Buckle Up

“Sometimes the fall kills you.  And sometimes when you fall, you fly.”  Neil Gaiman in The Sandman.


These are my legs.  The picture was taken during my family trip to Spain recently, while I was running on Gran Vie in Barcelona.  We got back home to Los Angeles late on Saturday night, and early the next morning, my jet-lagged, tired, stiff body found itself not on my regular run path which I missed like crazy, but on the local high school track for my first attempt at a somewhat formal speed workout.  Why was I voluntarily on a high school track, and why was the girl who hates sprints and runs just for the love of running going to attempt some Yasso 800’s, which she had to google the night before hitting the track?

While I was in Spain and walking hours a day, I had a lot of time to think….and time to listen to myself.  Over the past few years, I’ve been running for the joy that it brings me.  For the most part, I haven’t worried about speed or getting “better” at this sport, whatever “better” at this sport means.  I haven’t really talked much about numbers on this blog other than chronicling my increasing mileage during marathon training, because that isn’t really what this blog has been about.  Over the last two years, my pace has remained the same, which is usually about a 10 minute mile.  Periodically I would have the desire to try to work on my pace, but then I knew that in order to do that, I’d have to do formal speed work, and I just didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to think about time and pace and look at my Garmin during runs….. I wanted to be free…. to let my mind wander, to work through my day and my life or to just zone out and meditate on the run.  At some point I seemed to convince myself that I was probably not going to get faster anyway; that I was happy to just go from non-runner to runner.  Occasionally when that little voice would speak up and say maybe you can get faster, I’d shut it down.

We went to Spain, and given that I was running in such a beautiful place, I had to take some running pictures.  The first thing I noticed when I looked at each picture were my legs.  Since the age of 12 or possibly sooner, I’ve hated my legs….my big legs….my “non-ballerina” legs as that stupid ballet teacher called them… my thighs…  I spent years trying to hide them.  When I looked at these Spain running pictures, I saw big legs… big powerful legs… big strong legs… big legs that are the vehicles that have enabled me to transform my life over the last four years.  And I thought to myself that I will never be ashamed of my big legs again.  I will never speak of them negatively again.  I will not speak negatively about any part of my body that is allowing me to live a full happy life every single day.  And then I decided that I will listen to that part of my heart that periodically speaks up and says “what if you could be faster” and not shut it down…. I mean look at my big legs…I think they’ve got the power to make me faster….let me give them a chance.

I’ve had this motto of “run with your heart, not with your legs”….but I realized a few things.  1. Trying to get faster doesn’t mean that I’m not listening to or running with my heart.  2. If I say that I’m going to try to get faster and I don’t, then that is ok…. I need to get over this perfectionist side of me that is still scared to say something and not see it through; not to mention that no one else actually gives a shit about my pace.  3. Most of all, I think I finally have the time to do speed work.  I have finally worked through most of my shit on my runs…. and so I can afford to take one run a week out of four or five to not work through shit but just focus on running….I don’t have any shit to work through at this time.

We get home late Saturday night.  I google some speed workouts, figure out what exactly a Yasso 800 is…. I’m supposed to eventually work up to doing 10 cycles of them at 10K pace!!! I hit the track Sunday morning.  Of course I don’t know what my 10K pace is, because I’ve never actually done a formal 10K despite running a marathon.  I’ve done 5K’s and half-marathons, and my 5K and half-marathon pace are the same, because I like to run at a comfortable pace.  So I’ll just sprint the 800 meters.  Within the first round it absolutely sucks!!!  I knew I hated speed work.  This is bullshit.  Why am I here.  Why am I turning what I love into something I hate.  I’d rather run 10 miles at a comfortable pace than half a mile fast.  I don’t like speed.  I’ll just do a max of two rounds today and call it a day and– never — do– this– again.

Round 2.  It’s not horrible.  It’s uncomfortable.  It hurts.  It is not enjoyable, but I’ll survive.  Ok, maybe just for today, I’ll do a third round.

Round 3.  This is the last one, so I may as well go as fast as I can.  My heart is pounding.  My chest hurts.  I can feel my entire chest wall, as if it’s caged in some corseted body garment that doesn’t let you breathe….as if I’m wearing three layers of upper-body Spanx on top of each other.  My heart is in my throat ready to be thrown up and I can visualize it projecting out of my mouth and landing splattered all over the track (not that dissimilar to what happened to my heart on the track when I was actually in high school, when we’d walk around during football games eyeing cute boys…my heart exposed and waiting to be stepped on.)  I can’t remember the last time I felt this type of discomfort…yet here I am voluntarily.  The doctor in me tells me that I know that I am not actually having cardiac chest pain, that I am not going to die, and I try to go even faster.  I simultaneously feel like death and yet somehow more exhilarated, scared, and excited than I can remember feeling in a long time.  I recall some recent Kristin Armstrong posts I’ve been reading about discomfort…. about how learning to deal with and push through discomfort prepares you for life.  Then round 3 is done and I feel like I am flying on the 1.5 mile run back home from the track.  I might as well be Superwoman with a cape on.  It’s the most high I’ve ever felt during 1.5 miles.  I’m invincible.

