Over the holidays, I was able to take a few days off and spend a little more time at the gym, particularly on the treadmill. I'm a wimp; with it being so cold and frequently wet around here, I tend to run on the treadmill more than outdoors. It got cold enough that the ice on the roads stuck around a long time after it stopped snowing, so I didn't want to either slip and fall myself or put myself in danger from drivers who don't know how to maneuver on slick roads.
Since I was there by myself and had the time, I decided to see if I could run for a longer time than what I've run in the past. I had finally run a 5K race with no walking at all in December (woo hoo!), but I want to do more. Without time pressure (or the pressure of my husband running next to me), I set the treadmill for a 45 minute run plus the typical 5 minute warmup/5 minute cool down period, and by keeping my pace low with only occasional periods of acceleration, I was able to complete the whole thing, no walking at all. A few days later, I got even braver and did a 5-minute warmer and reset the treadmill for the maximum of 60 minutes to see how long I could go. I was very pleasantly surprised to make it the whole hour; I was tired, to be sure, but I probably could have gone longer. Distance: just short of 4.5 miles, so I wasn't going fast.
That's the thing for me at this stage. I have a choice that I have to make with runs; do I want to go for a longer time, or do I want go for a faster time? I can't do both at the same time, it's one or the other. My focus has been going for a longer time/longer distance, and speed has gradually improved, but I need to do better at deliberately doing the work needed to improve my speed.
So far this year, I'm very happy with my progress. I started off the new year with a treadmill run (about 3 miles with some walking while I was messing with my iPod to get it recalibrated for the first mile), then ran (twice) on Monday (3.2 miles + 1 mile), again on Tuesday (2 miles), and Wednesday (3 miles). I've been paying close attention to how my body responds to running so frequently since I haven't been doing more than 4 times a week and rarely on back to back days, and it's been fine; yesterday was a more or less day with some strength and cross-training, so I'm craving a run today. I'd like to aim for a 4-mile run today, but if I follow the Hal Higdon half marathon training plan, it should be tomorrow, not today.
Crazy. A year ago I couldn't run a block without feeling like I was going to die, now I'm starting to train for a half marathon (June if all goes well) and planning about a race a month for at least the first half of the year. I never really believed people who said 'if I can do it, so can you!' It's true, though; this is doable for almost anyone as long as you take it slow and listen to your body.
Running has done so much more for me than help me lose weight. I feel like I found the real me when I started running; whether I ever 'win' a race, I know that I am a winner whenever I run because I'm doing it for me. I wish I could give that gift to everyone I know; it might not be running that does it for everyone, but there's something out there that unlocks life for each person.