Reasons to Run: To find out what you can do.

Reasons not to run: the flu

Published: Tuesday, June 21 2011 8:00 a.m. MDT

You might be a runner if you know the difference between pronation and supination.

You might be a runner if you carry your water bottle around like a security blanket and you wake up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night because you're so hydrated.

You might be a runner if you run eight or more miles on your wedding day.

You might be a runner if you own more pairs of running shoes than normal shoes. And that's saying something for females.

You also might be a runner if you still choose to go on a run even if you're feeling feverish and nauseous. In this case, you might also be stupid. You might be me a week ago.

I woke up feeling off, but attributed it to a headache and went about the day's normal activities. A few hours later, I went home feeling worse. But I had previously scheduled a run for that afternoon with a friend. I told myself I'd rested enough and I should try not to miss a run. I figured I'd just cut back on miles and be fine.

Thirty seconds into the run, I knew I was not fine. Did I stop? Turn back? Of course not. Preposterous!

Those five miles were agonizing. I focused on the conversation I was having with my teammate to try to block out my strong desire to faint. At each stop light I bent over heaving, my head spinning. When we finally made it back, all I could do was lay on the floor. I was too weak to even change my clothes.

Twenty minutes later, after being rescued by my husband, I lay shivering in bed, body aching worse than if I'd taken two weeks off from my lifting program and tried to come back at the same weights. I shared the bed with an empty mixing bowl that waited for the contents of my breakfast and lunch, which maliciously threatened revenge in my stomach.

You might be a runner if you do this, but you won't be much longer if you keep this kind of behavior up. One of the keys to running is knowing when not to run.

You know you're a runner when you can tell yourself you've had enough, and for the overall greater good of your mental and physical health, you can stop.

One such runner is a teammate of mine. She always knew how to balance when to run hard and when to ease up. I thought I knew this too, although my record of injury followed by more injury suggests otherwise.

This teammate taught me an important lesson during a workout where we all felt a little off. One had a hip problem, the other had calf pain, and I was ignoring fatigue from a previous workout. Three quarters of the way through, our coach asked us how we were feeling. I responded with a high pitched "Pretty good," which was I-don't-want-to-sound-tired language for "I want to pass out." My teammate with hip pain responded with, "It doesn't hurt when I run fast," which was I-don't-want-to-sound-injured language for "this hurts so bad, why am I running?"

But my other teammate said, "My calves are really tight. I think I'm done for today." Which translates to, "My calves are really tight. I think I'm done for today."

After our coach agreed with her, Hurt Hip and I watched her walk away and start pulling off her shoes. Suddenly, I wanted to retract my statement. "Wait, Coach, I'm done too!" was lost to the sound of our spikes scraping the track as we reluctantly started another interval.

It's really a matter of cost and benefit. What's one or two more intervals if they are painful and slow? What's a five-mile run when your body is screaming that it has the flu?

This wiser teammate of mine is certainly faster than me, a product of her ability to listen to her body. But I recently watched her compete on a national stage, and the image of her finishing this race is forever burned into my memory.

You know you're a runner if you get back up if you fall. When you push forward, even if your body is mentally and physically shutting down. When you resort to crawling, shaking, to the finish line. When six meters may as well be six miles.

How many runners would have pulled out of that race and given in to their begging body? No, on this day she knew she was a runner. A runner who would not give up. A runner who would finish what she came to do.

The cost? Reaching desperately toward a finish line, only to finally collapse halfway across it. The benefit? Still being one of the top 15 in the nation, even if a top-three finish was easily within reach with a lap to go.

Physical abilities and limitations can be determined and affected by outside sources. Good training improves this, but maybe bad weather hinders it. Mental abilities and limitations are determined solely by us.

When will you test yours?

Then, you'll know you're a runner.

Cecily is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is a two-time All American in cross-country and track. Email: ceclem@sbcglobal.net

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