August 27, 2019

Finding My Running Mojo From an Unexpected Source

water bottle with love note

(While looking for a photo for this post, I came across this note that Jerry left me on a water bottle on my front porch. He used to get ice water ready for me when I was out running. I miss that!)

It's been just over two years since I decided to quit running. I wasn't sure if that change was going to be permanent or just for a little while, but I was happy with the choice at the time. And it made no difference in my weight. In fact, I lost weight--I went from 160-ish to 130-ish throughout 2017, simply from some lifestyle changes--doing what made me happy and not forcing myself to diet or exercise.

Toward the end of the year, though, I started to miss the way my body felt when I was a runner. There is something different about the way I move, my energy, my anxiety level, and even the way I breathe when I'm running regularly. Not to mention feeling in shape! After months of not running, I was getting "softer" each day.

Since then, I have made several attempts to get back to running regularly. I even trained for a half-marathon in 2018! (I did an 11-mile training run (doing all my training with Jerry, which was cool), but then didn't do the race itself--there was a crazy storm that morning, and I didn't have any desire to run in it.)

I ran a couple of times here and a few times there (maybe about 10 times in the last year?). I've just never stuck with it. It feels SO difficult getting started again. Even though I'm nearly 90 pounds less than I was 10 years ago, the running feels just as hard. That's why I haven't been following through.

When I wrote my post about my 10-year weight loss anniversary, I was actually inspired to go for a run. Looking through some of my running photos (maybe I'll do a post of my favorites soon), I had such a strong desire not just to look that way again, but to FEEL like that. To feel in great shape. And to call myself a runner.

So, that day, I ran. I ran on the treadmill, because for some reason, that is preferable to me at the moment. I started out at 5.0 mph, and after about 5 minutes, I decided that it was too fast. I thought of quitting, but then I decided to simply set my pace by my heart rate. The heart rate training I did for my fastest 10K was the best training I'd ever done, and I don't see any reason not to try it again, even though my goal is different.

My current MAF heart rate is 143 (180 minus my age--explained in the above link). That means that I'm supposed to keep my heart rate under 143 bpm for the duration of the run. That is what makes an "easy" run the actual easy pace that it should be. On that day, I had to lower my pace quite a bit--down to 4.1 at one point, which is slower than I can walk!

Anytime my heart rate got over 143 bpm (I checked it every 0.25 miles), then I would lower the speed. I finished the three miles and I felt really great, simply for the fact that I did it. And I didn't hate it! And I actually felt like maybe I could do it again.

It's been a week since then, and I've run three more times (well, four, actually, which I'll explain later):

My first run - (last Tuesday, the 20th)
Thursday, the 22nd
Saturday, the 24th
Monday, the 26th (once in the morning again in the evening; explanation below)

Katie's running stats

(The reason the first one, on the 20th, is the fastest is because I'd started at 5.0 mph instead of 4.5 mph)

Yesterday, at cross country practice, it was raining. A nice drizzle in the low-70 degree temps feels amazing for running! I did not cancel practice (I only cancel if there is lightening) and I had nearly the entire team show up.

I told them I wanted them to run the first two miles with no walking and no stopping--something that I've been pushing all summer. For some reason, the kids all think they need a water break after each 1/4 mile lap of the park, and I know they can ALL run a minimum of two miles without a break if they run at the pace I tell them (i.e. "easy").

Well, the whole team has gotten to the point where they can do it except for one boy, "L". He is a super sweet boy, but you can tell that he doesn't love running. He's a little overweight and has every excuse in the book why he can't run at practice that day. I never give in to his excuses, because I know what he's capable of.

Yesterday, I told him that if he can run the two miles without walking or stopping, then the ENTIRE TEAM will get 10 bonus points (for my points-reward system). I know that's a lot of pressure for a fourth grader who rarely does 1/4 mile without walking, but I wanted to give him some serious motivation to work hard on it.

And you know what? HE DID IT!!! I was SO proud of him I can't even describe it. He's been on the team for two years and I have never seen him so proud--it was written all over his face.

Meanwhile, I'd told my fastest runner, "A", that I wanted him to do three miles instead of two. We have a special goal for him. This is his third (and sadly, final) year on my team, and I'm desperate to help him reach his goal this year. "A" regularly comes in the top 10 of races, usually in the top 5. And it NEVER fails--there is one boy, "F" from another school, that places just seconds before "A" does. Every goddamn race!

This year, I want him to beat "F" so badly, and I want to push "A" at his practices to make it happen. He wants it, too, and his dad (also a runner) is a great motivator for him. Anyway, after "A" was done running his three miles, he wanted to stop. I reminded him of "F" and how "F" is probably running twice as far today ;)  He said he'd do another mile, and after one more lap 1/4 mile, he said forget it.

I was practically begging him to do another three laps to hit four miles, and he just didn't want to. Then I told him that if he did it, his totally out of shape coach would do it, too (even though he'd lap me at least once, haha). That was the final push for him. So, even though I'd already run that morning, I headed out in the rain to run (on the grass) for 3/4 of a mile in order to get "A" to finish his fourth mile. It was GREAT! And on my last lap, I asked all the kids to join me, so each of them got in another quarter mile.

