Progress

I started running in Chattanooga, TN (altitude: 680 feet). After two years, I was up to 10 mile runs and sporadically flirting with my goal pace of 10 minute miles. Then I abruptly relocated.

I resumed running in Colorado Springs, CO (altitude: 6,035 feet). The altitude and hill-laden terrain, coupled with the summer heat, was like running into a fucking brick wall.

I felt like I was dying. I felt like I had never run before. I honestly felt like I had completely lost every stride of those two years of work.

It was so disheartening. I kept telling myself that fall would bring its usual avalanche of progress with the dropping temperatures as I heaved myself up hill after hill, drenched in sweat, chasing my sister. I did not believe it though. Internally, I was defeated.

But I just kept running. And running. Back up to 5 miles. Back up to three runs a week. Then four. Back up to 10 miles. Back up to racing once a month. Twice a month. Five races in four weeks.

I learned to steady my pace up the hills, lengthen my stride. I learned to adjust my pace expectations to accommodate for incline. I relearned to just accept the runner I am.

And then it came. Just as I should have known it would. I started to see progress. At last!

My pace leveled out. Hills became incidental. I was no longer a slobbering mess at the end of anything less than 10 miles.

Two distinct instances helped realign my perspective.

(1) When I returned to the South for the first time, my original running mate, Carmen, and I were finally able to run together again. I had always feared that she had continued down our path of progression while I was headbutting into my altitude road block. I thought she would dust me and leave me behind.

However, I didn’t find myself chasing her heels. We jogged through the camps of Alchemy, pseudo-trail running. There were some gentle hills and one descent one. I didn’t even notice them I was so oxygenated back on flat land.

Carmen kept apologizing, but I didn’t care. I thought she did awesome. I was euphoric at being able to run with her again and at seeing that all my work had propelled me forward rather than held me back.

(2) When I started running in Colorado, I desperately (and futilely) searched for flat. I thought I discovered a route by my work. It seemed temptingly flat.

NO.

Like all Colorado routes, hills. Then epic hills. When I attempted the route by one summer sunrise, I was greeted by the hardest hill I had yet to run. I barely wogged up it, and it killed me. I couldn’t even limp through the full 4.5 miles. And I always finish.

I abandoned the route. Until this week.

I decided running in the pitch black 5am on an unlit greenway, even with a dog, still felt unsafe. I opted to try going to work early and running after, though I have always preferred the early run. I figured might as well brave the route by work again.

I kicked its ass.

I ran that hill like it was no more than a handicap ramp. I aimed for 5 miles but hit 6.8 without noticing. And I could have kept running.

Progress. Undeniable fucking progress. And suddenly, it’s all worth it again.

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About ChrstnaBergling

Colorado-bred writer, Christina Bergling knew she wanted to be an author in fourth grade. In college, she pursued a professional writing degree and started publishing small scale. With the realities of paying bills, she started working as a technical writer and document manager, traveling to Iraq as a contractor and eventually becoming a trainer and software developer. She avidly hosted multiple blogs on Iraq, bipolar, pregnancy, running. In 2015, she published two novellas. She is also featured in the horror collection Collected Christmas. Bergling is a mother of two young children and lives with her family in Colorado Springs. She spends her non-writing time running, doing yoga and barre, belly dancing, taking pictures, traveling, and sucking all the marrow out of life. View all posts by ChrstnaBergling

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