The other day I was saying to a friend, “I went out this morning for a run and I felt so sick that I just had to walk a few kilometres and go home. I thought I might have Hepatitis A from eating those frozen berries, so I went to the doctor for a blood test, and he said….” and then I stopped because she was smiling at me and shaking her head. I didn’t know what was amusing, so I paused and waited for her to explain, “There are days when you don’t train? Oh my gosh, that makes me feel so much better.” And that’s when it hit me that it might be worth explaining how I manage my running life.
In my idea of Heaven, I run every day. I love running and I never feel better than when I can put a lot of kilometres in the bank, day after day. It’s like meditation time for me, the hours when I solve all the worlds problems and tick through my To Do list like a pro. School holidays this year were the best because my darling husband was home and I could run for hours every morning without inconveniencing anyone. Joy. Selfish joy. But most days I just try to get my mileage done however I can before I’m on duty as a SAHM. I do that because I like it, and for me, the more I run, the stronger I get. I have a sturdy body and I don’t seem to break the way some of my friends do when they up their kms. So, I go with that, not because it’s what my coach expects, not because I’m competing against people on Strava, not for any reason other than it makes me fit and happy.
But I didn’t realise that this attitude can be a bit confronting until my girlfriend’s comment. I told her that, yes, there are days when I don’t run. Never by choice, but life gets in the way of a perfect training schedule, so I content myself with The Best I Can Do Today, and let it go. There are days when I have to get up at 3am to fit a run in. There are times when I have to run in the afternoon, which I dread. There are times when I have to use a treadmill – if I’m travelling, for instance. There are days when I have to run in circles around an oval so I can keep my three year old in sight. I’ve read the posts on RMA; there are lots of mums who do this, and more, to fit running into their busy lives. But there are some days when I just don’t get it done, despite the best intentions. Sometimes after a very tough run on the weekend, I go out on a Monday full of hope and come slinking home after a slow 6km. There are days when I feel sick or tired — or think I have Hep A (blood test was negative, by the way). There are days when I am so engrossed in my work that my running window escapes me and I unintentionally miss my run. There are some days when a niggle turns into more. A million things can happen. Some we can work around (when my Nikes were stolen whilst on holiday, I did the rest of my runs barefoot on the beach), some we cannot (when I was pregnant and enormous, I just was physically unable to run for months). But the most important thing I’ve learned in the years I’ve been running is to do my best — my very best — to have a go every day, and if it doesn’t happen, then let it go. Tomorrow is another day, and I will come back stronger and better because of the unintended rest.
If I could give new runners one piece of advice, that would be it: work your butt off if running is your passion, but if it just all falls apart from time to time, take a deep breath, step back, and let it go. Slow it down to a walk and enjoy the sunrise. Tune out your breathing and listen to the birds waking up. Make the best of any bad situation that comes your way in running because, just like in life, being resilient is key. Get over it and move forward. Too many of us beat ourselves up if we miss a run. Put it all in perspective and just redouble your efforts tomorrow. Life’s too short to have any regrets.
By April Palmerlee
April Palmerlee is a runner, race director, and running ambassador for Running Mums Australia. She is affiliated with Sydney Striders, Running Mums Australia and other groups and is a motivator women. She lives in Sydney with her husband and four children and is extremely active in the running community. You can read more about April on our Ambassador page here.