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Taking the Good with the Bad

Anyone who has been in a relationship with running for a period of time knows that you don’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. Being in a lifelong relationship with the sport means that you are committed to a life of ups and downs. Sometimes the “up” phases (or down phases) can last for months – other times the rollercoaster ride is all part of the day to day.

It won’t be any surprise to you all when I say that my relationship with the marathon training part of running has been in a bit of a “down” phase this summer. While I’m still committed to toeing the line in DC at the end of this month, something has changed within me (name that musical) this summer. For whatever reason, I’m just not loving the process of training as much as I have in the past. It’s not the marathon itself that I’m struggling with – it’s the training. (Yes, I know you can’t get to one without the other.) As a result, I’ve already started dreaming up new goals for after this race is over. (Something I plan to talk more about in a future post).

Despite a marathon training cycle that has been a bit lackluster, my summer of running has not been all bad. In fact, I’ve experienced some pretty high highs – starting with a new 5K PR when I least expected it and finishing with two relays within a few weeks of each other. For all my problems with sucky runs, overall, running has definitely made for a very fun summer.

LB Mt Hood

But more than anything this summer, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. To appreciate the gift of the great runs, and to tough it up during the bad runs. I know this is all just the nature of this sport.

The thing that’s a little harder to accept is how that can change from one day to the next.

Last week was the perfect example of that. On Wednesday morning, I found myself with a very limited amount of time to run. I realized I could squeeze in 5 miles – if I kept a speedy pace. After a moderate warm-up mile, I figured that since I was going so short anyway, I might as well turn my run into a bit of a workout. I really wasn’t sure what my legs were up for, so I just dropped the pace below 7:00 minutes/mile and started running. I ended up getting faster with each mile (finishing up at 6:34) and ended feeling like I could have run faster and further. That day, I was over-the-top in love with running.

A similar thing happened again on Friday evening. Do you ever get the feeling that if you could just run fast enough, wings will sprout from your shoes and you’ll fly away? (No, just me?) Well that’s how I felt on Friday. The plan was to just go out for a run and not think about pace. After about a mile, however, the only thing I wanted to do was run fast. Since this doesn’t exactly happen everyday, I figured I might as well embrace it. All I wanted was to feel like I was flying. I was pushing the pace, but I wasn’t tired. I was floating in the clouds. It was one of those runs that left me thinking – THIS. This is what running is all about!

And then the weekend came. I slogged through a recovery run on Saturday, cutting it shorter than my original goal because my legs just weren’t feeling well. And on Sunday, when my goal was to run “just” 13 – 15 miles, I woke up with a head that was not in the game. Despite my awesome runs from earlier in the week AND the cooler temperatures, going out and running for a couple of hours did not sound the slightest bit appealing. But the miles had to be run, so I dragged my butt out the door, thinking that if I could run 20 the week before without any real problem, I could certainly run 15.

Unfortunately I had already set myself up to fail before I even started running. And even though I really focused on changing my attitude at the beginning of the run, my body was just not cooperating. My breathing felt way too heavy, my heart was racing, and my legs were filled with lead. Why, when I was running a much slower pace, did my body feel like it was working harder than it did when I was running sub-7:00s earlier in the week? Why was this cut-back run feeling so much harder than my 20 miles did the week before?

IMG_1888.jpgIf someone had been following with a camera on my long run, I’m sure this is what I would’ve looked like.

I never did settle in or find my groove during the run. Instead, highlights of the morning included: forcing myself to run for an hour before taking a break, stopping in front of a random stranger’s house and half-heartedly pretending to stretch out my tight calves while I stewed about the situation, and tricking myself into taking the long way home – which gave me 5 more miles for a total of 13.1 for the day.

I know we’ve all been there. Sometimes, for no real reason, running is tougher than we want it to be. But other times, everything falls into place and you feel like you could run forever. Part of being a runner means learning to take the good with the bad. Not every run is going to feel effortless, just like not every run is going to be torturous.

This summer I must sound like a yo-yo – one day I’m talking about how tough running is, and the next, I’m loving it.

BP_LB_Blessing

But that’s the reality of the phase I’m in right now. I’ve gone through long stretches of time where every run feels great, and I’m more in love with the sport than ever. But sometimes my motivation and desire to run changes every day, and I can’t really figure out why. All I can do is take things one run at a time, knowing that each time I lace up my shoes, I’m stronger for it.

Despite that, I can admit that it’s not really fun to feel this way – I wish I could ride the high of running forever. And sometimes the fact that I don’t actually makes me feel like an imposter. Because real runners love running all the time, right??

Sure. And dark chocolate doesn’t have any calories…

42 Responses to Taking the Good with the Bad

  1. name that musical – Wicked!