Maybe next time I’ll go for 4 rounds.  Maybe one day I’ll get to the 10 rounds, maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll get faster, and maybe I won’t.  But in the meantime, I’m going to buckle up and take these big legs for a ride.


Running in Madrid at 6:30 am on a Sunday….and getting the entire Plaza Mayor to myself


Running in Barcelona…. with my big legs…..

***** I know that some of you will object to me calling my legs “big”…. because some of you have “bigger” legs and some of you have “smaller” legs…. It is not about whether or not my legs are actually “big”…. it is about how I have seen them for the last 30+years and how I see them now…..

*******As you may know from my last post, I had my first piece in print in Women’s Running Magazine in the June Edition.  For those who were not able to obtain the copy, this is my original piece and how I was initially told it would appear in the magazine.  The art director later changed it to a different version, which may have looked nicer on the page, but I don’t think that it flowed as well or read as well as my original piece, so I am giving you the original.



About Paria

Runner, mother, pediatrician, blogger

23 comments on “Buckle Up

  1. I continue to be amazed and in awe of your journey as a runner and a woman. Thank you for giving me the motivation to active again. I started running again and have had a pretty significant injury. Yet, I am committed to rehabbing and committed to exercising and an active lifestyle that includes running. Thanks for your inspiration! It has been a blessing to be your friend.

    • I hope you recover from the injury soon… thanks for you sweet comment and the share…. I miss you…. I hope you pass through LA at some point so we can sit down and catch up and have a heart to heart.

  2. I loved reading this Paria! How wonderful to run in Spain! You are rocking the running skirts too.
    I have run 19 marathons at a around a 10 minute pace and recently just started speed work. Speed work is so hard! Every Tuesday I hit the track or treadmill. The track speed work is fun to do with my 10 year old son. We time each other or race each other. I also just started the Hansons Marathon Method training program. It is challenging but I feel my body changing and getting stronger! Happy running to you ??♥️

    • Thanks Lisa… I’m going to try my best to hit the track once a week. And I just did my first Orange Theory Fitness class, which definitely incorporates some short sprints on the treadmill… will do that a couple times a month and see where it goes… 19 marathons!!! I’m in awe…. and flattered that I have some readers like you with so much running experience that still enjoy my blog! Thank you!

  3. You know I really hated speedwork when I first did it – which was by myself, using the runkeeper predetermined intervals. Once I started doing speed workouts with our running group I really came to love it. Part of it was probably the feeling that we were all “in the suck” together. But having others that were faster than me and coaxing me along – for whatever reason I actually respond pretty well to that. I had convinced myself that I was just a 10 minute miler, but speedwork gave me a new sense of strength. I’m glad you’re opening yourself to new experiences in running!

    Also I feel you on the legs thing — I too get really insecure about it, especially lately. I decided this week that I may never be able to stop negative thoughts about my legs (or any other part of my body) from creeping up. But if I see that happening, I’m going to take time out instead to be grateful for what they have done for me 🙂

    • I just do a weekly long Saturday run with my group. They do track work on Wednesday nights, but I unfortunately don’t get out of work in time in LA traffic to get there… I know it would help tremendously if I was doing it with them… I did just join strava, and so knowing that there are a few people from my running group that can see my times on there does actually also give me a little push too.

  4. YESSSS. So much YES! I posted a photo on instagram recently about my “big runner legs” which others would object to, as well, so I completely know what you mean. But those legs are what take me 26.2 miles at a time and those legs are what allow me to run mile repeats at 6:15 pace sometimes (something I never thought I’d be able to do) so how can I not love them and appreciate them?

