February 15, 2021

The Process of Getting From "Before" to "After"

Yikes! I just got in from the coldest, snowiest walk I've ever done. It wasn't until I got home that I saw on Accuweather that there was an active winter storm warning while I was out. No wonder I was so cold!

Like I mentioned a few days ago, I've been bitten by the running bug again and it's been a LONG time since I felt this way. I really want to get back to running... but in a completely different way.

I used to sign up for races and train for them. Cross the finish line. Either hit my goal time or not. Pick another race. Repeat. And so on.

This gave me a (literal) finish line. I would train for a race, regardless of what the goal was, and then I'd cross the finish line and it would be over. I either had to pick another goal and/or another race, or just feel let down that I was done with it and feel the "Now what?"'s?

This happened especially after my 10K in 2016. I trained so hard for that PR and all of my focus was on that race. I was SUPER determined to run it under 49:23 (my PR at the time). I did all the work and it totally paid off on race day. I ran 49:03 and set a new PR.

I should have been thrilled, but I actually felt kind of lost. NOW WHAT? I had met my huge goal and I didn't have a desire to try to get even faster. I had already run three full marathons and had no desire to run that distance or farther again. I was happy with my 5K and half-marathon times. I couldn't think of anything I really wanted to work toward.

I've realized, during my time off, that I have to run without a finish line. There is no end goal. Just like with weight loss--you don't get to your goal weight and stop doing what got you there, because you'll just gain all the weight back. It's literally never-ending. If I want to be a runner, I need to run for the process of it and not for the finish line. I need to make peace with the whole process and find ways to enjoy the experience.

I think that enjoying the experience with no end in sight can sound really daunting (just like with weight loss). The key to continuing it, without feeling like there is no purpose, is to find a way to enjoy the process of becoming a runner and then staying a runner. 

And this means that I'll have to change things up once in a while. Instead of picking a 12-week plan or something like that, I think I need to focus on a week at a time. Or even one day at a time. Following a certain schedule would be great if I had an end goal, but I don't--I simply want to be a runner for the physical and mental health benefits. Would it be fun to throw some races in the mix? Maybe! And I might do that when I have the desire to--but the finish line can't be my end game. Because I can't have an end game.

Since I've been wanting to start running again, I've been trying to think of a plan to get back to it. And I can't think of something that makes sense for me. Instead of goals, I made a list of running milestones. The difference is that a goal is something to work for and hopefully reach. By choosing to keep track of milestones, I'm not actually working toward them. They are just things that I can check off if I should hit them--but I won't actively be pursuing them, if that makes sense.

These milestones below are for distances and times. (I chose the times based on about where I am now versus my past PR's/potential.) Chances are, I'll never see those fast times again! But I'm not making that my goal, either--I'm only working to keep running. The milestones are just something fun to keep track of. Like I said, I want to make running FUN this time around. I kept track of milestones like this when I first became a runner, and it was fun to check off new ones.

If it's icy and cold outside and I don't want to run in that weather, then I won't. If I'm in the middle of a walk and I feel like jogging to the next block, I'll do it. If someone asks me to go for a run with them and I want to, then I will. If I start to feel an injury and think I need a break, I'll take it. I can break all the rules I used to have for myself when it came to running. Hell, if I want to stop my Garmin at 2.99 miles in front of my house, I'll do that ;)

Right now, to get back into running, my plan is to continue walking my five miles a day and throw some running in there. I've enjoyed my recent treadmill runs while playing Best Fiends and running intervals when I lost a level. I may try to increase the amount of time I do each interval. Or the speed. Or maybe I'll see if I can run a full mile at a particular speed.

I'm basically going to fly by the seat of my pants and be spontaneous--whatever feels right during that particular walk/run. I'm not going to decide ahead of time what my plan is--I'm just going to do what my mind and body tell me to do. The only thing I know for sure is that I'm going to get in five miles by foot (walking and/or running) because that IS a goal that I have. My streak is 212 days and I don't want to break it!

Like I wrote in my post a few days ago, getting from "before" to "after" is a process. When we see success stories of runners or people who have lost weight, etc., we don't see the process. We just see the before and after, and it seems so simple. We think, "Why can't I do that?!"

We CAN do that--we just have to experience the process of getting from before to after. And the process is extremely difficult sometimes--I can't even tell you how many times I wanted to quit while I was losing weight--but if we want to get to "after", we need to go through the process. 

That said, I'd like to keep track of my whole process on my blog. I don't want it to seem easy to get back to running. The one-minute intervals I've done recently on the treadmill have been anything BUT easy! There will also be no "after" to count on. I'm going from non-runner (or ex-runner, I suppose) to runner. It's not nearly as exciting to write about--hitting hard workout goals and finishing PR races--but in the long term, it's what I really want. To be a runner again.


  1. I love the book The Happy Runner for giving perspective on lifelong running. It also includes sections on training and racing, but the base of their philosophy (it's a couple who coaches ultra runners, if I recall) is that running is something we *get* to do. I used it to shift my thinking about running away from exercise or "cardio" to something I have for me, no matter how fast or slow I go. The authors are kinda cheesy, so brace yourself for that if you end up reading it

    1. I actually had this on my Kindle and started reading it last night before bed! I was super tired, so I didn't get far. But I am hoping it'll give me a different perspective on running, like you said.

  2. I just love that you're doing this. You've always got a project going and this is the current one. Happy to follow along. Go you!

  3. You are so lucky to have a treadmill to allow you a way to run in the winter! We used to go to an indoor track, but now that they require masks while running indoors (and the track is always booked up, since they only allow 8 people at a time anyway), we have been running outside since March of 2020. Right now, with the snow and cold, that's not happening, obviously...

    So yes, I agree with Kellie, having the mindset that running is something you GET to do is a good one! When you feel like giving up, think of those of us who miss running and can't wait to get back to it!


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