    I totally agree. I don’t think its realistic to like anything all the time. With tennis, I went through some ups and downs – points where I wanted to quit and points where I felt like I was invincible. Same thing with medical school – there have been really tough points where I hate my life (step 1 of the boards) and times where I’ve truly enjoyed myself and felt like I was in my element.

    For me, at least, whenever I start not liking something, I got back to its “bare bones.” With tennis, when I really wanted to quit at one point, I stopped focusing on winning and losing and on simple things like watching the ball all the way into my strings or enjoying the humm that comes with a really long rally where you cant miss.

    It sounds like you’re doing that though – I love it when I feel fast like you did last week! Doesn’t happen much so you gotta go with it when you do, right?!

    Anyways, I think you’ll have a great time at MCM anyways – you have a great and realistic attitude towards running!
    Meggie´s last post ..Good Cookies

    • I love the part of your comment about going back to the bare bones of the sport. I think that can be a great reminder of why you fell in love with it in the first place – and all those things you still do love about it.

  2. EXACTLY! One of my mantras is “not every run will be a good one.”

    “Something has changed within me” also resonates – ever since my injury last summer, I’ve looked at running with a suspicious, sidelong glance. For something I loved so much to be so destructive to my body caused me to lose trust. I am having a hard time “letting go” and throwing myself into race training fully – it’s a feeling akin to being burned by a man. This post reminds me that every relationship has its ups and downs :)
    Kate (Embarrassment of Riches)´s last post ..Scenes from my weekend

    • I completely know what you mean! When I first started running, everything was magical and I ran with abandon and without fear. But as soon as I experienced my first major injury, all of that changed. I was more cautious in my approach to running and felt like I was always waiting for that injury (or a new one) to pop up again. It was really hard to move on from that – but the feeling does fade eventually. You may never go back to your pre-injury ignorance, but I think that’s okay. I think with a little more time and possibly a few confidence-building races, you’ll find that it’s easier to let go.

      But yes, it definitely is a little like being burned by a man! Hopefully it’ll start treating you well again soon!

  3. Wicked :D Love that musical.

    Thanks for this post! I think we often forget that goals and interests change, and that is okay =)
    Krissy @ Shiawase Life´s last post ..Happy October!

  4. I think “real” runners keep coming back after the hard days. If it was easy then everyone would do it, it’s those hard days that make runners such amazing people. At least that’s what I tell myself :)
    Lauren´s last post ..Watch out for the Walnuts

  5. Great post. I can totally relate! Sometimes after “great” runs, your body (and mind) have to recover before they are ready for another great run. The fact that you ran 13 when you weren’t feeling it shows your dedication–something you should really be proud of.
    Lisa´s last post ..BQ, baby!!!!

  6. I totally have been there! I don’t run marathons, but I do run regularly for exercise, and its a constant up and down. It can be frustrating to do so well one day, then set out the next day only to feel like poo. Its the super fast and successful runs that keep me coming back for more though!
    Betsy´s last post ..Football Food: Soy and Cola Braised Pork Shoulder

  7. Oh Lauren, I love you and I love this post. We’ve both been running a LONG LONG time so it’s important to know that not everyday can be glorious running days and sometimes running can be well, really really hard. I appreciate your honesty in this post. It is so refreshing to read that someone who is as NASTY good as you are can feel the same way I do sometimes. I’m a big fan of absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe after this race you can take a month off before you start training for Boston.

    Anyway I just want to say thank you for this post. You are absolutely not an imposter- rather you are a real ROLE MODEL because running isn’t easy. And if it’s sunshines and rainbows for people everyday then they aren’t pushing themselves hard enough. As I always like to say, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” This reminds me that I still have to write my post on my least favorite running quote “Running is boring.” This post proves that running is not boring. It’s HARD.

    I know you will bounce back from this and dominate your 10/30 marathon! Know I will be there in spirit!!!! XO
    LIZZY´s last post ..A Busy Month

    • You already know how I feel about you and this comment but I want to add – please write that post!! Running is anything but boring – even the ones that last for hours and hours.

  8. I felt that way a lot this summer, granted I just started running in April. It always felt like one day I would have an awesome run and then the next time my husband and I went out I would struggle, barely able to finish.

    That messed with my head a lot, but I am trying to not let it bother me. I tell my husband a lot, “I am not always going to have a great day running” and I think that is helping put it in perspective.

    I went through the same things as a swimmer, so I should have known that it would happen with running too but I didn’t think it would happen this early in my running career. Oh well, I still love it!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..A PDR and Gu

    • Yes – I think it’s so important to remind ourselves that we’re not always going to have great days running! (though I’m admittedly not always good at this) Life isn’t great everyday, so why should we expect running to be any different?

