PLANT-POWERED RUNNING: Starting Over (Again) and Making Progress

I used to run. For a brief glimmer of time, years ago, I even considered myself “a runner”, quotes included because I’m never sure when you’re allowed to claim that title and not sound like a phoney. I figured just doing it fairly often counted enough. I  got in some of the best shape of my adult life…

… Until I fell, hard, on a sidewalk a mile from home. On my knee. Through tears and blood and a long, excruciating limp back home, I realized I may have done some serious damage. To this day, sometimes my knee pops and cracks and feels like a tendon inside will snap. At the time, it simply meant: no more running.

Pretty atmosphere.

Pretty atmosphere.

And I’ve tried to start again over the years, never really committing, instead going for swift long walks and trying to surpress the sadness that my former injury may have really messed up my chances of running for good. (“I’m not even 30 yet! Why me?”)

Last month, while at Main Street Vegan Academy, I was surrounded by brilliant and inspiring people every second of the day, including women who became serious runners.

What I found so compelling was the common thread: before they were runners, they weren’t. 

So when Carla, a sweet woman in her 60s with a charming Minnesota accent and mannerisms, said somewhat nonchalantly that she had just finished her 62nd marathon, I thought maybe it’s never too late to start over. And then Jennifer, a single mom from Long Island compelled to run after the Worst Year of Her Life, told a story about finishing a marathon and being saluted by uniformed troops at mile 22, and I found myself crying into my green tea at the beauty of that gesture. Then Alicia told us about a run she did earlier this year in NYC, crossing the finish line with a sparkly tiara and being surrounded by supportive and loving women in the thousands. And talking to Erin Red who simply said, “Some days, I just need to run.”

Sunsets in the woods.

Sunsets in the woods.

So, a bunch of us decided then and there: we would do a run together in 2013 as a fundraiser for an animal-focused nonprofit. 

… And once I got home, I realized that meant I actually have to learn to run again. Oh.

And so, I’ve been getting back into it over the last month. It’s going to take a long time to be prepared for the race next year (the particulars of which I’m keeping a secret to maintain a little discretion just in case it doesn’t work out), so by starting now I have a long, long time to train and finish with some dignity in tact.

Warm and strong!

Warm and strong!

I won’t be winning awards any time soon, but I have improved my 5K time by six minutes in the last three weeks (edit two weeks later: almost eight minutes!). I feel like my anxiety has been under control, and some lower back pain has improved. I look forward to being surrounded by trees, the earthy smells that come through my nose when I remember to breathe through it, and I treat myself to podcasts on art + design, cooking or new-agey spirituality and wellness. It’s kind of, maybe, almost, a little fun?

Running is perhaps the easiest sport to begin, as it doesn’t require much beyond just running. Shoes are the most important things and if you’re going to put any money into this, they should be your priority. Everything else is optional. I broke down two weeks ago and picked up some cold weather clothes so I’ll stick with it during the winter (still cheaper than a gym membership, and you get to feel like Sporty Spice in your fancy running tights!).

My knee has good days and bad. Sometimes it prevents me from doing more than fast-paced walking. Other days I can go faster and farther than ever. I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in there, the idea that we still make progress overall even if we aren’t making progress every single time.

IF YOU NEED MOTIVATION: Read this brilliant article from Runner’s World magazine, “How to Start Running: Abandon All Reason” by Marc Parent:


“Here is what I call the abandon-all-reason-and-do-it-now approach to your first run ever. Explained simply, what you have to do is this: Abandon all reason and do it now. Put down whatever you are holding, tell anyone in the immediate vicinity to hang on a second, walk calmly through the nearest exit, and when you hear the door close behind you, take off.”

.     .     .     .     .

(For help with joint pain, I’ve started taking MSM + Glucosamine. Look for a vegan brand. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, Queen’s Nutritional Products has their own brand on sale at the time of this post for $8.99 and it’s vegan!)

14 thoughts on “PLANT-POWERED RUNNING: Starting Over (Again) and Making Progress

    • Hey Sarah 🙂 I agree, it’s kind of like calling yourself anything (a writer, a comic, a painter..) — it helps make you accountable to keep going once you’ve taken on that role! I’m still trying to learn about other places. Right now I’m on the search for a place with decent lighting since it gets dark so darn fast. Let me know if you have any tips!

  1. I have never been a runner in my life, but I have wanted to be many times. I have started and stopped couch to 5k several times, but I always end up hurting myself or kicking in my fibro around the mile and a half mark. That’s the longest I have ever run. I would love love love to be able to run 5K.

    • I hear you on the getting hurt or starting and not finishing… What seems to be working this time around are: 1) Being okay with going kind of slow. There’s all the time in the world to go faster. In fact, going a little slower than you think you should be going will help you stay at that pace longer and not feeling like you want to die a mile in. When I FIRST first started, I was trying to maintain between a 12-13 minute/mile (it helps you have an app on your phone that tells you how fast you’re going, so when you speed up to 10 minutes you can slow back down.. sometimes you don’t realize you are going a lot faster and that wears you out!) and 2) Taking it easy when it hurts. No one is going jump out of the bushes and yell “HA HA, YOU WERE FASTER LAST WEEK.” Who cares? I’d rather have a slow day and walk through the pain, still better than not moving at all if I injured myself! Good luck in future endeavors, and don’t forget walking is fun too! 🙂

  2. Running is THE BEST! I wasn’t a runner two years ago and now I’ve run 3 half marathons and will be running next year’s NYC Marathon. Days without runs are days without endorphins. And endorphins are awesome. Also, exercising without a gym membership is great. I love this post!

    • I love your comment! Yeah, I have some days where I love it and others where I haaaaaate it, but I always LOVE having done it. In a few months when I start to train for the Big Race, we’ll see how I’m holding up… Yikes. I may need to call on your for help/advice, hehe 🙂 Thanks for the comment! Share your wisdom!

      • I love to help out fellow runners. Not that I’m an expert. I just love running! Keep us updated on your progress! No matter your pace or distance, you are out there while many others are sitting on the couch. And that is awesome.

      • I very much appreciate your comments 🙂 I think you touched on something else: It can kinda feel like you’re a little late to the game when everyone else *already runs* and talks about PRs and “gear” and blah blah… like, is this a secret society? I have been keeping it pretty private because (at the risk of sounding kinda hippy-dippy) it’s this very personal thing just for me right now, and I quite like it that way. If you ever hear of good running stories, blogs, anything, please share! I’m so glad you commented — keep me posted on how you’re doing with it, too!

      • Haha, runners love to talk about their “stats” and “gear”. And I love a PR as much as the next gal, but I honestly just want to beat myself. It’s way lower stress and if I don’t accomplish my goal, I can always try again! And I totally agree about running being personal. I love running with other people, but running by myself is kind of my only “alone time” and I treasure it. My next half marathon is coming up at the end of January! Yay freezing my butt of for 2 hours! But Central Park (I live in NYC) will be beautiful, so I am really looking forward to it.

  3. You rock. I guess being a triathlete and having done a half-marathon I’m one of those “runners” … but I certainly don’t feel I have any real justification for the claim. I’ve been battling injury as well but you inspire me to get back out there. Miss you!! (Send me the details privately on the MSVA run group? I may need to join you guys. 🙂 )

  4. Pingback: “Our Truthfulness Can Change Lives” – On Writing, Blogging, Sharing and the Year Ahead | Save the Kales!

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