Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Guest blogger Susan Smiley:An Amazing Journey (Or How Putting One Foot In Front of the Other Changed My Life)

 Its 10:34 am
Its a cold snowy day in Michigan. And its finally time to run one of my favorite person's guest blog. Because nothing equates getting ready to run then looking outside at snow on the ground!
  This will be Susan's 2nd guest blog here,her first was a beautifully written eulogy for her beloved dog,Hercules. Lori and I met Susan when we (along with Carolyn Caves) rescued a huge grey kitty named Oliver. He ended up finding a wonderful life with Susan and that is how our friendship started. 
Susan has turned into a running machine and this column explains how that happened. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave a comment.

An Amazing Journey (Or How Putting One Foot In Front of the Other Changed My Life)
Last week as I was running over the Ambassador Bridge at sunrise in mile three of my first-ever half marathon, I thought about something my friend Garett said to me a couple of months ago: “It is like you woke up one day and decided to become a totally different person.”
I prefer to think of it as me getting back to being the person I was meant to be and, in this case, finding my inner runner. Finding the inner runner led me to bring other things to the surface that had likely always been in me too: confidence, grittiness, persistence, calmness. You don’t get better at running just by running and in turn, running is not just about the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is about acquiring a mindset and attitude that permeates other aspects of your life.
Now, running a half marathon may not seem like much to those of you who are naturally gifted runners or to those who have been running since you were a freshman on your high school cross country team. But for a long-time non-runner like me, this is a huge accomplishment and something I had never previously visualized for myself. I didn’t take up running until I was 53 years old and recovering from a serious, near-fatal strep infection.
I’ve always enjoyed things like biking and hiking, kickboxing, weight lifting and yoga. But running eluded me. It seemed hard. It seemed like something for skinner people. But it also seemed like the people I knew who were doing it were really enjoying it. I decided to ease into it using the Couch to 5K app in the winter of 2011. Two of my younger, faster cohorts at Wayne State found out what I was doing and invited me to run with them a couple of times a week at the WSU indoor track. As I was struggling to work up to running three miles – one mile even – without walking I blurted out: “I SUCK AT RUNNING!” to which my cohort replied: “No you don’t. No one sucks at running. We’ve all been doing it since we were little kids so really, we’re experts.”
That was, as we say in the world of psychology, a total reframe. I stopped thinking of running as impossibly hard and started thinking of it as something I could get back to doing on some level. I visualized myself as a child running through the grape arbor in our yard and laughing.
I participated in my first 5K in May of 2012 – just a week after getting out of the hospital with what the doctor described as “the worst infection of this type that I have seen in 30 years of practicing medicine.” I walked almost all of it as I was still feeling somewhat woozy but the metamorphosis was underway.
By the time September rolled around, I was working on my fourth career 5K although still unable to allow myself to run full-throttle for all 3.1 miles. Although I had, at that point, lost 30 pounds and would eventually lose 60, I was not quite visualizing myself as a legitimate runner. As luck would have it, the day of that 5K I woke up with a pounding sinus headache but was determined to complete the race regardless. I was running to the beat of the pounding in my head, then walking, then running, then walking until with a half mile or so left in the race, my friend Erin, who is an accomplished tri athlete, ran back to find me on the race course after she completed her 5K and paced me at a brisk run from there to the finish line.
I should have taken this as a sign that I was becoming a runner because although it was not pretty, I gritted out the race and never thought once about NOT doing it.
Erin invited me to start running with her at the hospital where she works. It is one mile around the building and we would loop around three times alternating running and walking. I barely noticed that she was gradually increasing the time we were running until one day after we had run once around the hospital she looked at me and said: “This is where we usually walk a little but it seems like you want to keep running. What do you want to do?”
Of course I kept running – for three miles. And since then I have never walked during a 5K race.
Thus far this year I have logged 13 5Ks and in April completed by first 10K and proved to myself that I could commit to a training program and stick with it. It was a moment of truth when the week of that race I postponed a first date with a handsome, young gentleman because I had to get in a three-mile practice run in the rain.
“Look, it might rain on Saturday for the race so I want to make sure I’m ready! I need to take advantage of these weather conditions!” was my explanation to the poor gent. He probably thought I was nuts but agreed to push back the time for our rendezvous and scheduled a second date anyway. The old me would not have had the confidence to postpone a date with someone I really liked; the new me can do that and more.
In the afterglow of the successful 10K I committed to a duathlon at Stony Creek, the 10 mile Crim winding through hilly Flint, MI and finally the International Free Press / Talmer Bank Half Marathon last week. In all three events I managed to do more than I imagined possible. I’m not by any means saying I’m challenging the likes of U.S. Track and Field top-ranked distance runner Mary Cain in terms of time and pace, but that is not why I run.
I run to enjoy the beauty of a trail or country road. I run to feel free, to defuse stress, and to stimulate creativity. I run because I have committed to a goal, because it makes me feel good, and because I like myself and think of a six-mile trail run as a reward.  The lessons of endurance, perseverance, working through a situation with the tools at hand have all affected other areas of my life in a very positive way. I am more able to take things in stride (no pun intended). And despite my “less fast” pace, I am a bona fide runner!
It’s all about the joy, my friends.

Michael here.....
  Thank you Susan for this excellent blog and to you,the reader,for stopping by and supporting it.
I'll be back shortly with another entry of my own.

If you are on Twitter....feel free to follow me @Jinzo_2400

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful story, Susan! You are an inspiration. For you to start at 53, gives this 45 yr old some hope. lol! Best of luck as you keep going, further and further! :)