January is my least favorite month. (February is a close second, but the proliferation of chocolate around the 14th and the fact that February is short and sweet—literally—gives January the edge in awfulness.) My favorite months are fall months—ideal marathoning season—which transition pleasantly into the joys of the holiday season, which drops you horribly and suddenly into cold, dark January.
The only redeeming qualities of January are the fresh start and the return to routine. The whirlwind of holiday festivities and obligations are gone and there’s a comfortable return to normalcy: regular workweeks, being able to predictably fit in runs, an easier time eating healthy instead of stuffing yourself with endless appetizers at holiday parties. As much as I cherish the lazy gluttony of holidays and vacations, it can be nice to get back to the good habits of an active lifestyle.
The January return to routine conveniently coincides with the beginning of spring marathon training and the runner’s life once again becomes a continuous succession of eating, running, and sleeping. (And, of course, working. Gotta pay those race entrance fees somehow!)
Fortunately, I too am back to running, more than a few minutes, more than a few days a week, and more than a few miles. (In a telling move, I’m back to counting miles, not minutes.) I am not where I was last year at this time or where I’d like to be, but I’m running and that is a major (shuffled/marathoner-type) step in the right direction.
Before the holidays, the prospect of Boston still seemed far-fetched. I was running, but not often and not for long. Around the New Year, though, as life shifted back to normalcy, running clicked back into place as well. My daily routine began to resemble my old life, with a time every morning clearly carved out for running. And I began actually using that time for running more and more as the torturous bike started collecting dust. The road to Boston again seems possible, although daunting as always. It will be my shortest buildup, but there is enough time for things to come together.
But still, the fear and doubt accumulated over the last few months have perhaps made me underestimate what I’m able to do. In an effort to come back carefully, my first runs were snail’s-pace slow, and I cut myself lots of slack. Having not run since August, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to keep any semblance of a good pace and didn’t want to risk anything trying. Even now, as I am getting back into real shape, I remain convinced that slow is all I can do. Serendipitously, on a “long” run last week (my longest run in six months, but what I would have referred to then as a medium-length run), I saw a teammate up ahead. Having not been able to run with any teammates since my injury, I excitedly picked up the pace to catch her. Of course B was running much faster than my woe-is-me-I’ve-been-hurt shuffle, so catching up and staying with her was a challenge. But we ran together for a few miles, and, although our pace was not lightening fast (B was in fact just doing her warm-up for a tempo run), I was still impressed I could stay with her. I had incorrectly convinced myself otherwise, and it was a nice reminder that I can still run at my old (warm-up) pace. I may not be as far behind as I think.
Of course, afterwards I was completely zonked and collapsed on the couch in a post-Sunday-long-run heap. Ahhh, back to routine.