Getting My Head Straight
|April 4, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
Lately I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the same out and back section of road. Every weekend it’s the same. Head out along the road that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand, get to the turning point, and then head back the way I came.
Not the road…and clearly not a recent photo
I’ll be honest with you – it can get pretty monotonous. I know every stretch, every turn, exactly how far I have to go before I can head back toward home. The scenery is always the same and the hills are never changing. Sometimes the way out seems to drag on forever and I spend the entire run counting down the minutes until I can finally turn around.
I really make it sound so appealing, don’t I? I know what you’re all thinking — if I find it so monotonous, why the heck do I keep submitting myself to this form of torture?
Because the truth is that running along the same road week after week provides consistency. And for most of this training cycle, that consistency has been the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to make it through long runs.
I don’t really know why, but confidence is something that I have really struggled with this time around. Whereas in the past, I sometimes failed to give certain runs the respect they deserved [“Oh, it’s ‘only’ 15 miles. I don’t need to worry about silly things like getting enough sleep, fueling, carrying water, or really think about the fact that I have to run for 2 hours without stopping!”], I now find myself with the complete opposite problem. Every single long run just seems so intimidating. I sit there in the morning stressing about the distance. Psyching myself out before I even take one step.
This all culminated before my recent 18-miler. I was so freaked out about the run that I kept putting it off…and almost backed out of doing it altogether. This was not your typical pre-long run anxiety — you know that mix of excitement and nerves that comes from not quite knowing how your body is going to feel that day. A feeling that boosts your adrenaline and can actually help propel you through the long run, because ultimately you’re just excited about the challenge and can’t wait to see how it’ll go.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this fear was quite literally crippling. That one run seemed like such an insurmountable challenge that I was ready to give up on VCM right then and there. Forget spring marathons…forget marathon training at all. I would focus on shorter races. Or maybe I would just retire from racing. Clearly I’m not cut out for it.
Believe me, I realize how silly and over-dramatic this all sounds. Typing it out now only makes it seem more ridiculous. But in the moment, I just couldn’t get out of my own head. I somehow forgot about one very important detail: this whole running thing is not my career. It’s not even a side job. It’s merely a hobby that I enjoy…and one at which I sometimes pretend to be mildly talented.
So after a few days (no, seriously…days) of freaking out about this run — a run that no one was forcing me to do or even cared if I completed — I finally was able to talk myself down from the ledge. By telling myself of two things:
1.) All you need to do is run ONE MILE at a time. That’s it. Get out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and run. If you only make it 5 or 10 or 15 miles, who cares. Just run one mile. And when you complete that one, run another. You don’t know how you’re going to do until you try.
2.) You finished a run along this same road last week. You did it before and you can do it again. All you have to do is run one more mile out…and then you can turn around. What’s one mile? Nothing.
These two tiny assurances completely turned the run around for me. As I mentioned in my last post, that 18 miles ended up being the best run I’ve had in a long time. And by far the best long run of this current training cycle. It’s amazing what happens when you stop being a crazy mental-case runner and start cutting yourself a little slack. Who would’ve thought…
I can’t say that the self-doubt has completely gone away. It’s still work to get my head straight — to keep my confidence up. But now, when I feel myself getting nervous about a run or a workout, I try to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just running. All I can do is go out and give it my best shot. And instead of focusing on what I can’t do or paces that I’m not hitting, I repeat two simple lines over and over again to get me through a particularly difficult or intimidating stretch.
I AM STRONG.
I AM ABLE.
Six words of reassurance. Six words that silence the doubt. Six words that are helping me keep my head straight…most of the time, anyway.