Running Evolution

The Early Days:
I was so completely clueless… I didn’t know anything about technical apparel, about being fit for proper shoes, or even the term pronation. I hadn’t heard anything about chafing and didn’t ever experience it until I was over halfway into my first marathon, when I started feeling a burning pain under my arm as my sports bra began to eat into my skin. I didn’t know anything about gels or fuel or hydration… it’s a wonder I survived!

There is a podcast called “Two Gomers Run a Marathon“. It’s well done and entertaining, but the thing that I really enjoy is just listening to these guys learn and experience everything in the training process. They ask questions that I was too naïve or uninformed to even think of then, but it gives me warm, fuzzy feelings to recall those days.

To sum it up… I was a Gomer.

(Their show was previously”Two Gomers Run a Half Marathon” and they trained for the 2009 PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. They came across the finish line right around the same time as my mom during that race, she’s the one that originally found them and introduced me to their show.)

The Next Phase:
This is the time period where I became uber-strict about everything. I was doing every run on my schedule exactly, no more and no less. I was extremely unbending in my need to eat the exact same thing every Friday night before Saturday morning long runs. (Which means my husband stopped eating dinner with me because he didn’t want the same safe pasta every week!)

My whole life revolved around marathon training. It dictated when I woke up and when I went to sleep every day. I planned every minute of the week so that I was doing my best with this plan… or what I perceived to be the best at that time.

I was training to run with Team in Training at this time, so I wanted to follow every bit of instruction I got from my coaches so that I would make it to the race and finish. I had too many wonderful people who had donated money in my fundraising, I couldn’t let them down by doing something “wrong”!

The Next Phase:
Coming out of that race, I gave up some of my rigid rules, but I was tired. I was overtraining and not taking care of myself. I ran a marathon, a couple 5Ks, a couple half-marathons, 18 & 20-mile trainings in just a few short weeks before toeing the line for the next marathon. The DNF was a result of that time.

I took a little while to chill out, then moved into training for some half marathons. I wasn’t training with other people, everything that I was doing was basically “my time”. I spent a lot of time on the roads with audiobooks on my iPod and logged some pretty high mileage (for me, at least). But I did get a little too dependent upon the release that came from running, which lead to injury and a weakened immune system.

The Current Phase:
Right now I’m not necessarily training for a specific race. I have dreams of things I would like to do, but nothing is concrete right now. I make my training schedule on a week-by-week basis, based on whatever I feel like I want to do. Different foods are allowed for dinners, even if they fall before a long run. (But then, I’m not doing any 18-20 milers at this time… I might not be QUITE as cavalier if I were.)

I wish I could say there was a more relaxed feeling to my running. In some ways I guess there is, but there is an undercurrent of both being glad yet uneasy at the fact that I’m just running to keep running… to feel that joy and release that comes from the activity. And when I phrase it like that I feel a little guilty that I feel guilty for not having any real solid training/racing plans. But it’s what has to work for me now.

It will be fun to see what the next phase brings, but for now I’m (mostly) content with this phase.

What changes have you noticed in your running as you accumulate more running years?


  1. Loved the post, made me think about when I was starting to run. I guess we all start the same way, not knowing what we are getting into and after some time we all wonder how we managed to get there.

  2. It’s funny how things change. I took my first two marathons so seriously. I approached this one much more laid back. In fact, I didn’t think at all about my nutrition before a long run (except the race, of course), which probably hurt me a few times. I think I would like to find a better balance.

    I think your current phase sounds great. Part of me wishes I could get there. I can’t seem to let go of the drive to do another race and I wonder if it would be better if I took it easy for a while.

    I’m interested in watching for your next phase…

    • I think your approach to your most recent marathon contributed to your success! I think there needs to be a little more of a relaxed feel in marathon training. (But not too relaxed! LOL!)

  3. i am more now than ever, in the phase where its strict, strict, strict. for the past 3 years i was in a relationship (which was also was when i was just getting into running) that was horrible, and i let that consume me, with bouts of good running and good eating whenever we would ‘break up’…

    now its all about me, trying to get faster, trying to stay injury free, eat healthy at ALL times…i feel like its consuming me, but i also thing that that is ok.

    for now.

    • I agree with your “for now” addendum. I think that if you’ve been in a bad relationship, it’s perfectly alright and probably good for you to turn inward and take care of yourself some. And I like the way you’re indulging in yourself right now, with exercise and healthy eating. Just as long as it doesn’t become too consuming!

  4. We go through phases of running just like we go through phases of life. The phase you are in is where you need to be for the time being – don’t get too anxious to move out of it. Enjoy it for what it is. Your body will let you know when its time to make a change again. I’ve been riding that middle distance phase now for almost a year. Just not ready for the super long runs that marathon training requires, and not willing to beat myself up over it. I’m kind of enjoying the fact that I can take a few days off and not stress that I’m hurting some future race time.

