Happy Memorial Day, everyone! I know this holiday has different significance to different people, and I hope you all get a moment today to do some reflecting.
Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was recapping my first half marathon and navigating the post-race haze of trying to get back into peak form, and now I’m less than a month – less than 3 weeks, actually! – until my NEXT half marathon! Again – where does it all go?!
Training is getting better; I’m finally starting to get back into the swing of things. I’m still a little slower than I was in the couple of weeks before my half marathon, but I’m really working on not being anxious about that.
Tuesday I did my first ever hill workout! My neighborhood is fairly hilly, so I picked 3 different hills among the streets in my area and sprinted up/jogged down each of them 3 times. I’m wondering if that wasn’t enough, because the workout didn’t take that long and I wasn’t very tired or sore afterward. I guess next week I will have to do more reps on each hill. I’m trying to get a lot of hill training in because my upcoming half marathon has a HUGE, long hill at about mile 5 that I’m pretty nervous about.
Wednesday was another first – my first run with my new running group! It was a very warm and sunny day and we ran along the lake by Bradford Beach and the Art Museum. Running with other people is fantastic for pacing, and I was able to get it a solid 5 mile tempo run. I don’t usually run with other people, and I have to say I am a big fan of the push the group gives!
Friday I did a little bit of speedwork, and then this week’s training culminated on Saturday in a massive 14 mile long run. For this long run, I was back to the north shore neighborhoods with my running group. It was nice to have the company for the first part of the run, but most of the group were only doing 10-11 miles and also running faster than me so I was on my own for the last 9 miles.
Well…I did it! I got in all 14 miles, despite being more tempted than I’ve ever been to just cut it short at about 10 like the rest of the group. I was doing really well until the 10th mile, and everything after that was just agony. I think a lot of that agony was mental – mile 10 took me past our starting place again, where I could have cut it short and stopped at 10 like everyone else. But I knew I had to get this one in the books, so I kept going. It wasn’t pretty, and it was painfully slow, but I did it. I now have a new distance PR. My watch froze up midway through the run, so I don’t really know what my time or average pace was. Maybe that’s for the best, though. This was definitely one of those long runs that I just needed to get through, and I did. I knew it would be much slower than normal, and I’m just so glad it’s over that it’s hard to care how fast it was.
I followed it up on Sunday with a 3 mile recovery run. I read something interesting recently that surveyed half marathon finishers about what types of training they did for their race – general, speedwork, recovery runs, etc – and put them into groups by finish time, so you could see the training breakdown of half marathon runners at different finish times. It turns out that the runners with faster finish times did more recovery running than any of the other groups (and had more variety in their training in general). Say no more – I have now been trying to incorporate more recovery and easy running into my training.
If there is one lesson or piece of wisdom that I can distill from this week, it is this: patience.
That is the word that comes to mind when I look back on how I felt this week. It’s been three weeks since my half marathon and I’m still not feeling back up to speed yet. It’s hard to make myself do non-timed hill workouts, or treadmill speed intervals, or purposely slow long runs when I could just go out and hit the road and run as fast as I can to show myself how fast I can go. It’s hard when weeks go by and I just can’t see any improvement like I used to be able to. It’s hard seeing other runners who run effortlessly at the level I want so badly to be at. It all makes it so hard to be patient.
When I was midway through that Wednesday tempo run, with the evening sun beating down on my shoulders and only a fence separating me from the navy blue lake waves below my feet, willing myself through those last two miles, a thought suddenly flashed through my mind, so quickly I almost missed it: It’s okay. You’re right where you need to be. It’s one of those things that normally just sounds like some vague platitude, but in that instant, it made sense and it seemed like the answer to something. I just believed it. I’m right where I need to be. I’m doing well. I’m more than just my pace and finish times – my journey is in my improvement, my hard work, my results. I’m right where I need to be.
A few weeks back I read a long interview that Runners World magazine did with Shalane Flanagan a few days after her performance at this year’s Boston Marathon. She was reflecting on not winning and her performance that day and she said something that really stuck with me: “I think it’s just one of those things that you keep chipping away at, getting better with age and with time…It’s easy to get greedy and want things immediately, but you just have to have patience.”
See, even the best runners in the world have to be patient. Even they have to accept not getting what they want sometimes and not being at the level they want to be at yet.
So, in these few weeks leading up to my last big race before the long slow stretch of marathon training, I am trying to remember Shalane’s words about patience, and that little voice that whispered exactly what I needed to hear during one of my best runs lately: It’s okay. You’re right where you need to be. Just keep going.