Written by OPCF Member Kathryn Buckley
Being short, I did not have a lot of options for high school sports. Not tall enough for basketball or volleyball. Not coordinated enough for soccer or softball. And, definitely not flexible enough for cheerleading (which explains some of my CrossFit problems). So, I joined the Cross Country team, thus began my running career. It did not start out well. I was more interested meeting cute boys than running. I mean, who can’t resist those thin, nylon-running shorts? (only joking) It took me all of two seconds to realize that the cute running boys did not like the slow girl pulling up the rear at the races. I decided it was time to speed it up and focus. Turns out, I was pretty good runner when I put my mind to it. I even found a boyfriend (or two) on the team.
Running literally runs in my genes. My parents are both runners. My mom was the one who encouraged (forced) my two sisters and I to run our first marathon. She was 25 years cancer free and said the only way she wanted to celebrate was to run a marathon with her daughters (lucky us!). We laughed, cried, limped and crawled our way through the Chicago marathon. It took us well over 5 hours. At one point in the marathon my mom suggested that we quit because we were not properly trained (thanks for the encouragement, Mom). This was her 15th marathon and slowest ever but we finished, together. With my first marathon behind me, I learned a few things: drink less wine, train properly and do not run with my mother.
Training properly became my focus. I put in more miles than I ever had before. My next marathon was the Kansas City Marathon and I improved my time by an hour! (Somehow my mother still beat me) It wasn’t until CrossFit that I started to understand what proper training really meant. CrossFit introduced strength and speed into my training. Simply going out and running 5 miles at the same speed never improved my pace. Building muscles in my legs during squats helped tremendously. Getting my fast twitch muscles to start firing during sprints made a significant difference. And, getting my heart rate up quickly for short periods of time helped my body learn how to recover faster. Six months after I started CrossFit, I ran my fastest half marathon to date. I averaged a 7:50 pace per mile for 13.1 miles (versus my usual 9:30 pace per mile).
Running has also had an impact on my CrossFit workouts. Halfway through a “long” WOD, I find myself speeding up and feeling better. My body is able to handle a 20-30 minute WOD because it is used to running for 40-50 minutes at a time. Running improves endurance, which can significantly impact overall performance in the longer CrossFit workouts.
I hear a lot of people say that they hate running. I actually hate it too. It hurts everything in my body. The first mile usually makes me want to turn around and go home. And, the Kansas humidity makes me feel like an elephant running through a jar of peanut butter. But, what is the alternative? The dreaded treadmill? Those things will get you nowhere fast. I run because it is time to myself, to think, to provide clarity in life and answer life’s toughest questions. It is the feeling I get after a run that keeps me running. The feeling I get when I beat the voice in my head that tells me to quit. Running is not easy but it can have a huge impact on your fitness and overall health.