2008 was an amazing year of running for me. It wasn't a year of speed or races WON or anything "spectacular" like that. But it WAS spectacular. It was a year of many firsts and of many achievements (hoped for and unplanned). But most of all, it was a year of discovery for me. If I had to sum up my year in running in one word, it would be just that:
I discovered so many things about myself, about who I am actually CAPABLE of being and who I actually have the POTENTIAL to become. This is not me trying to sound cheesy or corny--the truth is, I blog here, I run, I make jokes, I live life, I am mostly joyous and full of good spirit. But those that know me very well and have seen my struggle for the last year know that there's so much more to me beneath the surface, beneath the jokes and beneath the miles logged.
Post-Freshman year of college (and even in small aspects of my life prior to that), I've only pushed myself into comfort zones and usually, not any further. I won't begin to dive into why I think this is or what areas of my life were effected, but I have never been proud of that "quality." As good of a person as I am, and as hard as I work, and as much of myself as I give to others, there has always been this weakness that belongs to me. I believe I'm deserving of more, but perhaps you can call it laziness--I wasn't always willing to give myself more. And maybe because I spent many years doing this (or not doing this), I started to believe that I COULDN'T do more for myself.
What I accomplished for myself in 2008 is unbelievable to me. It's so much more than my list below, which you will see soon. It's about a mindset, a mental strength and a discipline that I've never quite known in my life for an extended period of time. I believe in myself now--in my ability to challenge myself and succeed, at least some of the time. I know that I can push myself into someplace UNcomfortable and not crash. I know that I can take a certain amount of pain and live to tell about how great it was. I know that my imperfection actually makes me perfect--because it's just who I'm supposed to be at that time. I have conquered tough workouts, crazy recovery methods and a lot of self-doubt and I KNOW that I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm so proud of myself for pushing so hard this year and finding out that I can love something (something that is totally my own, and it's not another person that I have to give and give to, it's something that is MINE that gives me back exactly what I put into it) so much that I will sacrifice for it--sacrifice late nights or a bad (but oh so good) meal or an alcoholic beverage or sleeping in on my weekends off.
I must express again that this is a VERY sincere expression of what running has done for me. I'm sure that there would have been many other ways to show myself that I CAN have discipline and I can overcome difficult obstacles but running just happened to be at the right place, and at the right time. And for once, I finally decided to stop and listen--and start TRULY running.
So let me lighten the mood and let you guys in on some of the more trivial things I did in 2008:
1. Ice Baths -- something I NEVER thought I'd do. But after a horrid "long" run of 6 miles (a distance PR back then), I decided I had to find a way to recover. I tried my first ice bath and I was hooked. There's something religious about my recovery routine on my Long Run Saturdays, and honestly, the fun of the routine is part of the reason I continue to do ice baths. The rest of the reason lies in the fact that I truly believe in them.
2. GU -- I heard so much about these gels and was pretty scared to try them. I didn't have my first one until my long runs started going over 1 1/2 hours or so--but I found that I actually like the convenience and taste, just not the stickiness!
3. Running Tights -- EEK! Yeah, I wanted to be a "real" runner so I went out and bought some tights. I was so terrified of leaving the house in them. But that first run outdoors made me LOVE them and not care what I might look like or how I might be perceived. I'm so over it. But I'm NOT over my tights.
4. Group running. Who knew? I tried it earlier this year with a great friend and it just didn't work out for me. I felt bad, and I felt weird--like I was destined to run this path alone forever. And while I LOVE my alone time out there, I wanted to at least feel like I COULD run with others and enjoy it. So I tried one more time with some new friends and guess what? I LOVED IT! Thanks Tom and Joe!
5. The changes in my body. Not going to bore you or get too personal but let's just say WOW. Big difference. It's amazing to see your body progress and improve.
Some huge achievements for me:
1. Distance PRs all over the place! I slowly increased my mileage this year, and I'm up to a distance PR of 10.07 miles which I hit in November. It was amazing to reach that point after so many years of thinking 4-5 would be my max. So many Saturday mornings were spent out at Bernheim or at Iroquois or around my neighborhood, fighting off mental and physical fatigue to get in more distance and make myself a better runner. Long runs are currently my favorite type of workout.
2. Consistent Speed Improvements. What more can I say? I've gotten faster and faster and for the first time ever, I've actually run sub-10:00 miles--and not just in shorter distances, but also in medium. I now know I have the ABILITY to get faster. To go from running a 14:00 mile to being able to run 10:00 miles is a HUGE achievement for me!
All in all, a great year. And while I'm tempted to feel like 2009 has no chance of comparing to 2008, I TRULY believe that 2009 will be a better year. It's like when you have a second child--you already know how to do it right. There's no experimentation, no mistakes to be made--you just do it and you do it well. LOL
So here I come...