  9. You are such a smart girl and such a great writer. I love this post and honestly don’t have anything to add except “I agree.” Really great post, Lauren.
    Ali´s last post ..Ali Turns 1

  10. The real runners take the good with the bad and keep trucking along no matter what! Why? Because those good runs feel so good that it powers us through the bad runs! And leaves us wanting more good runs!

    Great post, as always!
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad´s last post ..A 2-Week Hiatus

  11. Haha, I feel like you read my mind while writing this post! I definitely have my ups and downs with running…this week has been good so far, but last Thursday…oof. I just could NOT get myself in the right state of mind for my tempo run (sounds like you were feeling something similar during your LR…). I eventually finished, but never really felt awesome about it, just sort of “meh”. But then on Saturday, I ran with a friend and ended my miles feeling super positive. I wish I knew what makes some runs great and others sucky :/ Like you said, I guess that’s why we keep heading out there day after day – those good runs eventually cancel out the bad ones. At least that’s what I tell myself!
    Megan (The Runner’s Kitchen)´s last post ..Grete’s Gallop, Year #5

  12. I love this, Lauren. Well, I don’t love that you’re having a rough training cycle! I just love this post’s message. I love running, but it really does suck sometimes. But I think bad runs or bad training cycles really help make us appreciate the good ones.

    I also think it’s important to note that bad runs don’t define us as runners. One of the reasons I’ve been able to run so far into my pregnancy is because I don’t throw in the towel after bad runs; I just hope the next one is better and it usually is.

    Great post, Lauren :)
    Jen´s last post ..NJ baby shower

    • You are certainly my pregnancy-running inspiration! I really hope that I’m able to have the same attitude about running and can continue doing it as well as you have when (if?) I’m eventually pregnant.

  13. Ummm, amen! You are telling MY story right now (minus the sub-7 minute part)! I’ve been in such a funk, but some days I have really awesome runs and I think I’ve snapped out of it… only to cut my weekend long run short a few days later. Gahhh! Chin up — we’ll be back soon, stronger than ever!
    Alyssa´s last post ..From Stationary Spectating to Mobile Spectating

  14. It sounds like you’re getting used to staying in an anaerobic zone and having a hard time pulling back to just aerobic training. Likewise I was having a blast running fast in the spring, but when marathon training kicked in I had to slow it back down. I had some dreadful long runs. It just takes a while to make the transition back to endurance running.
    You should look for a track club after the marathon and do more speed — you seem to really be good at it!
    Rebecca´s last post ..Charlie and Me

  15. I can relate. The last few days have been rough when it comes to my runs. This occurs every now and then and then I find a nice break helps or a new pair of running shoes, or an inspirational story by other runners, etc. Chin up : )

  16. i have totally had my ups and downs with running too. i’m glad to hear i’m not the only one! one day i ran 11 miles like it was no big deal but then the next, i was struggling with 5 miles haha
    Haley @ Health Freak College Girl´s last post ..Real Foods Corn and Rice Thins Review + 5 Thing Survery

  17. Defying Gravity! One of my favorite running songs in fact.

    Whenever I have a bad run, I tell myself that it means that the next one is going to be really great. Helps me get through it. I think it’s important to note that all runners, no matter how fast or in shape they are, have bad runs. It just happens.
    Lee´s last post ..October Sky

    • Mine too! Actually, it’s one of my favorite all the time songs (the real version, not the Glee one – though I’ll admit that’s pretty good too…)

  18. such a great post, Lauren. Sometimes I think those awesome runs are definitely what keeps me going during the crappier ones. I’m sorry you’ve been feeling so “meh” lately though. It must be so frustrating. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I hated running and didn’t do it. No disapointment with injuries or not PRing, no having crappy runs. But then I think of how many great things I’ve experienced in life because of running. You know? it makes it all worth it. Though, for the record, i still hate injuries and running is kind of pissing me off at the moment!
    Kelly´s last post ..Two Years Ago and an Update

    • Exactly! Whenever I question why the heck I put myself through all this crap, I think about all the awesome things running has given me – and all the joy I’ve gotten out of it over the years. It totally makes it all worth it.

      Fingers crossed you are injury-free soon!

  19. I love this post. I love those runs that just feel amazing and like I could go on forever. Those are the runs that make me love running. Or maybe I love the whole process, because without the bad runs would the good ones feel as amazing? So as much as I wish every run was amazing maybe that just isn’t a possibility because them everything would just start to seem…mediocre. Hope you start to feel excited again!
    Celia´s last post ..the evolution of my taste in shoes

    • I guess it’s like winter in Northeast – we hate it and complain about it, but without it, summers wouldn’t be quite as sweet.

