How I Got Over My Fear of Long Distance Running

January 4, 2016

When I ran my first 3 miles non stop after losing 50 pounds I cried the whole time. I still have the momentary out of body experience of seeing myself 7 plus years ago crying on the treadmill in utter disbelief that I was actually running and it felt good. Shortly before being diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) ,  Pulmonary Embolism (PE) and Pulmonary Hypertension, I was running 10 miles once a week. It was the most liberating experience I ever had. I can’t totally remember why I started running 10 miles, but I think it had to do with training for a mini Triathlon with See Jane Run. Typical me, I assumed I had to run at least 7 miles. I recall a friend telling me the running part was only 5 miles, however I had already trained for 10 so I just stuck with it.

I can clearly recall the first Saturday in April 2013 when I got up for my Saturday 10 miles run. It seemed normal and I felt okay as I walked during my warm up. However when I started my slow jog I felt weird, but did not realize the weirdness was related to breathing. As I continued running it was very clear to me that my breath was very shallow and I needed to stop running. I looked down at my left leg and noticed it was swollen. I did not seemed shocked about my leg being swollen because I complained to my medical doctor for the past 3 months about my leg swelling off and on with no medical diagnosis from him.

After calming myself from a panic attack I walked back home and immediately got on the internet to self-diagnose myself. In hindsight I realized that was the wrong thing t do. I contacted my Medical Doctor to explain what happened. He scheduled an urgent appointment which led to me going to the Emergency Room and being hospitalized. Everything happened so quickly. It was very emotionally traumatizing because I found out that if my Medial Doctor would have done a simple test when I first complained three months ago all of this could have been avoided. However he did not and I did every activity that a person with a new blood clot should not do. To know that I could have prevented clots from traveling to my lungs and damaging my nerves in my lungs and my right and left atrium was very hard for me. It is still very hard for me to talk about and every day I am truly grateful because I am lucky to not only be alive, but to be alive and thriving.

My fitness level changed and I was forced to be on a medication that I hated. Over time, I stopped the medication and began using alternative treatments to reduce my chances of having other blood clots and to improve blood circulation. I slowly began picking up the intensity level of my workouts and getting back to normal. I was just very afraid of running long distance. You name it I would do it, but I would not run more than 2 miles. I had a major fear of not being able to breathe even though my Cardiologist, Pulmonary Specialist and Hematologist all told me I would be okay.

How I Got Over My Fear of Long Distance Running

Workout selfie!

A friend asked me several months ago to do a half marathon with her in Miami on January 24, 2016. Everything in me wanted to say no because of my fears.  However being the tenacious person I am, I told myself that if I trained right and worked with my doctors to help ensure I would be okay I could do it. I am proud to say that I have been working hard and I feel great. I am very excited to complete my first half marathon (13.1 miles) in several weeks.

I have had some moments of reflection about my previous long distance runs and have made some changes to decrease my chances of injury and any new clots.  When I was running 10 miles a week I did not adequately ease my body into that distance. I created a lot of shock to my body that I can now say possibly contributed to my DVT. My training now consists of a one to two 3-5 mile runs with one 10 mile run a week. I also cross train, do weight training and stretch much more.

I also realized that I was not wearing the right shoes or insoles to run that distance. The tennis shoes I had were cross training shoes and not running shoes. I never realized how important the right workout shoes were. I actually have a prescription for a certain type of New Balance running shoe and insoles. I also have special socks. My feet feel amazing. The only pain I feel is when I forget to cut my toe nails.  I will be purchasing new shoes, insoles and socks next week. This will be the lucky shoes that I will run in.

I have also researched and put more energy into the  vegan nutrition meal planning and supplements for my training. I am not one to carb load the day before a long run, but I protein and (healthy) fat load, which works for me. This usually consists of  black lentils, quinoa and avocado with a protein drink the night before. The morning of my runs, I have either a pre-workout drink or a shot of espresso and I eat two Cliff Shot Bloks. I drink electrolyte enhanced water and have two to three shot blocks or drink a Vega Endurance pack every hour of my run. So far I am up to 10 miles and it takes me a little over 2 hours on a treadmill. My goal this week is to walk 12 miles. My recovery drink is by Vega as well. I make sure I drink it immediately after my run. Within 2 hours I make sure I have a meal similar to the night before, but with some leafy greens. I typically have to make myself eat because I am not hungry. However, later that evening I am famished. 😀

How I Got Over My Fear of Long Distance Running

My Pulmonary Specialist checks in with me often to make sure I am feeling good and properly nourishing myself. I did not admit to her on our last call that I can’t locate my favorite compression stocking. I am forced to purchase another pair as it is a bit scary to see my left leg a little swollen after my runs. However, my chest and my breathing are fine.

It has been on my heart to write about this because I believe that when we talk about our fears and challenges, we gain freedom and we help others. My weight loss journey, hiking, and the many challenges I have over come in life have all  taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I had to rewire my brain and tell myself the same thing with long distance running.  To anyone experiencing any health concerns I want to share with you that you don’t have to believe that your health conditions dictate what you can do. At any level of health you can find a way to do something, if you truly want it.


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Photo: EnJunana Canton


EnJunaya has been working as a clean eating and fitness coach since 2007. With a background as psychotherapist, she uses the tools from her training to engage, partner and coach clients on nourishing their bodies through whole plant-based foods and exercise. Find out more about her work on her website and Youtube channel.


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