It’s hard to believe how long it’s been since I’ve run a marathon – more than a year. There was a long stretch where I wasn’t running at all, and I felt almost embarrassed when those who know me introduced me to others with something about how many marathons I’ve run. But thanks to the popularity of treadmill fitness classes like Mile High Run Club, Orangetheory, and Beyond Studios, I eased back into running. I like the accountability of a boutique fitness class – it not only forces me to show up, but also forces me to push a lot harder than I would when I’m just out for a jog by myself. And that second trait led to another benefit: I got faster.
I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly mediocre runner until I got into taking those treadmill classes, where I started finding myself comfortable running the “advanced” speeds in the ranges they offer. Then earlier this spring I entered the Tal Morrison 5K in Dallas on a whim, and shocked myself by smashing my PR and winning 2nd woman overall! I’ve done a few more races since then (the Bolder Boulder that I haven’t written up yet, and the Denver Heart Walk 5K), and both times I was pleasantly surprised by my speed. Tal Morrison definitely wasn’t a fluke – I have indeed gotten faster.
Fast is relative, of course. I learned a few weeks ago that one of my neighbors is Neely Spence Gracey, who was the first American woman in this year’s Boston Marathon. I could never keep up with her in a million years! And when I did the Bolder Boulder two mile treadmill test, I was really proud of my time of 13:53, but it only qualified me for the fifth starting corral. The volunteer administering the test joked that anywhere else in the country, my time would have put me into corral number 1, but everyone in Colorado is so fit! All of those people probably think I run like a turtle, but I’m incredibly excited to be so much faster than I once was. (And the beauty of running is that it’s such an egalitarian sport, everyone cheers on each other’s accomplishments without comparing them.) A two mile time of 13:53 is way faster than I ever thought I’d be capable of running, and now I’ve found myself intrigued by pushing the limits of my speed rather than my endurance. With that challenge, running has suddenly become so much fun again, and I love doing it!
Which is why this week, I ended up doubling up on workouts quite a bit. Not as much as Theodora’s crazy day, but three out of four days this week, I’ve logged 2-4 miles after completing whatever boutique fitness class I had lined up for the morning. Even when I’m not trying to run particularly hard, I pleasantly surprise myself with the results. I still think of any speed faster than a 9:30/mile pace as really fast, but these days, I’m almost always faster than that.
For a long time, I loved the challenge of long distance – seeing how far I could go and trying to find my limit. But after 100+ marathons, that got a little stale, and I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever really love running the way I once did, or if it had just become old hat. But these last few months have definitely shown me otherwise, and I might even love running more now than I did when I started doing marathons! You never know what sort of new challenge you might find in a seemingly familiar sport.