Falling in love again

October 6, 2013

I’ve been in love with running for quite a number of years now. When I finished cancer treatment in December 2010, I naively imagined that I’d be back to my running “normal” within a few months. Well, 9 months later I ran a marathon, but almost an hour slower than my personal record. Disappointed, I did some historical research and figured that it had originally taken me 2 years of consistent and systematic training to reach my “peak” so decided I would give it 2 years. In that period the focus of my training was on getting faster, but as the 2 year mark approached I was still nowhere near as fast as I used to be. Reluctantly I had to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. So it wasn’t that I fell out of love with running, exactly, but my inability to get back to my previous level seemed like a symbol that I wasn’t what I used to be and never was going to be.

That was one of the factors that influenced my decision to go for the Ironman. To prove to myself that I might not be as fast, but I was still fit and tough and that the cancer hadn’t “won”.

So my focus changed. I was still running of course, but less than usual since that was the triathlon discipline I already had in place. As I was regularly pushing myself outside my comfort zone swimming or cycling, it was a relief to come “home” to running, where I felt comfortable and relaxed and could process all the thoughts, feelings, stresses and strains from the Ironman training. I fell in love with running again and stopped feeling it as a symbol of anything.

Then early this summer I noticed something strange. My running speeds in training were, quite suddenly, getting faster. And it wasn’t just something I was imagining. In July I took part in Etape Bornholm, a five day stage race (running) and was really surprised that I clocked times that were close to my pre-cancer times, and surprisingly came second in my age-group. Then a couple of weeks ago I ran a 10 km race and got a time that was only 40 seconds slower than my all-time personal best (and according to my favourite tool the age equivalence calculator I should be 90 seconds slower by now!). And last weekend I ran a half-marathon 9 minutes faster than the same race 1 year ago, and again while not a personal record, faster than the age equivalence calculator says I should be by now.

When I realised that my running was getting faster again I figured that I’d really like to have a shot at running a marathon again before the winter and by chance I got the opportunity for a start number for New York marathon on 3rd November. So for the last couple of months since the Ironman my focus has been back on running. But while I’m looking forward to running in New York, I’m no longer obsessed about proving anything in terms of finishing times. While I’m curious about how well I can do, mostly I’m looking forward to having a great experience doing the thing that I love.

I do of course realise that the many hours I’ve spent swimming and cycling have had a huge impact on my fitness gazellelevel which has influenced my running. However, I don’t think that it’s the only factor. I also believe that shifting my focus away from the obsession with “getting back to normal” freed my inner gazelle.

Yes – Kirsten the gazelle is back!


2 Responses to “Falling in love again”

  1. Takis Kiriakos Says:

    HI Kristen, Congratulations on your placement in your A.G. I’m so glad to hear that you are close to getting back to normal with your running. I’m a runner and I can relate to your story.
    Running is a lifestyle for me, my relationship my family and my friends are all in to running. Running changed my life a while back but this time it saved my life!
    I battled cancer and after 3 months of intense chemo and four surgeries I’m cancer free! In the process I lost 63 lymph nodes in the pelvic and groin areas that make me high risk for lymph-edema so I have to wear compressions while running. Although I was pretty fit my body took a big hit! I was able to run between the chemo treatments but the surgeries put me down for a long time.
    I was released back to running on Aug 5th 2013 and I have run six days per week since then trying to get back to “normal”. I registered for the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon (I have run this race since it’s inaugural day) but this year will be the Half Marathon for the first time!
    My times are nowhere close to where they used to be and it’s a struggle sometimes to even finish a long run.This one will be my first race since cancer and my projected time is 2:15 to 2:30 but I ran a sub 2 Half Marathon in February of this year right before chemo.
    I loved reading your post and seeing the progress you have made. It gives me hope and encouragement for better things yet to come with time. I’m 53 y.o. and I DO have time.

    I’m glad Kristen the gazelle is beck!


    • Kirsten Says:

      Hi Takis, Thanks for your comment which touched me very deeply. I’m absolutely full of respect over how far you have already come since your treatment finished – you are way ahead of where I was at that point! Good luck with your ½marathon – don’t worry about your time, just enjoy it and celebrate that you’re back!

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