Today was 10 miles, last long run before the pre-race taper begins. Weather, personal drama, and illness have conspired to leave me a little bit on the undertrained side in my half-marathon program, so there were a lot more walking segments than I would have liked. However, I’m not going to stress about it or overdo it to try to make up for lost time/miles. Neither of us are concerned about finishing time—it’s Logan’s first long race and I never care when I finish so long as I do so—and we’re both plenty fit enough to stay upright for 13.1 miles without any problem whatsoever. Especially since I won’t be skating before I run on race day, like I always have to do for long runs!
(If we get done before practice is over, though, you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be driving over to the skate rink, still in my sweaty run clothes, to show off my finisher’s medal!!)
“People think I’m crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. Dostoyevsky had it right: ‘Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.’ Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is a magic in misery. Just ask any runner.”
The year is winding down and thus another racing season is coming to a close. It’s a time to reflect on the past year, the goals we accomplished and, some years, the goals that didn’t pan out as planned.
This has been one of those years for me. Between fracturing my sternum in a car accident, traveling on a hectic book tour schedule, doing nonprofit work in Kenya and getting married, it became difficult to fit a major race into my schedule. In 18 years of racing ultramarathons, I hadn’t gone a season without racing at least one. As the saying goes, “things happen for a reason,” and what seemed like a bust of a race season became a wonderful window of opportunities.
Back To The Basics
Without having a race to focus on, I wound up focusing on the basics—enjoying the simple act of running. I’d run without expectations of workouts or the need to achieve a benchmark in training. While these can be strong motivators, they can cause us to lose sight of the number one goal: the joy of moving our body. When we focus on this joy we notice the small things such as the sights and the sounds. As my buddy Micah True would say, “Running isn’t about winning. Running is about having fun.”
My advice: Occasionally leave the watch at home, forgo any agenda and pay attention to the little things.
Free of the confines of a rigid training schedule I found myself running more with friends and family. When I ran into friends on the trail, I joined them because I wasn’t worried about hitting specific paces. All of these opportunities have allowed me to be more of a social runner and connect with people while doing the sport I love.
My advice: Make time to run with a friend or family member even if they are slower or faster than you. Go on a group run or run in a new location. And don’t be afraid to change up your workout if you run into a friend.
Instead of donning a race bib, I volunteered at more events, working the aid station tables, helping at the finish line, pacing and crewing friends in 100-milers. Volunteering at races allowed me to see the sport from a different vantage point. That fresh perspective has helped me understand what is most important in running and, ultimately, in life.
My advice: Get out and volunteer at events, pace or crew someone in a race, and experience the sport from a new perspective.
Just because I didn’t have a major ultra-marathon to prepare for didn’t mean I lost interest in running long runs in the mountains.
I actually found myself doing just as many big days on the trail. With less focus on training, I picked routes based on the view or the location, rather than a training effect. With this free-form approach, my running became more adventurous and led to new experiences. A long run in the mountains became more of a journey than a training run.
My advice: Occasionally choose runs for reasons outside of what they do for your legs and lungs, and rather for your heart and soul.
Maybe things are not as they seem. Maybe those unmet goals and plans have a silver lining. Next time a season takes an unexpected turn, find those windows of opportunity. It’s not all about the race; it’s about the run.
I did it! I think it’s a pretty common characteristic of humans to forget or not realize what we are capable of. I always psych myself out about long runs. Will it feel awful? Will I want to quit? Will I even be successful?
Maybe. Probably. And if I just keep going, yes.
Today, I plugged in my head phones and went. At first it felt hard. Then the miles ticked by a little more quickly. They never flex by, but I really think my planned pit stop was super helpful. I knew I’d get a break and a snack!
I probably rested for about 10-15 minutes. My barista had a game show host voice. I wonder if he just tries out different voices on different days.
Can I also say that I do not recommend a soy white mocha? I should have just gotten the chai.
Then I ran home and was happy to get tiny breaks at stop lights. I did put in to place something that I read in Pam Reed’s book. Instead of thinking about how far the run was, I focused on small checkpoints (a traffic light, a certain road, 5 more blocks, etc.). It was pretty helpful. :)
And then I was done. And then I had a bathroom available to me. And that was awesome. Thank you, bowels, for holding it together for 13 miles, 1 marshmallow dream bar, and a short soy white chocolate mocha.