Hi, I’m Carilyn, and I’m a Walker

by Carilyn on February 27, 2020

After all the issues during 6 Days in the Dome (phone call that I had to leave early because my father-in-law took a turn for the worse, messed up knee, etc.), one good thing came from it – I finally got to experience what it felt like to walk (part of) a race. Always before, I would only walk when I absolutely had to. The constant refrain, “Keep moving! Keep moving! Relentless forward progress!” played in my head like troll on crack. When I knew my race in the Dome was over before it really started, I decided to just enjoy the experience, and that meant walking.

Years ago, I started telling my running buddies that I wouldn’t be sad when I couldn’t run anymore and “got to walk”. They always mocked me, saying that I was going to go to my grave running. But, what they didn’t know, was that I have loved to walk my entire life. I didn’t start loving to run until I was an adult.

As a kid, I started walking a mile to the corner store for penny candy at age 5. By the time I was 7, I was walking two miles to go to the Hallmark store and K-Mart to get more “exotic” fare, like chocolate pecan patties and popcorn. In middle school, I walked six miles regularly just to go to the bigger stores on the main street. I loved to walk because that is where the best talking happened. Nothing like a four mile round trip for a Kit Kat bar to give two thirteen year old girls plenty of time to discuss their latest crushes without the prying ears of siblings and parents. And, don’t forget the Kit Kat reward. I will still walk four miles for a Kit Kat.

So, after the Dome, I’ve spent the last few months thinking about how to move forward with running. I’ve had a torn meniscus for the last two years that I’m not going to get fixed. I can run, but it leads to a lot of pain and swelling when I stop. Running ultras is already hard enough, and adding another layer of suffering has made it harder and harder to care about racing (which I already had a love/hate relationship with anyway). But walking at the Dome was fun! I chatted and moved, listened to podcasts and meditated. I didn’t “race”, but I didn’t just phone it in, either.

When I signed up for Jackpot Ultra 48 hour, I had every intention of running it. But, as I ramped up my training, my knee continued to swell, leaving me hobbling between workouts. Finally, I just had this moment of, “What the hell am doing? This is miserable. I am not enjoying any of this. I am in pain, and there is no greater purpose – no Team to make, no sponsor to please, not even a fun blog post to write. It is time to stop.”

So I did.

I made the decision to walk every step of Jackpot Ultra.

Tim didn’t believe me, nor did many of my friends. “You’ll last about a mile, and then the competition will get the best of you, and you’ll start running.”

A year ago they would have been right. Despite the pain, I kept trying to run as much as possible. I was afraid that once I stopped, I would no longer be a RUNNER. Since I have identified as a RUNNER since 2003, I just wasn’t sure if I could handle that. Turning 50 was hard enough, especially after finding the lone witchy chin hair. I sure as hell wasn’t ready to throw in the towel on my IDENTITY. So, I made a deal with myself. Jackpot would just be an experiment. I would walk every step, try to get 100k a day, and then never have to do it again if it was miserable.

But it wasn’t. It was magical. For the first time in my racing career, I was focused AND got to chat. I didn’t puke or cry. I was strong at the beginning AND at the end. I felt great the entire time. I was happy.

This is not to say that I regret any of the running, or how long it took me to make the switch to walking. It also doesn’t mean I will never run again. Hell, Tim and I still run 6 miles every morning – I just go out afterwards and finish my mileage walking. What this means is that I found a way to love racing again, to love being out there day and night, focused and goal-oriented. It means that I can still participate in a sport I love, that I wasn’t sure how to do without, but in a way that doesn’t leave me hobbled and miserable.

Who knows if I will stay a WALKER, but for now, it feels really fun and challenging to be doing something new.

And I’ve already signed up the 6 Days in the Dome again – as a walker.

P.S. I had to create a new post “category” for walking. Tim would say that Hell just froze over 🙂

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