Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cool Weather = Happy Runner

We have had some unusually cool summer days lately, but you won't hear me complaining. Several of my co-workers have been upset that their beach plans are ruined, or they have to wear a jacket to work. But I'm happy to wear a sweater or jacket if it means that my run will be cooler and more comfortable.

I have problems with the heat. And I'm not just talking about being uncomfortable or sweatier than usual. I can deal with that. I'm talking about ending up in the emergency room after passing out from heat exhaustion, which has happened...twice. This is why I'm not a fan of summer, in general.

This is also why I am outside running with a huge smile on my face the last couple of days. This morning it was only 56 degrees when I left for my run. It was glorious! Here's hoping for more cool weather!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Running is Awesome

Running is great! Running is fun! Running is awesome!

This was the refrain going through my head as I struggled during yet another run. Just as I was starting to feel good about running, everything has suddenly become incredibly difficult again. I don't know what is wrong with me, but all of my recent runs have been a real struggle. It has been a struggle to wake up early and get out the door. Forcing myself to keep moving forward has been a struggle. Even distances I thought were easy a month ago have been a struggle.

I'm have to keep reminding myself why I run. 

I've started trying to find new routes to keep things interesting.
I'm still new to running. I started running after I woke up one day and realized I was sick and tired of the way I had been treating my body. I was tired of getting winded from climbing the stairs at the train stop. I was tired of taking the bus just a few blocks. I was tired of being the fat girl that everyone assumed couldn't do things like run. I had already been working on cleaning up my diet for several years and had gotten better about eating healthier, now it was time to also work on getting fitter. One night after work, I threw on an old pair of gym shoes and an old college t-shirt and set out for my first run.


It was AWFUL! I think I managed to run one block before I wanted to die. Everything hurt. Everything burned. It was not good. 

But I refused to give up! I looked up some training plans for beginners. I found a bunch of different simple, easy to follow instructions on how to start running - they all including a combination of running and walking, with the amount of running slowly increasing and the amount of walking slowly decreasing over a series of weeks. I chose one that looked good to me, and I started. Initially I was only running 15 seconds at a time, but within two months I was able to run 30 minutes without stopping. The more I ran, the easier it became. Before too long, it became something I enjoyed and looked forward to instead of something that I dreaded.

Putting my shoes right in front of my door helps me get moving in the morning.
Running has become an escape for me. It allows me to just be me, away from the phone calls and emails and other "conveniences" that make me a little crazy. Running allows me to step away from work and the noise of our modern world. I don't have to worry about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other. I get to be outside and enjoy my city.

Oh, Chicago. You are so pretty, sometimes.
Running is cheap. You don't need a gym membership. You don't need fancy equipment. You just need a pair of shoes and the will to do it, so it fits nicely into my limited budget. I did save up to buy some better running gear, including a good pair of running shoes, but you don't NEED any special gear to run. Sure, all that specialty clothing and accessories can make running slightly more comfortable or more fun (I love listening to music when I run), but none of that is necessary.

There are some great trails both in the city and in the surrounding suburbs. 
When I first started running, I would wear old t-shirts and sweatpants. Once, I even went running in a pair of pajama pants. Guess what? I was still able to run, even without all the fancy equipment and gear. Now, I have some better stuff specifically made for running, and while it does make my runs more comfortable (no chaffing!), it isn't necessary. I acquired my gear slowly and after many long searches for the best price possible. 

I occasionally run races, though I run them for fun instead of running them to win. I'm simply not fast enough to be competitive with anyone other than myself. I try to choose races that benefit local charities. It helps make me feel a little bit better about paying the entry fees. And I do have to budget for entry fees, which is why I usually stick to shorter races (my last 5k was much more affordable than my upcoming half marathon) and sign up as early as I can (there is usually a price break on entry fees for folks who register far enough in advance).

Me at my first race - The 2013 Grant Park Turkey Trot. I was super excited.
There are a bunch of races that I would like to run, but I can't afford them all. Sometimes, I can't afford any of them. If the choice is between running a race or buying groceries one month, then the choice is pretty easy to make. Groceries will always win. Although, there are always snacks at races. Snacks are good.

Mmm...snacks.
There are also a ton of things I wish I could do that my budget won't allow. I would love to run with the women's running group that meets at my local running store on Wednesday nights, but I can't just take the night off from work to go for a run. I would love to sign up for one of the training programs associated with any of the races I enter. My upcoming half marathon is slightly terrifying, and I'm genuinely worried about being able to complete the race. There is a half marathon training program available, but it costs money I don't have, so I'm trying to train on my own. I would love to have the cute running outfits I see other women wearing, but my oddly mismatched running gear cobbled together from the sale and clearance racks will just have to do. I'd love a heavy duty sports bra made for running, but until I have the cash handy (which may be never), I'll just keep getting the support I need by wearing two or three sports bras layered on top of each other.

The one thing you will always find at a race, besides runners, is bananas.
Finally, I don't have what others think of as a "runner's body". I have boobs and hips, and my butt and thighs jiggle when I run. You know what? Who cares!?! The whole concept of a runner's body, quite frankly, is bullshit. Everybody that runs has a runner's body. And everybody that runs is a runner. It really is that simple. It doesn't matter how far you run or what your pace is. I run incredibly slowly by most people's standards. But I still run.

