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Be Kind to Yourself – Expectations

Today was an epic day for me. I ran the Lyseth Technology 5K, which, by the way, is one of THE best run races I have ever been a part of. That’s saying something, because I have been a part of a lot of races in my time, all over the country, and even a few in Europe, but I digress. The course is fairly hilly. The weather was around 60 degrees, unheard of in Maine in November, but it was windy. My 5k times have been looming around 26 minutes, so my goal was to break 26 minutes. Today, today I ran 24:10. That breaks down to 7:47/mile for 3.12 miles. That time exceeded all of my expectations. I have been having a difficult time meeting goals and expectations with my running. Needless to say I became super frustrated, but I overcame the frustration today. Hence my epic day.

I stopped running at the age of 34, after 23 years, because I was fried. In the time between the ages 34- 38, I opened 2 business, took over another, sold one business, got divorced, got remarried, and had a baby. During the labor/delivery of said baby, I severely subluxed (messed up) and possibly dislocated the joint between my hip and my sacrum, affectionately known as the SI or sacral illiac joint. It was at that time, I decided it would be an astounding idea to end my hiatus from running.

Never mind that the previous 4 years had taken an emotional and physical toll on me, the SI injury was terrible. It hurt when I moved in bed, sit to stand was excruciating, coughing and sneezing was intolerable. Nothing helped it. Physical Therapy (yes the PT went to PT) took the edge off but the light joint mobs and the easy core exercises did nothing to keep my joint from sliding and popping (yes, I could feel the bones sliding around – it made me sick to my stomach because it was audible!) Pain meds aren’t my style. Amazingly, the only time my hip didn’t hurt was after I ran about a mile and for the rest of the day after my run! Perfect! ( I have since figured out how to resolve it, on my own, and am happy to report it is 95% improved!)

Anyhow, my “return to running” regimen looked as follows: Sunday on the track 4-6 400s 1:33-1:37 with equal rest. Tuesday, 3-4 miles “easy”. Thursday 2 -3 miles as fast as I could run. There may have been an extra run or two in there some weeks, but that was my “base”. I built from that and varied my track workouts to 800/400 x 3, or 400/800/1600/800/400. Some days I did hill repeats. In the gym I lift heavy. I have a 155# bench press right now. I frequently front or goblet squat, overhead step up with 45 pounds or more overhead, and so on, so I am strong. My husband and I mountain bike, and I try to get in the pool 1-2 times a week.

That’s a lot of training, right? Despite it, my 5k times were hovering around 26-27 minutes. For a year!! I would get down on myself, having lofty expectations because in high school I was a high 19 – 20 minute 5k runner. I had the expectation that I should at LEAST be able to run 22 minutes, right? WRONG. My expectations of myself were too high and completely unfair. What I wasn’t remembering was this – those times did not come easily to me in high school. I may have worked harder than anyone for those times – I was no natural. And also: see the third paragraph again!! The past 4 years of my life were full of trials and tribulations, I took 4 years off, AND I’m 39 so goals just take more time to reach, AND I have 3 children at home, AND I work full time running my own business, AND AND AND!

It’s OK for your goals and expectations to be reasonable and take into consideration the life you are living. It’s OK to participate in a sport and have your only competitor be yourself. It’s OK to not take first place. What is important is that you work to better yourself and that personally some joy is derived from the activity. That’s what the past year has taught me. I am no longer running for a team. Running is no longer the sole relevant factor in my life. I no longer breathe JUST to run. So my expectations should not reflect those ideas – they should be realistic.

I kept running, discouraged, and working hard. I adjusted my 22 minute expectation to a sub 26 minute expectation and the very next race I beat 26 minutes by an amazing 1 minute and 50 seconds. Maybe I was really in shape and all the hard work just kicked in, or maybe I took some of the pressure off of my 39 year old self to perform like my 17 year old self who didn’t have a care in the world except Liberty Cross Country and Liberty Track and Field. Maybe, just maybe, my subconscious awarded me for being a little nicer to me. So remember, keep your expectations in line with your situation, be nice to yourself, and the hard work will pay off, in its own time.