Shaking-up the Shuffle

Even though I’ve been running for 10 years, I didn’t call myself a “runner” until I completed my first half-marathon in March of 2012.

Crossing my first half-marathon finish line, I was amazed and overwhelmed that I had actually run 13 miles. I’d been running consistently for over 4 years, but a childhood of physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse left me with anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and negative thoughts harbored deep inside that often told me over and over again that I just couldn’t be a good runner.

As I reflect over my journey the last 6 years, it’s interesting how much long distance running has changed me. 6 years ago, I used to run mostly indoors on the treddy and hated the thought of running in cold weather.

I never ran outside in the winter, loathed hills and was a pretty solid 10-minute miler. In 2012, that was who I was as a runner and it was perfectly fine.

In the last 6 years, I’ve worked hard to conquer emotional demons that held me captive for years and have even managed to stay mostly injury free, (minus a stress fracture in 2013) completing 37- half marathons and 3 full marathons, even earning my first BQ.

Despite the thousands of miles I’ve covered the last 10 years, today’s workout was the beginning of a new chapter in my running journey. In order to continue to improve as a long distance runner, I have to fix my running “shuffle.”

Perhaps you’re wondering what my running “shuffle” is? At 5’11” I’m a decently tall gal. Like many tall folks, I don’t completely pick up my feet when I run; instead I “shuffle” along. Somehow I’ve managed to “shuffle” my way into a 7-minute mile average pace and some age-group podium appearances.

Never one to be deterred by a challenge, and always looking for ways to improve, the time has come to finally fix my running form. Coach Paul informed me that this is not an easy process and will require time and patience- and hills will be my new best friend.

Thankfully my home in the beautiful Utah mountains is very hilly so I have lots of grades and inclines to choose from. The challenge excites me and has me wondering what distance I can cover if I actually “lengthen my stride” instead of simply quickly “shuffling” along in a race?

I decided to take a picture of today’s route, to mark a turning point in my training. The time has finally come for me to really push and dream and see what I am capable of doing as a long distance runner. I can’t change the auto-immune issues I deal with on a daily basis, but I can do something about my running form. I look forward to learning and growing and continuing to improve; I’ve come so far and am excited at the possibilities the future holds.

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