I went for a run a couple days ago. This is notable only because it was my first run in about two months, which meant that a) I had forgotten just how much some muscles hurt
, and b) I wasn’t in nearly as good of running shape as I would have liked. And since I’ve spent the summer biking, the entire experience felt excruciatingly slow by comparison.
Distance running and I have a rocky relationship. I absolutely refused to run long distance (or really anything longer than 200m) until college and then only two or three miles for several more years. Last year I ran a half marathon, mainly to prove to myself that I could do it. It was surprisingly fun – at least the race itself was – but this year, I started the summer deciding that instead of going longer, I would go faster. Care to imagine how that went?
All of that annoyance came back as I slogged my way along my shortest running route. I knew I’d chosen to run, knew
it was insane to expect a good pace on the first day back, and continued to berate myself all the same.
And then, perhaps helped along by reaching the high point of the run and starting back down in relief, something snapped into place. It always hurt when I ran. My calves ached as they warmed up, my feet hurt after a few miles on hot pavement, my thighs and sides and shoulders all took a turn when I pushed my mileage. Never once had I leaned into that pain, embraced it and made it part of me and pushed on. Sure, I’d finish the run. But stick to the pace I wanted until I literally couldn’t put one foot in front of the other? Stick to the pace to the point of creating more pain? Nope.
There’s a quote I love and use frequently when I have too many things going on. Incidentally, it comes from an author who’s audio books got me through a lot of miles at the end of my half marathon training: “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.” (Quote and my hours of distraction are thanks to Laura Vanderkam.)
After trying to keep up with my husband over countless miles of bike trails for three months, I knew perfectly well that I could push through pain, and my improving biking times were clear proof that it yielded results. But run faster? Nah. I just wasn’t a distance runner.
Much like not having time, the problem wasn’t a lack of ability – it was a lack of effort.
That changed the feel of the run a bit. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I’d never be the runner I dreamed about, the one who effortlessly ran 25-minute 5k’s as a matter of rote, I spent the next mile trying to decide what it really was that I wanted from running. Did I want Strava times to brag about, which meant I needed to embrace the pain and change my entire idea of training? Or was it a workout I could fit in given a pair of tennis shoes and half an hour? If the latter, I needed to learn to be a heck of a lot nicer to myself.
As fate would have it, I ran into an old friend in the last stretch and stopped to talk, given a rest just when I stopped looking for one. The decision will take longer, and I’m starting to think it might fluctuate for as long as I run. Somehow, though, knowing that how I run is up to me makes everything less stressful.
Maybe I’ll go for another run this weekend.