I love running. I really do. Right now we’re having a bit of a spat, and maybe the romance has hit a rough patch, but I know in my heart that I love to run. Moreover, I love endurance athletics. To a somewhat unhealthy level, I can eat, sleep, and breath this stuff particularly if I become slightly obsessed with another athlete’s life and training via their blog.
So whatever. I just outed myself to at least one unsuspecting blogger.
The thing is, I have a spiel. If you tell me that you just started running or training for your first race or you’re thinking about it, be prepared, I have some thoughts to share. Or, if you ask me why I subject myself to what is quite obviously torture, I am ready and willing to provide you with an answer.
It goes something like this:
The first year I trained for a half marathon, I was in pain every single day. After my long runs I felt sick. I would curl up in the fetal position and be a waste of space for the rest of the day. It totally sucked.
By this point people, be they running/endurance newbies or running skeptics, are slightly horrified. Why would anyone bother with that bullshit, right?
But I assure them:
It gets better! I promise. Sure, sometimes I wonder how I did it that first summer, but I stuck with it. After I stopped training for the race, I stopped running that’s when I realized that I couldn’t actually stop. So I started training again. Running has grounded me; it’s become part of my identity. It’s played a huge role in my life over the last two and a half years, and I expect that it will continue to do so well into the future.
So. Whatever. I’m weird. Deal with it.
Finally, there's one more key point I must impart onto these folks who oh-so-innocently stumbled on to my obsession and are now trapped:
People will tell you that running never gets easier, but it does.
Remember that part. It's pretty much the key to today's blog.
Let's revisit the recent past, shall we? This morning, I ran 13 miles with the training group. Despite everything being right – solid night’s sleep, decent dinner, good hydration, well-organized for the run – things started to go wrong. First, around six or seven miles, my legs got heavy. Second, after I ate a Gu, my stomach began acting unhappy. Third, I noticed the skin on the inside of my upper arm was starting to sting. Finally, after significantly slowing my pace and dropping behind the group, I gave in at mile 10 and walked the rest of the way back. Three miles.
It’s fine. It happens.
But I realized that running does continue to challenge – it’s not necessarily harder or easier two years later, but it’s different. Why? Well... it’s not always the whole moving your legs for a really really long time thing, which -- let's be honest -- can be a major pain in the ass. But truly, it’s more the unpredictability that inevitably comes with distance.
Sure, these days I don’t spend a ton of time curled up in the fetal position attempting to curtail stomach cramping. And generally, I'm not down for the count every Saturday post-run. My brain works, my legs work, and I can carry on like a normal human being – for the most part.
But, I am continually forced to tweak my nutrition, particularly when it comes to gels and Gatorade. Over the last several weeks, I’ve had two instances where stomach issues prevented (or played a role in preventing) me from finishing my entire run. Also (and this is new and fun and painful), in my third season training for distance races, my body has just now decided to chaff. Ok. That’s mostly true. I chaffed once last year on the inside of my thighs – I know. TMI. I bought the body glide after that incident. I remembered to use it once in awhile, and it never happened again. Until now. This year I have chaffed during every single freaking run. First it was my legs, then the skin under the elastic of my sports bra, and this week, it’s the inside of my arm. And it hurts like a bitch. And every week, I use the body glide thinking I’ve covered all my bases, so to speak, and yet, my body finds a new place to vigorously rub against my clothes or itself.
So I had a bad run. And I learned that maybe I need not be so cocky thinking that 13 miles is “no big deal” and “not that far.” It is far. It’s fucking far. I’ve also decided that I’m going to roll with it. This is the first week I have been able to fit in every single training run, and this is the first double digit run I’ve done since May. We have a long way to go from here, and it ain’t going to help anybody if I’m bitching and moaning about a sub-par 13 miler. Especially me. I will be OK. I will have good runs and not so good runs. And that’s just the way it is. It’s the way it’s been and the way it’s always going to be.
I'm feeling rather Zen about all of this now.