As I look back on my training log from 2017, I can’t help but re-live some of the best and worst running memories of the year. Looking back through each and every run, marathon training in particular, has been really eye opening for me. It is so interesting to see how runs of the exact same distance vary so greatly. One 16 miler in particular, I distinctly remember feeling euphoric afterwards. So happy that I thought I might explode. While another 16 miler just a few weeks before, felt like a completely overwhelming mental and physical challenge.
Why is it that some runs, on the same trails, same days of the week, same time of day, and with the same fueling, can turn out to be drastically different? How is it that from one week to the next, a long run feels euphoric and then changes to utter misery the following week? 4 miles feels like a simple, easy jog, until the next day when it feels you’ve accomplished a nearly insurmountable challenge?
Looking through the details I recorded in my training log – the thoughts, feelings, weather, stress, health, etc. – it occurred to me that many of these training runs found me in nearly the exact same state of being. The weather remained fairly consistent, my health was always the same, and stress levels were fairly moderate. However, despite the similarities, one small change had a huge impact on each of these runs. What was it that changed when everything else remained the same?
I love accomplishing goals. Who doesn’t? Breaking one large goal down into smaller, manageable goals is my jam. Crossing workouts or tasks off a schedule is the best. Turning the impossible into possible is one of the most satisfying feelings out there.
So when I signed up for a marathon and began marathon training for the fifth time, I just couldn’t wait to post my training schedule on the fridge. I couldn’t wait to have scheduled runs, detailed plans, and something to cross off each day when I returned. These training plans gave me some of the best opportunities to evaluate progress, and determine what was working and what wasn’t.
About halfway through my training, I had what I would consider to be my best run ever. Ever. In over 7 years of running – 5 marathons and 15 half marathons – I have never had a race that felt this good, let alone a training run. A 16 miler filled with confidence, strength, mental fortitude, positivity, and beauty.
I finished this run feeling euphoric.
The notes in my training journal for this run are filled with exclamations and smiley faces, and as I look back through the runs that have followed, there aren’t any others filled with quite as elaborate of markings. Following this long run, I believed to have found the secret to success, and continued to practice the same schedule, fueling, and attitude as I had for the original “amazing long run”. My long runs that followed were very manageable, most of them enjoyable, and much easier than previous runs.
A few weeks prior to this “amazing long run”, I had already completed a long run of 16 miles. This run was a struggle to say the least. The conditions were very similar to the amazing run, but each mile felt like a massive challenge. My mind was telling me to give up, I walked way too many times, my pace was slow, I wanted to be done, and I was ridiculously grumpy. How did I go from this horrible run to such an amazing one?
A new perspective.
It’s incredible, really, the effect perspective can have on our runs. When we are training for a distance race, like a marathon, half or ultra, a weekly 4 mile run feels like a walk in the park. But when we are just getting back to running after a break, 4 miles may feel a challenge if it’s the longest run of the week. Running at a particular pace may seem impossible the first week, until 8 weeks later when that pace has become our ‘easy’ pace.
Getting up early on Saturday, the one day we have to sleep in, to drive 30 minutes to a trail and spend half the day running may seem like such a chore. It certainly felt just like that for me, in the beginning of training. Running had become something I needed to do, in order to accomplish a far off goal. My perspective leading into each run was one of dread.
Until one day.
I found myself going to bed early on Friday, excited for my long run. Maybe it was the post-run snacks, or the beautiful weather, but whatever it was – I was excited. I woke up easily on Saturday and got ready to run. And before I knew it, I was embarking on the best run of my life.
If you are looking at your runs with dread, whether they are a double digit long run or your Tuesday three miler, you are going to dread them. You’ll force yourself out the door to get them done, and before you know it they will be. You won’t feel anything special, you might even find yourself grumpy, and running will slowly become something you have to do.
But if you can find something to look forward to in each run, your mind will be in a much better place. Think of the fresh air, the beautiful weather, meeting up with friends, or getting in some stress relief. If you’ve run this distance before, even if it’s been a long time, remind yourself that it is nothing new. There’s no need to panic, and you are in fact choosing to do this. If this is your first time running this distance or this pace, look back on all of your training remind yourself how ready you are.
Our minds have incredible power.
Changing my perspective has completely revitalized my running. For years I searched for the secret formula to loving every run, and I think I’ve finally found it. Those people you see on social media who look forward to running and exercising? People who seem to love it even if they are running in adverse conditions? They really do. Even when times get tough, find something to look forward to. Remember that you are lucky enough to be able to run. There are people out there who are desperately wanting to run, but can’t, so don’t take it for granted.
Find a way to get a positive attitude. Remind yourself that nothing is impossible. You’ve got this, running is a gift, and your mind is powerful. It’s never too late to gain a little perspective.