Recently, I have gotten super into running memoirs (ask anybody that I have forced into conversation within the last two weeks, they’ll tell you), especially those that feature plant-based endurance athletes. Reading these memoirs have had unsurmountable effect on my psyche; reading about how others are so incredibly passionate about the things that I am also incredibly passionate about swells my heart with inspiration, motivation, and the validation that I am profoundly passionate indeed over what I think I am.
And that’s comforting, you know?
In honor of how these memoirs have made me feel, I would like to put forth a version of my own running memoir, in hopes that it inspires, motives, and validates.
Because this is a longer post, I have split it into three parts. The first part is how I was introduced into running and also how I began to develop endurance. The second part will be my reintroduction to running. The third part will be a compilation of all the resources that I utilize in which I have developed a passion and a love affair for running; essentially, how I officially fell in love with running.
Act One: The Beginning
Scene 1: Josie enters middle school.
In this scene, Josie decides that she wants to invest in her middle school (she is the daughter of the tourism manager of the city, of course she was raised to do this). Her best friend from elementary school signed up for the cross country team, in order to keep in shape during the off seasons of soccer. So what did Josie do? She decided that it would be a grand idea to join her friend, not only getting to spend more time with her but also making new friends within her team and being a part of her school.
Scene 2: Josie gets “good”?
Here, Josie begins to realize that she has a knack for working hard, and finds that essentially, that’s what cross country is about; the work you put into it. The farther the distance, the less talent you actually need. So Josie gets fully into cross country, falling in love with her teammates and the team aspect of the sport that also enables her to not be dependent upon others to perform the sport. Consequently, Josie began to get good; like real good. Like middle school girl competition level good, so obviously that means a lot.
But in all seriousness, Josie begins to place in her meets, and beat her times, and becomes an overall good runner. The better one is—measured relative to those around her—the more fun the thing becomes. Josie falls in love with improving and running is the perfect catalyst.
Scene 3: Josie joins the track team
Josie enjoyed her newfound hobby so much, that she decides to join the track team, distance specifically (there was this brief love affair with hurdles, but Josie quickly realizes her seemingly innate inability to do these well).
Here, Josie falls even more in love with the 800m race. Specifically because other people seem to fear this two-lapper, and Josie enjoys feeding off other’s dislike of something. And also because Josie develops a strategy that enables her to win, and win often. Like first place win.
What Josie does is take off well and hard, and merge in directly behind the leader. For the next 600m, Josie hangs on to the heels of the leader, focused almost entirely on those heels, not even dipping into her own mental pain or fatigue, but only allowing herself to concentrate on the runner in front of her. Then, at the last 200m, Josie pulls ahead of the leader, who is by now so absorbed in her own pain and fatigue that she in unable to retain the same speed as Josie.
Scene 4: Josie joins the summer track team
Inspired by success, Josie finds the Manhattan Track Club, a summer track club that coincidently meets only a mile away from her house each weekday morning at 9am. Josie joins, and finds herself qualifying for the Junior Olympics in Des Moines Iowa to run the 800m, the 4×800, and for some unbeknownst error, the hurdles. Josie does well in these events (obviously excluding the hurdles, but she had fun here, so that’s a win, right?)
Scene 5: The Peak
Josie enjoys success in 8th grade, but unfortunately begins to realize that she might have peaked already, because suddenly, she isn’t improving and doing as well as she was previously. She still enjoys the sport and still places in meets and competitions, but it seems that the rest of her teammates are catching up and then exceeding Josie in talent. Which frustrates Josie a tad.
Josie joins the Manhattan Track Club again during that summer, but is less dedicated to it in exchange for volunteering at a bible camp during the summer. So consequently, she does not put forth the effort needed to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
Act Two: Running becomes a chore
Scene 1: High School Running career
Josie joins the high school cross country team, not fully because she loves running, but more because she knows that she will regret it if she doesn’t. Josie is more into the sport for the enjoyment of the team, she prefers practice to meets, and while she places well in most junior varsity meets, she is not by any means an exceptionally gifted member of the team.
Track goes about the same, Josie is fully reconciled in the idea that she peaked in middle school.
No summer track club; volunteering at the bible camp all summer.
The fall of her sophomore year, Josie again joins the cross country team. It’s just “meh”.
Scene 2: The Best thing that happened in high school
In this scene, Josie and a few friends form an intramural basketball team the winter of her sophomore year. Josie proceeds to bloody rip the ACL from her femur completely. Josie then is obviously unable to join the track team for obvious reasons.
Josie then begins to weekly participate in physical therapy and absolutely falls in love with it. Partly because PT features circuit workouts, not just pure running and running drills, partly because she commands the sole and full attention of her PT “coaches”, as she did not in high school cross country. And also partly because she discovers cycling (she cannot run on an ACL injury). And also partly because she attends PT with the elderly crowd, and she can outperform them, which is a confidence boost.
Josie is “good at PT”. She is extremely dedicated to it, exercising her muscles and developing strength even outside of schedule sessions. She sees results; instead of the typical 9 month healing time for an ACL reconstruction, it only takes her 4 months before she can fully remove the brace and be “normal” again.
Josie passes on running, and begins to cycle and do circuits almost exclusively.
Act 3: Cycling and the development of endurance
Scene 1: 4 years of base building
For the next three years, Josie utilizes the stationary bike stand to cycle for about 20-30 minutes and then do circuit workouts about 5 days a week or whenever her brother and his friends aren’t over at the house. When Josie begins college and discovers the university rec center, she increases this to cycling for 65 minutes with following circuits.
Because Josie spent a significant amount of time in “zone 2” (longer, slower workouts that remain below the anerobic threshold), she did what she now realizes as “base building”. Namely, training her body to be efficient with fat-burning. This means that her body began to become efficient at relying on fat storage to find calories for exercise instead of needing the constant intake of glucose in carbohydrates to power her. This is the foundation for endurance. A body that is efficient at fat-burning is a body that can “go” for a long time without needing to be rested and refueled.
The main way to build base is by doing long, slow exercises that do not exceed the anaerobic threshold. Namely, if one wakes up sore the next morning, that means that they did exceed this threshold and the muscles produced a residue of lactic acid, which then correlates to the muscle fatigue. So that’s not what one wants if they want to increase endurance capabilities.
Alright. This was part one, my beginning story. Hang in there, team, it gets better. Part Two will feature my reintroduction to running, and part three will feature a full compilation of the resources I have found and the strategies that I maintain that have made me fall in love with running.
Peace and Blessings,