  20. I’ve been feeling the same way, thanks for posting. As my marathon gets closer and closer, my pace seems to be slowing more and more. It’s super frustrating. I’m running through it, but the process/character building is all about letting go. Not easy at all!

    • I’m sorry you’ve also been struggling with this! Hopefully once you start tapering and your legs are more rested, the speed will start to come back.

  21. Running is such a metaphor for life. Keep plugging away. Goes up. Goes down. High highs. Low lows. Take it as it comes :)
    XLMIC´s last post ..Not everything tastes great when it sits on a Ritz…

  22. HI. I tried to read all of the comments so I don’t repeat anything, but it doesn’t seem like anyone picked up on the simple notion that your lows are coming after your highs which simply means you need to not expect so much after those amazing runs. Maybe you need better refueling, additional rest, etc to squeak out those long runs. I know you’ve been a runner much longer than I, but our bodies change over the years and this may be one of them. Doing long runs after 2 hard days and a 3rd of easy miles may just have taken you to the limit. Try a new schedule, adding more sleep or recovery methods (ice, epsom salt soaks, rolling, etc) and see if you don’t see some improvement. Good luck!

    • Hi Cyndi – thanks for adding this perspective. I think that could have something to do with it. I know my legs were definitely feeling more tired than I expected on Saturday (the day after my speedy 7 miles). I tend to expect a lot of my body, and try to rationalize when I should/should not feel tired (Sunday being one of those times I tried to convince myself I should not be)…and we all know that’s not really how things work.

      That being said, I think the bigger issue is probably my training as a whole. I haven’t really gone into depth about it in any post yet, but my training for this marathon has been a bit unconventional. So my highs/lows can be a combination of a lot of things, including the fact that this training that I’m doing just isn’t working. It’s been a bit of an experiment of sorts and I’m definitely planning on making tweaks to my training after the marathon, and doing things very differently next time around.

      Thanks again for the insight, and for the reminder to change things up a bit!

  23. I think all runners can relate to this post. No runner’s high would be the same without the hard work, low points, and challenges that come in between. I think that is part of what makes this sport so great. Just like you have to push through and endure the tough/painful points of a race in the middle miles before getting to a finish line, we also have to work through challenges in training bouts. Pushing through the tough times is part of what makes the successes, new PRs, great runs, etc so worth it.

    Good luck getting through this rough patch. You are a very talented runner and a dedicated and determined individual. Don’t give up, because I’m confident that those great runs will come with time and patience. You have had many high points this summer. Congrats on the 5k PR! Focus on the memories of those high points and the goal of having more of them as you work through this harder time in your running career.

  24. I completely agree! Sometimes running comes so easily and other times I really have to work for it. But it’s those hard runs that make the good runs that much more awesome.
    Sarah´s last post ..5 Days

  25. [...] anything even remotely related to running on this blog.  As Lauren recently wrote on her “Taking the Good with the Bad” Post,  “Anyone who has been in a relationship with running for a period of time knows [...]

  26. I’m glad I’m not alone in this feeling right now! Pass the dark chocolate over here please.
    Jessica @ Early AM Runner´s last post ..PT Fail

  27. [...] got a case of the Runner downs.  Ironically enough, two of my never miss their post bloggers, Lauren and Liz, neither of whom I know but would love to run with, recently wrote about the same things [...]

  28. [...] runs are not exclusive to pregnancy. Like a wise woman said, when it comes to running you have to take the good with the bad. And until the bad days outnumber the good (or my midwife says to stop), I'm going to keep on [...]

  29. I think it’s those runs where you feel like your feet are going to grow wings and make you fly away are why we keep coming back. And it’s the bad runs that make those runs so much better. As much as I love marathon training, sometimes it can get a little old…especially when you’ve had such great runs such as Hood to Coast (or any relay, in your case…). The feeling of running and RACING is so different than the normal day to day runs…and the more I race, the more I feel like I want that feeling and want to be out there and running fast and enjoying every moment of it. But getting to that point requires work and some bad runs now and then. The love love LOVE feeling will return, no doubt about that…because you’re a runner whether you feel like an imposter every now and then.

    I’m interested to hear what your future goals might be…as long as they still include being my running buddy in Boston!
    Susan´s last post ..2011 Twin Cities Marathon Race Report

  30. Lauren you are so wise. Hearing you talk about running is like listening to myself think, except in a more coherent and articulate way! I always need to remind myself that running can make me feel so upset or frustrated or disappointed for the SAME reasons it can make me feel so incredible and happy. You hit the nail on the head so well with this. We can’t always expect running to bring us complete joy and have the best run of our lives every time we hit the road…it just doesn’t work that way, and it’s not about how many bad runs you have but whether you get up the next morning and just try again.
    Corey´s last post ..Mohawk Hudson Marathon Goals

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