Yesterday was my favorite practice of the year. I felt SO inspired by my team. There is "C" who is as quiet as a church mouse, and just as tiny, but super sweet and does whatever I ask of her. At the first practice, she had to take several walk breaks, but yesterday, she ran two miles non-stop, took a quick break, and then another full mile. She has the perfect running form, and I think she'll do great at cross country if she sticks with it.

There is a girl, "H", who is determined to be faster than "A" this year; and she has a good shot at it. She's fast and SUPER enthusiastic!

And I am crazy-impressed with a boy, "B", who is a newcomer this year. He actually signed up a little later than everyone else, so he was slightly behind in the beginning. He is a very sweet kid who loves to run and has an unstoppable determination. I am SO impressed with his time trial numbers. A time trial is a timed run that I like to do on the first day of practice (running their fastest mile) to compare later with other time trials and practices. It's a way of seeing improvement.

Anyway, "B"'s first time trial was 12:12. For a first-time runner, that's actually not too bad! I did another time trial four weeks later, and you know what his time was? 8:10!! He literally took over four full minutes off of his time. I would not be surprised at all if he becomes the fastest runner on the team.

This post is long. I basically wanted to write to say that I'm feeling super motivated right now to get back into running. I really hope it sticks (I'm trying not to look to far into the future) but my cross country kids inspire me so much! I can't even describe how proud I was of "L" yesterday. I think hitting that two-mile goal gave him some more confidence for the future.

As of right now, my goal is just to run three times a week for three miles each time at my MAF heart rate. I'd love to see it improve, and now that I'm feeling kind of enthusiastic about running again, I hope that I'm able to continue with it!

The reward system for the cross country team has been very helpful so far, so I am going to be completely shameless and post a link here to an Amazon Wish List just for my cross country kids. As you know, I buy the prizes out-of-pocket, and I wish I could buy more, but I can't afford my whole list, haha. So, if you feel inclined to donate any prizes for the team, the list is in the above link (hopefully that works--I've never linked to a list before).

The kids especially love novelty running socks (particularly with food or animals on them). The socks just need to be made of spandex and/or polyester (no cotton) so that they are moisture wicking. I just added some headbands for both the boys and the girls, which I think will be popular as well.

Anyway, I feel guilty for even posting the link, but because the items are for the kids and not myself, I hope it's not too shameful to ask. I have SO MUCH APPRECIATED the used Garmins that some of you have sent. The kids are learning how useful they can be, and they love hearing the beep! after each mile. Also, I don't have to hear them ask, "How much farther?" 18,000 times, hahaha.


  1. Hi Katie, I'd love to donate an item or two for your team. How do I get them sent to you?

    1. Thank you SO SO much! I think I had to change a setting for the list, so I'm *hoping* that it'll work for shipping now? I've never dealt with Wish Lists before, so I'm not sure how it all works. But if needed, you can email me and I'll give you the address: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Again, thank you!

  2. I am glad that you are back running. Keep it up.

  3. The running for you and your team is really great! But I'm more amazed at your husband - where did you find a husband to write you such sweet notes? Lucky gal!

  4. Thank you Katie! Your post gives me chills, to hear of their achievements is just awesome. There are two gifts coming your way for them-not much, but something :)

  5. The kids you coach are lucky to have you! I can't run but you've motivated me to keep walking.

  6. You sure got lucky when you snagged Jerry!!! What a great note! I've been enjoying the cooler August weather here in Nebraska, the last few days. As you know, I WALK for my exercise and I've been able to go out a couple times a day because the temps are so much nicer. I have a feeling as you start running again, the pounds might also start falling off. Working on getting back to my happy weight (150), only 6 more pounds!!!

  7. You've given so much of yourself to us as readers...I'm happy to give to your team :-)

  8. I loved this post. The running part was cool. I could relate--as I desired and have become more fit--I have naturally wanted to improve my runs. I have also enjoyed them more. But honestly, you and Jerry are actually my favorite part. Love and miss you.

  9. I love your posts about XC running as my 5th grade daughter is in XC and I run with her team. I'm curious what distance the races are? Ours are only 3K (1.8mi).

  10. Have you thought about trying some virtual runs that might help with motivation? I don't know if that's something you might be into. For example, there's one for Australia that I'm tossing up doing called "Run down under". You run wherever you are, log your miles to the app and it updates where you are on the map. The goal is to run the distance of a run around Australia, which obviously would take a few years to do haha. It's $60 a year, you get a shirt, and then as you hit different spots you get little incentive gifts, plus a medal and certificate when you finish.

    I also have been doing races with Potterhead Run Club and Fandom Running Club using "Racery". It's another app where you log your miles and travel on a map. The next one I'm doing starts in a week and we're running around Japan in teams, I'm hoping to be on a Hunger Game team, may the odds be ever in our favour ;) (the team is called Team on Fire, so awesome).

    Just something I thought I'd mention in case that helps you, I know you used to love having the running plans, but maybe if you had goals and different things to keep you interested it might help?

    Maybe we should even organise a Runs for Cookies race using Racery one day!


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