And runners, as a community, are pretty awesome. I've gotten more smiles, hellos, waves, and even high fives from other runners when I'm trudging along on my morning runs than I've ever gotten at any other time in my life. At the Ravenswood Run this year (a neighborhood 5k here in Chicago), I had an hour long conversation with a complete stranger after the race, as we sat down to enjoy our post race snacks. The only thing we had in common was that we were both runners. It was pretty awesome. At the Proud to Run 5k & 10k, I was feeling ill, but I got so much support from the volunteers and other runners that I was able to finish the 5k instead of just walking off the course and going home.

The 2014 Ravenswood Run 5k. Thousands of people came together to run.
I have spent my whole life hating my body for all of its flaws. I'm still not a fan of what I look like. I probably never will be. And I have a whole slew of self esteem issues stemming from my own personal body issues. When I'm running I can focus on how my body works instead of what it looks like. Every run, even the not so good ones, leave me with a feeling of accomplishment. I may not be thin. I may not be pretty. But I can still run. 

This is a version of a post I made on my other blog, Full Belly, Small Budget, on June 4, 2014. One of my reasons for starting I Think I Will Run Today is because I had some comments that the post wasn't really in keeping with what the other blog is about, so I started a blog to talk about my running. My other blog is mostly about cooking and food, because food is awesome. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July

I made a mistake, folks.

I planned to go for run tonight instead of this morning and have spent my day off sleeping late, eating good food, and watching movies.

The problem? I forgot it was the 4th of July! Sooooo...yeah...I don't think I'll be running tonight. My neighborhood tends to have a lot of families setting off illegal fireworks without taking any sort of safety precautions.

Note to self: get better at planning runs.

Sigh. I guess today was my day off from work AND running. I guess I'll be getting up early tomorrow morning to squeeze a run into an already busy day. That'll teach me!

Happy 4th of July, everyone! Celebrate safely tonight!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Proud to Run 5k and 10k Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Proud to Run 5k. I was supposed to run the 10k, but, as I detailed in an earlier post, I was feeling ill and did the 5k instead. Although I was disappointed in myself for not following through with the 10k, the event itself was a lot of fun.

According to their website, Proud to Run is "a 10K run and 5K run and walk that celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex/Inquiring, & Allies (LGBTQI&A) pride. We welcome everyone who wishes to join us in the celebration to show support, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression." The event has been part of Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Pride Week activities since 1982, and they have raised more than $350,000 for local LGBT organizations. This year's beneficiaries were About Face Theatre, TPAN, and The Night Ministry.

The day of the race I woke up really early to get dressed and have a light breakfast before setting out. I made sure that I had everything I needed, including my bib number. I had gone to one of the early packet pick up days because I didn't want to have to deal with it the day of the race. I loved that early pick up was available over a period of several days, so it was fairly easy to get my packet in advance. My first race, last winter, only had a single day for early packet pick up, which made it difficult for me to get my packet before race day. Luckily, there was no problem like that here. Packet pick up was available throughout the week leading up to the race and was incredibly easy.

The race started at Montrose Harbor, so it was easy to get there by bus. Once I got off the bus, it was just a short walk to the event site and starting line. I basically just followed the other people who were dressed to run and/or wearing the event t-shirt.

Getting to the event site was kind of like playing follow the leader.
I made a quick pit stop to use the restroom and then quickly found the gear check tent. All of the various booths/tents were well labeled and easy to find. Although there were a lot of people present (there were approximately 1,300 participants this year), the event didn't feel too overwhelming. Although it has been going on for over 30 years, the race still feels like a wonderful plucky little start up due to the low entrance fee, the lack of giant corporations, and the volunteer led nature of the event. There were a lot of participants, but not so many that it was crowded and uncomfortable.

Getting excited!
There was a group warm up led by some extremely excited and cheerful folks. Some folks chose to participate, others, such as myself, chose to watch, instead. It was very entertaining, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Everyone is having fun...except that one guy. 
Being an event during Price weekend, there were lots of rainbows - rainbow socks, rainbow headbands, rainbow shirts, even rainbow tutus.

I was jealous of all the great outfits/accessories.
When it was announced that the race would be starting soon, everyone made their way to the starting line. As usual, I positioned myself in the back of the line. It was hot and humid and sunny and I was already feeling ill. I was supposed to run the 10k, but when I came to the point in the course where the 10k and 5k split and went if different directions, I made a last minute decision and turned to finish the 5k.

You can read about my awful run here. Although I was disappointed in myself, I wasn't disappointed with the actual event. The course was great and clearly marked, the volunteers were awesome and some of the best I've encountered at races, and everyone involved just seemed incredibly happy and supportive. I had several strangers slow down to ask if I was okay, and one lady even slowed down to walk with me for a bit and encouraged me to keep going.

The starting line.
After the race, once I had a chance to cool off and get my bearings, I made my rounds of the various booths. There was the usual free food - fruit and bagels, granola bars and Gatorade, bottles of water, etc. I was still feeling sick, so I pretty much stuck to water, but I did take a little of everything to enjoy later.

Each of the event's beneficiaries also had a booth where you could find out more about them. My favorite booth was About Face Theatre.
Love it!

There was also plenty of post race entertainment. A band, a dance group, a raffle...there were all sorts of things to keep the runners and volunteers entertained and happy.
Live Music.
These guys were awesome and incredibly sassy!
Everyone who finished got a finishers medal, and there were prizes awarded to the top three overall male and female finishers for both the 5k and the 10k. The top three in each age group were also announced and recognized. 

Our emcees for the day -  Fox E. Kim and Jonathen Wikholm.
Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I would definitely run the Proud to Run 5k or 10k again in the future. I'm hoping to be back next year to run the full 10k course.