Three weeks of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon complete, leaving 103 days until race day! I have 15 weeks left to train.
A friend who just started running made a comment recently, stating that I make it look easy. While I understand and appreciate the pat on the back, let me make it clear: THIS IS NOT EASY FOR ME.
Running remains a challenge for me, both physically and mentally.
Following the marathon training plan remains a challenge for me: logistically, physically, mentally, everything-ly.
Every step I run is hard-fought, an epic-battle.
All that drama aside, yes, some days look and feel easier than others.
Some days the sun shines and breeze blows just the right amount. The temperatures fall on the just cool enough side of the mercury line and the shade of the trees stretches over the road in just the right way. My running clothes fit just right, not too tight or too loose. My shoes don’t even register as being on my body; thinking about your shoes or your feet while running ruins a run. My running gear — iPhone, Spotify playlist, Runkeeper app, fuelbelt for a longer run — sits and fits properly, doesn’t bounce around, and doesn’t go on the tech-fritz mid-run. The sweat stays out of my eyes. My glasses, sun- or prescription-to-see, don’t fog up. My back doesn’t spasm, my hip (a new ailment!) doesn’t throb, and my not 100% foot, injured this past October, doesn’t ache. I run with a smile on my face, and finish with breath left to breathe.
My neighbor commented once, as I finished a rather lengthy, end-with-a-smile, qualifies-as-good run. “You smile a lot when you run. It must come easy for you.”
No. Even when I’m smiling, I’m fighting the doubt in my own head. I’m thinking too hard about how much work I have left to do before I can possibly run 26.2 miles in one run. I’m worried — big time — about that twinge I just felt in my back. Was that just a twinge or is my back about to give out again? Should I slow down? Speed up? Is my posture okay? Am I making it worse? While sometimes I manage to escape into the silence of my own mind or in the melody of a good song, most often I fight the voices inside my own head that tell me I’m not good enough, that I’ll never be good enough, that these goals of mine don’t make any sense, that others watch and wait on the sidelines, willing me to fail so they can laugh and point.
And that’s a good run.
Imagine what happens when I endure a mediocre or, like yesterday, awful run. A run with bricks in my calves. A run with a butcher knife wedged in my right hip. A run in which I can’t manage to calm my breathing, to get it steady and productive. A run in which, mid-stride, my back sends four or five spasms straight up my spine, causing me to see stars and nearly collapse on the side of my neighborhood street. Imagine having to stop a six mile run at mile two, knowing the choice makes sense from a physical standpoint — but causes even more point on the mental side of things. Will choking on this run ruin my entire training plan? Does bonking on today’s run mean that I won’t be able to run the 26.2 when it really counts? Am I not cut out for this? Why do I even bother? I’m such a loser. And on. And on. And on.
Yesterday’s not-all-that-long long run of six miles ended poorly. I nearly bit the dust just after the two mile mark as my back decided to end any hope of struggling through the full six miles. I begrudgingly shuffled my way up the hill to my house, pressed stop on my RunKeeper app, and bit the inside of my cheek to fend off any tears. I hate quitting a scheduled run. I hate that my physical ailments still limit what I can do on occasion. As soon as I quit, I begin to fear not being able to run or walk or move again, and I get caught in a cycle of worst case scenario, what-if, unhealthy thoughts — instead of just seeing it as one step in a journey of thousands, instead of focusing on the bigger picture.
So yes, running is hard for me. As much as I want to portray the always happy, always eager runner, days like yesterday make me want to throw out (all of) my running shoes, never to lace up and hit the streets again.
But I will.
Today I will rest. I will hit the foam roller this evening, working on that stubborn knot in my right hip and the bricks in my calves. I will slather Arnica on my lower back before settling down with a book. Come tomorrow, I will lace up my shoes and head back out, fighting the voices in my head and the twinges in my back.
Any number of reasons. Maybe mainly because I said I would — run a marathon. Or maybe mainly because I need to — run in general. Either way, when you see me run by or when you catch the RunKeeper update on twitter after I finish a run, know that I went out and fought for every step I ran — and won.
Are you training for Pittsburgh or another spring marathon? How’s it going?