Run Happy…

In 2018, I set a goal for myself: run one 5K per month. It’s not a strenuous goal by any means, but it was one that felt right in my gut. You see, I had about 5 years of being sidelined from running with many false starts as I dealt with a series of injuries. The latest “thing” that had happened was a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in my right knee (it seems that family medical history DOES catch up to a person when she’s around the age of 40…), and I was scared to run. I knew I couldn’t afford significant orthopedic care, and I didn’t like the idea of running and feeling pain and an open pathway to being disappointed in myself. But since I cross-train a lot (and especially on a spin bike…) and it’s easy to run a 5K with just one or two training runs per week, running a 5K a month seemed like a good bet. I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment again with my running, and I wanted–more than anything else–to feel the deep, satisfying joy that I had always known when my feet hit the pavement one by one and I propel myself forward using my body and the immediate location I find myself in.

This goal meant something to me. I pursued it. I completed it.

At the end of 2018, I knew I felt so good on my runs that I set another goal for myself–a 10K every three months in 2019. I set this goal because it made sense, right? You conquer one distance and you progress on to the next one. And when you’re someone like me–whose identity as a runner was, more than anything else, as a distance runner–the idea of returning to distance in a smooth, linear progression is so dang appealing. It was everything I thought I wanted. I set this goal and shoved aside a very important reason behind my 2018 5k/each month goal–to feel the joy that running gives me, to feel the sense of connection to my immediate world with each run, to remember just how full of life running had always made me feel.

I signed up for my first 10K in 2019–the St. Pete Beach Classic down in sunny, beautiful St. Pete Beach, FL.  I was proud of myself. And I was excited that this 10k meant a weekend getaway with my husband. We work ourselves until we’re bone tired, and we need breaks when we can get them. And everything was set. We had gas in the car, we packed our bags, we began our trek down I-75 the day before my event. We got to our airbnb, checked in, and I set up my gear for a very early wakeup call.

And like that, on race day, three letters became associated with me that I never really thought too much about before–DNS.

DNS. Did Not Start.

Yep. Me, the woman who was boldly pursuing goals and who was so excited to make her way back to the kind of running that makes her the happiest–and who was going to return to longer distances in one of her favorite towns. DNS. Did Not Start. Did Not Run At All.

I could tell you reasons that are, on the surface, true–the way my body hurt, the unnerving headache, the sheer exhaustion that had risen in me, and more–but that doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is that I didn’t start. Didn’t run. Didn’t make it to pick up my bib. And spent the rest of the weekend with my husband enjoying time with him but feeling really quiet and reflective and aware that I needed to figure something out before I wrote about it. And this is where I’m at. I think I’ve pretty much processed what I want to say.

2018 felt like a big deal for me in setting a running goal. My runs felt good, and I have been able to assess–month after month–the ways that mood, stress, anxiety, training runs, cross-training, sleep, nutrition all come together with how I feel during each 5K (and, for that matter, every single time I would lace up to run). Finding my way back to my running shoes and onto the pavement transformed my relationship with Atlanta (where I have been living for the last 2.5 years) and helped me fall in love with this city. Seeing it through the context of the run–where I am propelling myself into every ounce of space I can occupy–is different than seeing this city through a car window as I sit in traffic on my way from Point A to Point B.

2018 also was a big year in my personal life with changes beyond what I can really convey in the space of this blog. A lot happened, and it energized me in some ways (becoming a Les Mills RPM instructor was an amazing highlight for my year) and exhausted me in other ways that are pretty boring to write about. Achieving personal goals in the middle of a chaotic time sets proof positive that even when things seem difficult, not everything is lost. And I am proud of my goal.

But on the heels of so much change? Moving straight away to the next goal? Man, I’m tired just thinking about it. Going from one goal to the next–from one set of personal expectations to the next without a break or time to process–well, that’s something that used to propel me forward in a very powerful way in my life, but not so much anymore. Right now, it exhausts me. It feels like enough to want to run sheerly for the joy I feel when my feet hit the pavement.

It feels like enough to want to run because it feels good.
It feels like enough to want to love to run because it uplifts me and contributes something great to my outlook on life instead of to have to run to be able to meet yet another goal.
It feels like enough to say that soon I will find another goal–whether it’s my 10K goal or something else–but right now I just want to go run a couple of times a week.
It feels like enough to want to fall in love all over again in increments that feel good in the moment–whether it’s this 1.5 mile loop I like to run sometimes, the 2 mile loop on the hill, or a different running route that might feel good on a different day.

It feels like enough to just run happy.

I don’t say “run happy” because it’s the slogan for the running company I believe in the most and whose products I wear and I really, in some way, want to embody everything that Brooks endeavors to be in the running community. I say “run happy” because these words–in this day and age where we want to Marie Kondo every single word we utter and latch on to the phrases that seem popular Out There In The Great Big World Of Stuff We Find On Netflix And The Internet–really, deeply, truly spark joy. Running with a shit-eating grin on my face and propelling myself forward into every millisecond of life and celebrating the immediate location where life happens and feeling proud of my body–its strong legs, its lungs that can handle so much air, its round butt and short frame–man, what an amazing thing. That feels great.

So 2019–the year of just Running Happy. It will look a bit different on every single run, on every single day, and at every single distance. It doesn’t have a goal. I signed up for a 5K that’s the very first weekend of March, and I might run Peachtree again in July. Maybe I will find another 10K to run (I *do* like the idea of having a weekend getaway to Denver in October to run the Rock & Roll Denver 10K…). Maybe not. Maybe spend some time volunteering for races that I loved last year but may or may not run in.

Maybe many things. But–most definitely–embody RUN HAPPY.

2 thoughts on “Run Happy…

  1. Stephanie, you are amazing. I LOVE your run happy goal for this year… I see my kids run happy and it always reminds me how I just need to do that rather than get lost in PRs, crazy goals etc. Can I come join you for Peachtree! I love that you are going to be volunteering for races too, such a good idea. You had an amazing 2018 and I LOVE that you spent that race weekend with your husband and quiet time. Have a beautiful day!

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    • PRs and goals and things to pursue are really GREAT–but I know that I have a propensity to go from goal to goal and lose myself in the determination to achieve, pursue, achieve some more…and it can easily make me lose sight of passion and joy. And the joy of running is what got me always wanting to come back after injuries and diagnoses and changing life circumstances! 🙂

      PLEASE join me for peachtree!!! But only if we can wear matching balega socks???

      I hope your day out there has been beautiful and amazing, too, Janae! xo

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