When Running Sucks
|July 11, 2011||Posted by Lauren under Marathon Training, Running|
If you’re new to running or have never seriously trained for a race of any type, there are two truths about the sport that you may not know. And since I don’t want anyone who reads my blog to think that running is just something I do all the time without thought or problem, I figured I’d share them with you today.
Running Truths People Don’t Always Tell You
1.) Runners don’t always listen to their bodies, especially where training for a race is concerned.
I know you hear all the time that you should “listen to your body” and not push it if it really doesn’t feel up to being pushed. It’s important to respect your body this way if you want to avoid burnout/injury, and if you’re setting yourself up to live a healthy lifestyle. But you know the honest truth? When it comes to training (especially for distance races), a lot of times that line of thinking goes right out the window. It’s important to note that I am not talking about pushing yourself through an injury here, though many runners (myself included) have stubbornly done so (never with good results).
2.) Sometimes running sucks.
Sorry, there’s no way around that one. When you first start running, it’s pretty common to look at those around you who have been running for years and think that it all comes so easily to them. So you start believing that you just need to keep running, and once you’ve been doing it for enough time, it’ll come effortless to you too. Well I hate to tell ya – but that’s never going to happen. Yes, running will get easier. You’ll have more and more runs that feel effortless, or will at least be fun. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to avoid all future sucky runs from now until the end of time. All runners have bad days. It comes with the territory. But a bad run (or two or 12) is not the end of the world. You just have to hope that if you push through, tomorrow will be better.
This is actually a Nike shirt. I kind of want it.
Now that I’ve started you off on such a positive note this Monday morning, I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this. And if you’re guessing I had a crappy run that I’m going to tell you about, you are correct! Except, I figured I’d take a slightly different approach. I’ve talked before about the mental side of running, and the other day Becky wrote a post about what she thinks about when she runs. So I figured I’d give you all a little glimpse into the HOTR-mind when it comes to pushing through tough runs.
The Mental Game of Running: Pushing through a Tough Run
Yesterday I woke up bright and early to get in my first official long run of marathon training. I wanted to go somewhere between 10 and 12 miles, and since I’ve done a couple of 10-milers recently, I figured it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to push for the longer side. I had my standard pre-run breakfast of toast with peanut butter/honey and a little coffee, filled up my handheld, and got out the door.
The problem – somewhere in between waking up and finishing that toast, I started to feel incredibly nauseous. And the only thing I wanted to do was to curl right back up in bed and sleep the feeling away. Unfortunately, every minute I waited meant the run would be that much hotter. So I finally just bit the bullet and got out there, hoping that after a few easy miles the feeling would go away.
I’m sure at this point you can guess that it didn’t – well, not for about 6 or 7 miles anyway. And as I ran, things just went from bad to worse. My head started hurting, my legs were heavy and my attitude was pretty pathetic. By 3 miles in, I was ready to call it quits. So why didn’t I? What was the point of continuing to torture myself? In order to truly understand my craziness why I kept going, here is the basic flow of my thoughts through those 11.5 miles.
1.) Use the “wait and see” approach.
When I first started out, everything felt off. My body just did not want to cooperate with my plan to run. But in my mind I thought, “You just need to warm up for a little bit. You’re just tired, and your body isn’t used to moving yet.” So I kept pushing. I told myself I needed to give it at least a couple of miles to feel warmed up, and hopefully then it would get better.
2.) Start rationalizing.
When runs feel especially awful, one of the first things I do is try to figure out why. It’s always a little easier to handle feeling crappy when you have an explanation for feeling that way. So yesterday I wracked my brain for reasons, trying to find something to blame my need to throw up on. Unfortunately I found none – I hadn’t stayed up late the night before, I hadn’t had any alcohol or anything bad to eat (just good old pasta and veggies), it wasn’t especially hot or humid out that morning, I had been drinking water, etc. The problem with not finding a reason? It just made me even more frustrated and ready to quit.
3.) Bargain with yourself.
As I mentioned above, by 3 miles in I was ready to call it a day. I had given myself time to warm-up, tried to figure out the cause of my issues, and nothing had changed. I was still feeling just as bad as I had when I started running. But instead of packing it in right there, I told myself to try just one more mile. One more mile and I could stop, stretch and then head back in the direction of home if I wanted to. And to make it even easier on myself, for this “last” mile, I could run as slow as I wanted. All I had to do is put one foot in front of the other and just keep shuffling along (“Everyday I’m shufflin’!” …sorry, couldn’t resist).
4.) Use logic to reason with yourself.
At this point, you know I got to that 4th mile and didn’t call it quits. I can assure you it’s not because I suddenly developed some super-human strength or willpower. It’s because I logically talked myself out of it. At mile 3, my thinking was that I’d pack it in and get up early Monday morning to try again. Seems like the rational thing to do, right?? But then I realized – chances are, I’d feel even worse on Monday morning. My plans for the rest of Sunday afternoon involved sitting outside in the sun. Not exactly good preparation for a long run. The choice suddenly was between “keep pushing through and feel gross today” or “Go home. Sit out in the sun, and then try again bright and early tomorrow morning, with the risk that you’d feel even worse.” Since I couldn’t stomach the thought of feeling even worse than I was at that moment, I figured I was better off if I just kept going.
5.) Find inspiration somewhere else.
By now, my attitude was worse than it’s been in a long time. I kept trying to think positively about it….okay, so that’s a lie. My attitude was so bad that I was beyond even trying to think positively. I knew it was going to be a crappy run regardless, so why waste the energy lying to convince myself how great this was?? If I wanted to find the motivation to keep going, I had to look elsewhere. Fortunately, that day my path happened to cross over the running course for the Ironman 70.3 RI several times (hard to avoid in a small city). For those of you who don’t know, those athletes were running further than I was (13.1 miles) after already swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56. Pretty hardcore. And chances are, they were feeling just a little more tired than I was at that moment. Yet they kept going. And so I did too.
6.) Escape through song.
I’ve written before about how I think music is one of the best tools to get through a tough workout or a race. And sometime around mile 7, I was beyond trying to bargain with myself. I was beyond thinking at all, actually. Fortunately, it was right at that moment when one of my new favorite running songs (okay, favorite everything song!) came on: “Good Life” by One Republic. So I turned up the volume and blasted that baby over and over and over again. I sang (quietly) along with the song until I finally found myself believing it. It is a good life. And running is a gift, even on days when it doesn’t feel like it.
Finally, when all else fails…
7.) Tell yourself to shut up, suck it up, and just run.
I know that’s a little harsh. But seriously – sometimes it’s the only way to keep yourself going. There came a point yesterday when I finally took a step back and realized I was being a big wimp. I wasn’t actually sick, or injured, or hurting in any way. I was just feeling gross and tired and didn’t feel like running. The harsh reality is that when you’re training for a race, chances are you’re going to have quite a few days where you just don’t feel like it. But just like with any other commitment, you have to take the good with the bad. And committing means that you push through those bad times.
I know this post was a little more negative than normal, but I believe it’s just as important to talk about the bad runs as the good. Not every day of your life is going to be rainbows and butterflies – and your running won’t be that way either. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the tough runs. In fact, it’s those awful runs and awful races that show us who we really are as runners. If you want to grow and improve, sometimes all you have to do is embrace the suck, and just keep pushing through.
At the very least, the bad runs made the good ones that much better. And when everything falls into place on a run – when I feel effortless and fast and like I could run forever – well, those are the runs that I live for. Those are the runs that make all those other awful times worth it.