Things have been going really well. Too well, I guess.
My runs have all been pretty positive and affirming. I’ve been keeping up with my speedwork and weekly mileage increases. I’ve felt strong and empowered. Sure, there were some occasional off days, where maybe my legs felt a little sluggish or I was dragging a little, but nothing major, and my attitude has pretty much been that you can’t have the good without the bad, but I would make up for it next time.
And then came Sunday. I was planning on 11 miles, which was freaking me out because the last time I did 11, it was pretty rough. Pile on some guilt that I bailed on Saturday (reason? torrential downpour and exhaustion from working most of the day and night at little man’s school carnival), and my mental state could only be described as “unprepared.”
I tossed around the idea of just going for 12 instead of 11. Just because I thought maybe the number was creating the block in my head. I didn’t commit one way or the other, but just decided to see how it went.
Things started out ok.
I selected a new route to mix things up and make them more interesting. I thought having some new sights and a new configuration of road would be a good way to keep my mind off how I was feeling. It was a good plan, and it actually seemed to be working. I was kind of excited to see a pig I didn’t know was in residence, and later on I caught of glimpse of the local zebra.
I was up to over six miles by the time I returned to the main road, but I was starting to struggle. I had a pain in my hip and my breathing was getting hard to control. During a walk break, I texted Mr PugRunner to give him a status update. I was trying to make it home in time for church, and wasn’t sure if I could. He asked how it was going and I responded that I was going to push for 12 but I didn’t think I was going to make it. His reply: “What is 1 more after 11? Get your head straight and do 1 extra.”
And I lost it. I couldn’t catch my breath and I thought I was going to be sick. I had just turned into a neighborhood and I sat myself down on the curb and started crying.
Because that’s what any reasonable adult would do.
I felt like an imposter. A fraud.
I’ve been “running” for nine months. And I think I like it. I mean, why else would I get up every day, lace up and subject myself to sweat and aches and cramps and exhaustion? Why else do I make my legs move in ways they really don’t want to move and But I still, somehow, feel the need to qualify myself with air quotes. Or with descriptors. I research and implement training programs and mix my distances with speed work and hills to keep getting faster, but I still find myself saying things like “I just ran x miles, but I’m slow” or “but I do intervals” or any of a million “buts” that really shouldn’t matter.
I buy the right gear, hydrate well and practice appropriate fueling. I can troubleshoot aches and pains and discuss good form with my friends, my husband and on social media. I am even attending a good form clinic to help improve my own. But I just don’t see how I’m remotely qualified to do that in small groups when, at 6.5 miles, I’m weeping in front of a port-a-potty with my brain chanting “not good enough.”
In my heart, I know comparing myself to others is ridiculous and counterproductive. I work very hard to focus on me and my numbers and training, and not what everyone else is doing. It gets difficult sometimes, because I can be competitive and I like feeling a part of things. I want to go out on long training runs and not be intimidated by the pace or the amazing athletes. I want to feel comfortable in my own running bubble, instead of worrying about what others on the road might think of my plodding stride. I need to remember that my focus is not smashing world records, but being healthy and having fun and staying fit.
After a few minutes, I got up. I drank some water and adjusted my laces. I wiped my tears and started up my Garmin again.
And then I ran the remaining 5.5 miles for a grand total of 12. The longest distance I’ve ever run at one time. One-point-one miles shy of the distance I will need on December 1.
I’m not sure what came over me or why I even worry about things like that. In some ways, I wonder if I should go back to running with music to keep my brain busy and distracted from throwing such negative thoughts at myself. I remind myself, for the millionth time, that the bad times are there to help us appreciate the good that much more.
I took Monday off. I think I needed a break from training and from myself. Today, my goal is to go out and just run for a bit. No set distance or time. It will be a run “just because.” It will be to remind myself why I’m doing this and that no matter what, it’s just something for me.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be a great runner. Then again, I’m not even sure if it matters. I still have races and runs and miles and years to go. Bad days are bound to happen, but I am not going to let myself get derailed by them if I can help it.
Have you ever had a good cry on a run?
When you get down about your training, what do you tell yourself to keep on going?