What I’ve learned running through quarantine

Three things I’ve learned while running 170 km combined in July and August

After running 80 km two months ago, my goal for July and August was to run the same amount while following the Nike Run Club’s half marathon training. And I’m happy to report that I achieved both month’s goals and in the process, I ended up running my longest times, my farthest distance, and my fastest 1K since 2013. And so, for July and August, that’s a combined distance of over 170 km or 105 miles, for those of you/us that count using the imperial system of units.

Half marathon, you say, What half marathon are you running?

Well, I’m planning on running at least a half marathon distance — 21 km or 13.1 miles — on 24 Oct 2020 with some friends and family remotely. I’m thinking of it as, Born to run/ride.

This is what the imaginary shirts might look like for the fake race — I couldn’t help myself.

Some folks will run, walk, or cycle the full distance while others will tackle more modest amounts, I imagine. One of my relatives says that he’ll follow me in a car 🤣. My wife has even promised that she’ll run at least a kilometer with me here in San Francisco.

I’d like to have some kind of fundraising component with it, like donating ~$50 to your charity of choice. Giving money is such a personal thing so I think it should be however much you think to whoever or whatever group.

But I’d love for you to join. Hit me up if you’re game to participate in any way.

Okay, here are the three things I’ve learned while running the past two months:

White space is important

I ran less in terms of number of instances these last two months than June — 11 in June versus eight in July and seven in August — but I clocked in about the same amount of miles. Even though I was only going out 2–3 times a week, I was doing longer distances. (The numbers on NRC aren’t accurate because I might do a couple guided runs over the course of one outing.)

One reason for fewer instances had to do with a handful of minor injuries, including: shin splints, blisters, sore feet, and muscle aches. At least three times, I ended up taking stretches of four to five days off to rest and recuperate. On my off days, I would replay livestreams of Broga with Bruce, running stretching flows with Adriene, and generally take it easy. Or easier anyway.

Something I started doing in July was foam rolling. Boy, that has made a difference. I have a friend who’s a network chiropractor here in Marin County who thinks foam rollers are too much of a blunt instrument for working out aches and soreness in muscle tissue, joints, and fascia. But it saved me, as long as I approached it easily and applied the the same rules that I use for running: Breathe through it and if it hurts, back off the effort.

Another reason was I was getting smarter so I could run longer. I was starting out earlier, when it was cooler in the morning. On every run, I’m also carrying water with me. I also front load my morning with hydration and calories — with a full glass of water before heading out (trying to do that every morning too) and a tablespoon of MCT oil to have a few calories on-hand as I don’t eat before I run. I also carry a few packs of caloric ‘goo’ with me (yeah, it’s as tasty as it sounds) as well as packs of Justin’s almond butter, just in case.

Most runs are fun but some aren’t

Not every run will seem faster or stronger on its own. But when you add it up, it paints a different scene altogether. This idea doesn’t make running any less meaningful but it helped me to put things into perspective.

It used to be that when I would run previously, I would focus on the pace, the breakdown of how much I ran versus how much I walked, or the number of calories that I burned — some very specific feature of the run. But now, in 2020, I only think about the time completed. I ask myself before every run, How long am I going out for? If I decide that I’m running for 90 minutes, then that’s what I’m doing. And if it takes me five minutes to warm up and get into a groove and I have a great 85 minute run or it takes me 40 minutes to wake up my body and a cruddy 30 minute run where I walked for almost 10 minutes, I go with it. I commit to it wholly. The fact is that I went out for a 90 minute run. And that was my goal.

Over the years, I have bucked the label of being a “runner” because I have always had such a push-pull of not being enough — not fast enough, not strong enough, not committed enough, whatever. But it remains that I am someone who runs and so therefore, I am a runner.

I 👏 am 👏 a 👏 runner.

And when I finish a run that isn’t fun or doesn’t feel like I’ve broken through some barrier, in some ways, these are even more important. I have set out to do a thing that either didn’t start with the right enthusiasm or never found it over its course. But yet, I did it.

I pushed through the fuzzy middle, the tension at the middle of the seesaw and I completed the run that I set out to do. So while the run itself may have been rough (in spots or all the way through), I made it. It’s another run that I did. Huzzah!

Can’t do it without a squad

Especially now, running is a solo act for me. I used to run with friends or family but nowadays it’s just me. Thanks a lot, COVID-19 pandemic. But I couldn’t do all of this running without the support of my wife and my kid as well as my father-in-law and mother-in-law (as they’ve been staying with us in California since March). They make it much easier to get out of the house and to recover appropriately. So, thank you.

I’m still using the Guided Runs on the NRC app and I like it. And while I still find a great deal of comfort and guidance from coaches Chris Bennett, Sally McCrae, and Manal Rostom among others, I also know that I run without them in my ears. Because they, like my squad, are always with me — when I need them. All I have to do is press play.

Final thoughts

I’ve been able to run on hills, on streets, on tracks, and in the haze of the marine layer. And I’m thankful each and every time I’m able to step outside my front door — especially now with the red skies in the Bay Area and fires raging in California.

I haven’t felt comfortable going outside the last week, not for a run anyway, and I miss it. Hopefully, this weekend I’ll get out for a run.

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think. And please stay safe.

This is the third of three (so far) articles on my re-entry into running. The first one is here: https://itsyourturnblog.com/what-ive-learned-running-during-quarantine-63467f916740. And the second one is here: https://medium.com/runners-life/what-ive-learned-running-during-quarantine-6074c4b295cc.

Design director at SoftServe, host of How This Works, coach with Plucky, advisor at Shep. Formerly at thoughtbot SF, Fjord NYC, and PBS FRONTLINE among others.