Wednesday, October 23, 2013

finishing


When it comes to running, training plans are great for me because they play to my rigid, perfectionist personality. Checking a run off the list makes me feel good about myself. (Whether it should or not is another blog post that I may never write.) They also keep me in check towards the end of things, when it's easy for me slack.

So months ahead, I looked for a training plan for this marathon. And then all of a sudden, the time for training snuck up on me. One Sunday night in July I realized that my training should start the next morning. Feeling the need to start on time with a plan, I picked one that was similar to the one I did last time - and had admitted didn't build the kind of fitness I needed to meet my sub-2 hour goal.

Then, two weeks later my sister and brother in law somehow convinced me to try their ambitious plan, which had started two weeks before mine had. Meaning they were on week four and easily running at least 10 more miles a week than I was at that point. The first two weeks adjusting to the higher mileage and amped up paces were pretty rough and it messed with my head.

By then it was August, and hot. And busy. And then there was Hawaii, and who wants to get up at 5:30am to get a long run in when you're on vacation at the beach? Not me. I ran once while I was there. And when I came back I couldn't find my motivation. It got buried somewhere between the sand in the bottom of my suitcase and the troubling fog of confusion and despondency that blurred the weeks after my trip. I tried to run, but I didn't like it much. I remember one morning heading out at 5:30 to run an 8 mile tempo run. A few miles in I realized the tempo part would probably not happen, and then I found myself cutting the run short at 5. I felt horrible, physically and mentally, and I knew I was in trouble.

At that point, with five weeks until the race, I made some changes. To make sure I enjoyed my runs, I stepped it down to four days a week and I moved my runs to the evenings, after it cooled off, instead of getting up to run in the dark mornings. I also made my own plan and created a simple purpose for each run: speed at the track, easy miles on tired legs, long hills (for the hilly race route), and long distance. My first track workout was encouraging, and the faded colors in the late summer sky during the runs that first week of the new plan reminded me that new, good things can spring up when we're headed into the dark. I remember mounting the last hill in a 9 mile hill run during that first week, my last two easy miles left to run, and I just had to stop - not because I was worn out but because the sky was too beautiful not too look for a while. It was the first time I'd felt truly grateful in a few weeks, and that feeling isn't one to pass up on.

All this to tell you that for perhaps the first time in my short span of life thus far, I finished something stronger than I started, and that without a plan prescribed by someone else. It was a lesson in knowing myself and finding what I needed. These last few weeks of running have been some of the best I've ever had, and they even led to a personal best for me in the half marathon. My goal was to enjoy it and finish - I had thrown out a time goal weeks earlier. But it turns out I ran the race in under 2 hours for the first time, and felt powerful (not good, mind you, but strong) the whole run.

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