  5. I have seen you go through 2.5 of those phases and I like where you are now with your running, obviously I would like to see some other things shift for the better.

    I am definitely in the enjoy the experience phase. I just want to go out and do the races and have a good time. Yes I have plans for those big ultras but I just don’t feel like I have to do them on any sort of timeline now. I wish I had more time for the uber-training and races but I know I have some more important things right now.

    Molly and Helen have shown me that I have plenty of time to brutalize myself at Badwater or Hardrock!

  6. love this 🙂 all soooo true. i remember being SO crazy about things before my first 20 mile runs. hydrating all week, eating carbs and what not. although i am still strict about certain things, i am defintiely more flexible than i used to be 🙂

  7. This post is fabulous! I too was so clueless in the beginning. I see so much of myself in some people I know now just starting out and I want to shake them into the right things…but alas, I guess we all have to learn for ourselves.

    I am a major over-pronator, but had no idea what that was when I started. No clue about body glide or wicking or gu.

    Amazing how much I learned over the last 2 years! And through blogging, it seems I just keep learning!

  8. I’m totally laughing because I’m still such a Gomer. I’ve never used a chafing gel, and in fact only realized recently (I’ve been running for about 4 years now) that the spot on my left hip is a chafing place from my fuel belt from this past summer. DUH. I guess my running has evolved in that it’s still evolving. I pick up nuggets of wisdom here and there, and throw it all into the pot and see what comes out. Whenever I start to overtrain my legs get super tight, and then I have to back off because running stops feeling good, and I don’t like that. Other than that, I’m still pretty cavalier about the whole thing.

  9. i’m not necessarily strict right now per se, but i do stress about it too much. i’ve actually been wondering lately if running/worrying about my mileage/etc has been what’s causing my immune system/everything to freak out. i know stress can ‘damage’ deep inside and i am unfortunately not all chilled-out about running. if i don’t run, i get grumpy. if i run but feel i didn’t run “enough”, i’m mad at myself… i think i need therapy 🙂

    i started out care-free/innocent and didn’t train properly for my first marathon (ow) but stuck with it. then i became the spreadsheet nazi i pretty much am today…

  10. OMG, you and I are on so much the same wavelength again, it’s scary! Only difference between us is you tried to run two marathons, and I called it quits after just 1. I ate thai food every Friday night for months while I was training for that full marathon, at a place my husband loved, and finally he just couldn’t eat any more Thai food for a while. 🙂 I remember being stuck to the schedule, and now I do plan my week, (sorta) by the week, depending on the weather. I was just saying to my husband tonight, I am glad to now have running in my life, but not to have it BE my life like it was two years ago. As you’ve said to me before, enjoy the flexibility.

    • I actually attempted 3 marathons… it was my third one that gave me the DNF. So I should be pretty proud of myself for accomplishing those two (and training for the third). But we need to keep passing the reminder about enjoying the flexibility back and forth to each other!

  11. I love this post. I tried so hard to understand every little bit about running when I first started. I went to the running store and was fitted for shoes, not realizing that even though they said I’d need another pair of shoes in July that I wasn’t running near as much as they probably thought I should be so when I wore the new shoes for the marathon in October they were too new.

    I slowly went backwards. The next year my longest run was 8 miles before the marathon, and yet I felt pretty good about it all. But my next year was stellar. I was running when I wanted and how I wanted. I had a half marathon as my longest run, but I had several of them and it worked great. I felt better for that marathon in October than I had for any of the others.

    But since then, I’ve been slumming. I blame the weather, but I just haven’t been into it either. I yearn for that desire to run again, and i know it will come, but I just wish it would come sooner.

    As for following a set schedule and diet and all that. I try to eat healthy all the time when I’m training. I run what I can when I can, with a semi-plan in mind, but nothing concrete. Life is too complicated for me to force myself to stick to one plan. I read my books and magazines but even those are old hat, it seems…so I’m thinking of ending my subscription (gasp!). But I continue to press forward.

    Wow…this got long…sorry. :}

    • Go for it… end the subscription! I cut ties with lots of my magazines because I felt like they were repeating the same messages and/or promoting messages that just make people feel bad instead of lifting them up!

  12. […] In the past I have trained with a schedule and I’ve stuck to that very precisely. My first marathon training plan came from a website. My second marathon training plan came from my Team in Training coaches. My third marathon training plan was a loose adaptation of the Team in Training plan. I was very obedient at sticking to those plans, regardless of how I felt. I was going to get that day’s prescribed workout in if it killed me! (See: Running Evolution) […]

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