Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | March 12, 2011

A Fall From Grace

Am I the only person who cries during runs? I’m usually pretty buttoned up and, generally speaking, I do a great job suppressing my emotions. As I mentioned last week, I come from stoic New England stock and I don’t cry in public. Except, apparently, when running. On one run last summer, I’m pretty sure someone called 911 about the crazy lady sobbing while running down the street. I rarely cry while biking (except that one time where I was caught in a massive rainstorm and I was still miles from home, cold, wet and miserable – but that cry was totally justified) and I never cry during swimming (sometimes I cry on the way to the pool because I hate swimming so much, but never in the pool itself), and yet bawling during a run is not exactly uncommon. Usually the impetus is a long run during marathon training, but today I had no such excuse. Today I just fell apart.

My winter running had been going quite well. I managed to keep my training up and avoid injuries. I had a reasonable finish time at the F^3 Half Marathon in January and dared to hope I might eek out a PR at the Austin Half in February. Alas, life derailed my plans and I had to go to a funeral instead of Austin. Chaos and bad weather ensued, resulting in a tumble off the running wagon.

When I ventured out this morning, I discovered the weather was not exactly ideal: bleak, gray, chilly and very windy. I knew the wind would be challenging. My friend Andie had posted earlier that morning that she was on the lakefront path, about to begin her 15 mile run and she was NOT happy about the conditions. Even though I knew what I was in for, as I started down the street, all I could think was “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.” It ran through my head like a mantra. I was tired of the wind, tired of the cold, tired of the gray, tired of winter in Chicago, heck, I was tired of living in Chicago, period. I didn’t even make it a block before I started crying. I turned around and went back home.

Slamming the door as I came in, my husband (the poor soul) made a joke about how fast I must have run. I nearly bit his head off. I heard my daughter whisper “Mommy’s crabby.” And that’s when I realized I had to try again. Because if I didn’t get a run in, I’d just continue to be crabby all day. And no one wanted that. So, I went back out, but instead of heading south, I headed north. With the wind at my back, I was less miserable. I figured, if Andie could run 15 miles in the wind, I could run at least five, right?

I plodded along like an elephant. My pace was pathetic. Good lord, how could I go from ready to PR at a Half Marathon to dreading five miles in less than a month? I’d fallen from running grace, a rapid and humiliating plunge. What used to be effortless and enjoyable was now painful and labored. I’d lost my will to go on. I needed a break. At the 1.5 mark, I cut the run short and headed back home, barely tripping three miles on my Garmin, defeated. I realized that perhaps it was time to change gears. And that, as it turns out, was just what I was about to do.

After a quick shower, I hopped in the car and drove to the VisionQuest Training Center for my biking camp orientation. Yes, biking camp. Complete with camp counselors and everything. I’m not sure if there’ll be s’mores and ghost stories around the fire, but I couldn’t be more excited. A week riding hills in California. With SAG support. It’s exactly what I need, especially now.

Today’s camp orientation was a gift: it gave me something to look forward to. I have to say, Robbie Ventura is a pretty motivating speaker. He had me psyched to come home and dig out my rain gear (and I hate riding in the rain, so that’s really saying something). After my tear-streaked morning, it was just the change of direction I needed.

Now that’s not to say that I have given up running completely, but I look forward to focusing on something different. Biking camp to start, hopefully riding Going to the Sun over the summer, Apple Cider (one of my favorites) plus some other century rides in the fall, maybe even Tucson if I can work around the date. Oh, I’ll still run, but after my fall from grace, I know I need to start again at the bottom. It’s certainly a long road, and yes, I’ll probably cry on some of those runs. In the meantime, however, I look forward to going down a slightly different path.


  1. Love your writing !! Don’t feel bad about crying though..its good for you !! I always cry, thats why I wear sunglasses and look like a bassett hound otherwise ! Good luck on your bike adventure, sounds awesome. xom

    • Thanks Mary! Great reminder re: sunglasses – from now on I won’t leave home without them!

  2. I think we had the same morning. I was crabby from the get go – the alarm went off at 5:30 for Mark to do his run…and the dog would not let me go back to sleep. Crabby. I got up and cooked while Mark ran, and he came home and I was still crabby. He force marched me to the bedroom to take a nap while he did grocery shopping, but the hound did not agree with the naptime plan. I knew I had to take myself for a run, even if I hated the conditions outside. My 5mi plan melted in that wind to a mere 2 miles. And I’m okay with that. It provided the mood adjustment I needed.

    I’m really looking forward to biking season too – it’s my first love…though this is the big running year for me. Next year, I’ll be looking for some big bike events, but for now, it’s lacing up instead of clipping in.

    • We totally had the same morning! On days like this I think a running group would help a lot. Or maybe living in San Diego would do the trick. Of course, we both know Dave Pittman will say the problem is I’m not signed up for CM11!

  3. There’s plenty of room here at the bottom! Want to run in the morning?

    • Ha! Happy to be at the bottom with you. And we need to plan to run together more often. This “go it alone” thing is for the birds. Tomorrow, alas, I plan on sleeping late thanks to Spring Forward. But maybe hill repeats next weekend?

      • I’m Not going until 8…stupid lost hour. I’ve got an 8k next Sunday.

  4. I’d love to mock you. Given time, I will (can’t disappoint now, can I?) But honestly, take a running break. Screw it. Put the damn stability shoes in the deepest, darkest corner of the closet and pile crap on top of them. Running shouldn’t make you sob. At least, a piss-ant little training run shouldn’t. Go have an affair with your bike. Feel the exhilaration of that new love. Have a dalliance with swimming (the little tart!)

    Soon enough, you’ll start to yearn for those shoes, by then covered with dust bunnies. You’ll dust them off and yes, probably wipe away a tear, wondering how you possibly could have forsaken them for so long.

    If it’s in time for CM11 … I’ll buy you a drink.

    Enjoy the ride

    • Some great advice from Mr P! I think a change of pace is good. And October is still far away, so you never know, right?

  5. You *do* need a break from running! I don’t think it’s unusual to cry while running. Though it does break my heart knowing you hate it so 😦 Enjoy bike camp and come back refreshed. Running isn’t going anywhere, so take your time in making your comeback.

    • Thanks Chanthana. Of course, once this darn gray winter is over, I’ll probably fall in love with running all over again. Everything is better when it’s warm and sunny!

  6. I think this is wonderful (not that you cried…sorry about that) but that you realize it is time to mix it up a bit and make a change. Running isn’t the holy grail of life. Often when I’m cycling (which I LOVE) I wonder why don’t I cycle instead of run when I love it so much more? I think it will be my next adventure after I finally finish this damn marathon.

    • Thanks! I have to say “the damn marathon” is quite possibly my favorite phrase of all time. As for me, I look forward to playing the field a little more…

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