of rain was trying to dampen roads and spirits.
I loved this race for what was going on in my head while I was running. I had been chatting online with Pa Modou and Spider, my Gambian brothers and running partners, before the relay. Both reminded me that our Love4Gambia “rope” would be ready for me. I continued chatting with them in my head while I was running…
Runners do lots of crazy things. They voluntarily sit in bathtubs full of ice cubes and cold water. They run in circles on synthetic surfaces both indoors and out. They run up and down the same hill over and over again. They boast about losing toenails. They dress in layers and run outdoors in rain, hail, snow and darkness before and after sunrise and sunset. They follow foolish carb loading protocols (polycose or waxy maize, anyone?).
I do all of the above.
Surely talking to your friends who are an ocean away doesn’t make you any crazier than already judged to be by non-running friends. I knew that they wouldn’t talk back. I felt like I was reconnecting with Pa Modou, Spider and Kebba on the road and it felt so great.
The hills were totally manageable and I enjoyed them for their distraction. I knew that there was supposed to be 5 of them so I just counted them off and ran aggressively on the downhills. 9.4km is a beautifully manageable distance. It’s so easy to mentally check off each kilometer when there are so few of them!
Leg 7 passes through a lot of forest and, with the rain, it was really fragrant. The air smelled like pine. Like Christmas trees. It reminded me of how sections of the road to Banjul in The Gambia would smell so fragrant, like a garden, for kilometers at a time. I had forgot how the air smelled like a garden and loved being reminded of it.
In all, I loved my run.
It was certainly not my best performance. My 10km PB is 42 flat. Last year at Rum Runners, I was the first female in my leg, clocking 4:24 kms. I ran this 9.4km in 44:50. Given my “training,” I’m happy with this. I feel like 4:50/km over hilly terrain is respectable. It’s especially respectable given the other factor that I alluded to earlier. I am pregnant and at Rum Runners, I was almost 10 weeks along.
My last big life project ended at the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul. This one will end in motherhood. I invite you along for the ride.