Monday, February 9, 2009

What I have learned as an adult onset athlete

I am an adult onset athlete. (I did not make up this term, it is used frequently by John Bingham who writes a column in Runner's World Magazine.) I have been blessed with good genes and a lack of any significant food issues and so I have never struggled with my weight despite leading a sedentary lifestyle. However, eventually we all get old and things catch up with us. I started feeling tired and was getting easily winded in my early 30's. I referred to myself as a skinny fat person.

I did not play sports as a child. I remember being signed up for t-ball when I was little, I attended one practice and then we went to the first game where I hid in the car refusing to get out, we drove home and never went back. In 6th grade I played girls volleyball for a whole year. I don't know if I was good but I do recall enjoying it. The following year at the first practice we were supposed to run a mile, it was torture and I was one of the last, if not the last, to finish. Never one to appreciate that success required work, I decided I was no good and never returned to volleyball after that.

Then one day 4-1/2 years ago I woke up early, strapped on my who-knows-how-old tennis shoes and ran out my back door. I had no plan. I ran about 1/2 mile (sounds good but it was all downhill), thought I might pass out and finished the 1 mile loop back to my home walking. I thought I would walk one more mile but got about a block away and thought I was going to throw up so I went home and laid around the rest of the day. The next day I got up and did it again. This time I grabbed some water after the first mile and was able to walk that second mile. Slowly I built up to running a mile and then 2 miles. Since that day I have run several 5K's, a 10K and on a weekend of true insanity rode my bike 150 miles in 2 days on the MS150.

I have learned alot as an adult onset athlete. Running has changed my entire view of life and how I approach it. I have learned that I tend to run from a challenge and I have learned the thrill in working toward a goal and accomplishing it. I have learned that I tend to give up right before I crest the hill and I have stood atop that hill. I have learned that I don't always value the work put into accomplishing a task and I have savored the daily runs that have prepared me to reach a goal. I have learned that I fear others are better than me and look down on me and have experienced encouragement from runners of all skill levels just excited to see me out on a run.

Almost 5 years later I am still learning about myself from running. I am a slow runner, for most regular runners 3 miles in 30 minutes is just a standard, I had never done it. I wasn't too far but was more like 35-40 minutes. Doesn't seem like much but it is a big deal in the world of running and I wanted to do it. This winter with my job at a health club I have been able to do something I have never done before, stay in shape and improve my shape during the winter. A few weeks ago I was running along and realized I was at pace to do 3 miles in 30 minutes and still feeling well. I kept going but soon my mind started panicking, my heart started racing and I fell apart. I actually had to stop and walk for a few minutes before I could resume my running. I called my SIL and fellow adult onset athlete to tell her about it and she said, "Melanie, get over yourself and just do it". OK that isn't an exact quote but that is the gist. I wasn't willing to push myself and I wasn't telling myself I could do it. So the next day I got back on the treadmill, set it for a 10 minute mile and forced myself to keep going until I hit 3 miles. I did it with relative ease, although I did slow down the moment I hit 3 miles, and actually was just under my goal at 29:30. It felt great! The past couple years I have sort of been stuck simply maintaining and forgot how it feels to reach a new goal. It has become my new normal and now I wonder why it took me so long to reach this goal. Inspired anew by reaching this goal I am looking forward to making new and more challenging goals in the years ahead as I continue to learn and grow from my running.

I like to think I have inspired some others to become adult onset athletes. One morning I woke my husband up and told him it was time for him to start running too. He quickly took to it but an injury slowed him down a couple years ago and one of my goals this year is to get him up with me again. My Sister In Law, Julia, started running a few years ago and despite a few slow downs to have a couple babies she has surpassed me and inspired me to keep going. And during a visit to my sister Michele's house a couple years ago I woke her up every morning just to take a walk together but by the end of the week we were running together. This led her to become a little obsessive about running that summer and gave herself a stress fracture in her foot but now she is coming back slowly and feeling great. I convinced them both to do their own blog posts on what they have learned as adult onset athletes so go check out The Wolfe Cubs and GEMS to Bragg About for more on this subject.----------------I almost forgot about my cousin Jessy, I don't think I was her inspiration but she started running I believe around the same time as I did and has become an inspiration to all of us as she did a mini duathlon this past year. I just heard she might be joining us in doing a post as well. Check her out at Just Breathe.


  1. very enjoyable. I like all your pics...who takes the pics while you are in mid run? my goal this year is to definitely get in a 5k and a 10k

  2. Loving the running posts from all - I might even kick one out of my own! I think we definately need to look into coordinating group runs on the weekends...

  3. Oh Jessy I will totally add you to my blog post. I don't know why I didn't ask you to do one in the first place. No pressure but I am adding you now so you have to. :)