I started running competitively when I was 12. My middle school had a track and field team where I was trying to master the high jump. I wasn’t a very good high jumper . On one attempt, not only did I knock the pole down, I missed the landing mat and knocked the entire pole stands down. People came to my aid, I was bleeding, yet oh-so-ashamed – all I could say as I limped: “I’m good. I’m good.”
One day my friend hurt her knee and asked me to run the 800m for her. I ran, people cheered. I came across the line and was swarmed with people praising my performance. “How did you do that?” “Oh my gosh, you are so fast!” I had no idea I could run, but felt great. I came to the thought conclusion, “I am a runner. Okay. Well, goodbye high jump!”
In high school I continued to run track and cross-country. As I aged, though, things got harder. Eventually, I stopped running until I turned 35. When I started running again, I knew there were things I wish I could’ve told myself when I was younger.
5 Things I Would Tell My Younger Runner Self
1. You have to practice
Once I determined I was a runner. That, lo and behold, I was a good runner, well – I kind of sat back. As I aged, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t having the same success I had when I was a young 12, 13, 14, 15. I was so excited about running then, I ran all the time. It felt good, even at that age. Long hot runs or speed runs through my neighborhood. I loved to run!
I took it for granted. I thought if you were succeeding as a runner, then you always would. I didn’t realize at the time, you have to put in the work. The fast runner is in there, you just have to help her out. It takes time and a lot of hard work. BUT IT IS WORTH IT!
2. Your body is going to change. This will affect your running
Sometimes I think about how my poor cross-country coach, a man, had to explain to all of us high school female runners about our “cycle” and how it was going to effect our running. We were all so wide-eyed and grossed out at the time. We got to the locker room just to giggle and squeal. Poor coach.
But it’s true – throughout high school especially – you develop. More than a winning personality. If you’re a girl, you develop boobies, hips. Your form can get weighed down and change. New ailments emerge when you change your form. You get older and have kids. Body changes again.
Your body is going to change. This will affect your running. But it is no reason to stop running!
3. Stretch, dummy!
On a recent visit to the track, I saw what I supposed was the cross-country team, going through some early track work. Do you know how much time they spent stretching? A LOT. I used to stretch like that with my team. Then, when I got out on my own, who had time for stretching? I had so many other things that I could be doing. Stretching took too long!
Guess what happened? I got hurt. Plantar Fasciitis in both feet. Developed a heel spur. I hobble now if I don’t stretch. I learned my lesson.
4. Squeeze Cheese Mac N Cheese is not the best carbo loading source
I would hit the neighborhood for a nice run and then come home and make a whole box. For myself. I probably could’ve made some better food choices overall.
5. Running is THERAPY
Life happens. There are the good parts and the hard parts. Sometimes it feels like the hard parts are winning. Until I run.
I feel stronger, I feel empowered and healthier. I forget my problems – or clear my thinking around them.
Endorphins are released and psychologically, I feel better. Less stress. I sleep better at night. I am calmer.
Don’t let life get you down. Go for a run.
These 5 things are what I would tell my younger self. What would you tell yourself? Let me know!