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.”

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(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!)