    When I started running, I ran the same pace for every run for YEARS on end. Finally I entered the world of speedwork and was amazed at how the body adapts. Yasso 800s are actually my favorite speed workout of all time. I do mine on the treadmill (because…I’m crazy?) and I feel like the miles just fly by. They’re long enough to feel like serious work but short enough that you can see a break just ahead which keeps you going. I totally understand your perfectionist mentality – but just know, you WILL get faster. You just will. And like you said — it doesn’t really matter either way! But you will. 🙂

    • I see your legs as long and lean… as a matter of fact, I did see that IG post of yours and think that you haven’t seen big legs if you think yours are big… It’s all in our heads… Thanks for the encouragement:)

  5. I loved all your Spain IG pictures and looked like a fabulous trip. I was waiting to see what you wrote about. Like you, I have really muscular legs and I get a lot of comments about them. Sometimes I have felt self conscious about them but I have come to appreciate all that they allow me to do. Strong legs are the foundation for a strong body. I have had similar feelings on doing speed work in the past. Look forward to seeing where your journey takes you. Love your post as always!

    • You know I’ve noticed your muscular many a times…you know, the ones that have helped you complete numerous triathlons…. Thanks for your comments as always.

  6. Fantastic, honest, encouraging post!! What a journey! And you nailed it with the “Superwoman” feeling after succeeding in challenging yourself / pushing yourself through discomfort – the best!

  7. Bonjour from Paris Paria! Merci for your post- loved reading it 🙂 beautiful pics of your running mananas en Espana- que bien!
    My partner has been a runner for 20 years and has been my mentor for the past year as I became a runner myself:-) speed workouts went without saying as I trained for 10k races and half marathon! a few thoughts:
    – I love/hate speed workouts- the short 30s/30s 15 times or the 300m 12 times …Hours before the session I hate it, during the session I hate it but after I feel so so proud I completed it and yes, I fly home too;-)
    – they are shorter sessions so great to fit in at lunch or after work/ before bath-dinner-homework routine
    – I have actually cried out of ‘discomfort’ during seesions and I ve given birth to 3 big babies!! I ve felt so discouraged by number of reps left…but I ve learned to break numbers in half, in thirds, and that they eventually do get down to 0…builds mental strength
    – Like you, I also run to sort out my life at 6am…but having those session of extreme focus on speed (and surviving!!)is also very powerful to release stress – good to take brain breaks too!
    – those speed workouts burn so many calories in short time yay
    – and they really really work! I ve shaved off 5 min to my 10k race time in a year! you get to have a goal and see some proper progress- always fullfiling:-)
    – now i ve completed my 10k race 2 weeks ago I savour each and every second of my easy long runs – Garmin free! change in routine is one element that helps maintain the passion for running!
    so you re not alone!!! I ll be thinking of you next time I push my big fat legs ( I had that ballerina teacher too) to run fast:-)

    • Thanks Louise. I’m going to add in some workouts with the 30 second speed intervals… and the 300m 12 times as well… and yes, please do think of me when you are pushing your “big fat legs”… I’ll think of yours when I’m doing the intervals:)

  8. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with my thighs. Until I started working with Becky and she made them even bigger and stronger. Now I love them. I love what they can do. I love what they make me feel like, which is a super hero. With these big thighs, these big strong thighs, I am running as fast and sometimes faster than I did in my 30s. Thin should not be the goal. Strong is the goal.

    BTW, you know I love me some speedwork. Not while I’m actually doing it, but afterwards. Oh, those endorphins!

  9. Reading this post immediately made me think of this article in the NY Times I read last year, and started to mention this in my classes (and still do occasionally!), especially after I noticed that a lot of people do not know how to properly squat. When I started incorporating this into classes, I would hear the comments — I don’t want a big butt, I don’t want big thighs, I don’t want to hurt my back, blah, blah, blah.

    However, squats are a foundational exercise. More than just exercise, squats are what you need to go to the bathroom, to sit and stand up without using your hands, and to pick up something from the floor. Use your legs, not your back is a motto I think my students are tired of hearing from me, but such an important reminder. Not being able to properly squat is a first world problem that I’m reverse one student at a time.

    Link to article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/brawn-and-brains/?_r=0

    Keep your strong legs. Your brain needs them.

    • I love the “not being able to squat is a first world problem” that you are reversing one student at a time…. and you are so right…my brain does need my legs to remain strong! LOVE!!!

  10. A good read, as always! I suspect that I like your blog articles because I relate to so many things in there…the big legs, hating speed workouts, still enjoying the high after them, and so on.
    Have been out injured with a couple of things and finding out newer while investigations are on! Sometimes i think that at 52 I shouldn’t even get these tests done…obviously a lot could be wrong! And yet I’ve lived with all that.
    Good luck to you with your speed workouts! May you pick up pace as you train along! Keep running!

    • So sorry to hear that you are injured…. I hope all turns out ok and you are back to doing what you love soon… Thanks for your comments as always.

  11. Runner’s high after a speedwork session – awesome! I can only live it vicarioulsy through your wonderfully crafted post. By the way – your legs are hot! Wow. You should be proud, not beating yourself up about them. En fuego!

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