Welcome to Day 14 of my 31-day blogging streak!
In recent weeks and months, I have actively been trying to shift from viewing running as work to viewing it as meditation. Instead of using a run as a means to an end, I’m trying to practice mindfulness during my runs – appreciating the scenery around me, the sound of my feet rhythmically hitting the payment, the joy that I have the ability to run at all, and the exercise my body is getting.
Here are some examples of what I mean from a couple of runs I had in the last few weeks:
First run of the season in long sleeves!! Fall is officially here!! Today I ran with joy and gratitude. In the constant push to get running to produce something – a finish time, a weekly mileage goal, a faster pace – it's so easy to forget what it means. The rhythmic pitter patter of my feet and the way my body and legs happily take on the demand of exercise. The cool air in my lungs and the earned sweat and the feeling of resetting, of wiping away the build up of blahness from a long day at work. The colors that messily seep into the sky as evening darkness sets in. The way all the parts of me are gathered up and tied neatly together during each of these hours on my feet. Whether or not I ever set another PR or get faster or qualify for the Boston Marathon one day, running is always there for me. This is it. #running #halfmarathontraining #lakemichigan #sunset #runmilwaukee
#100happydays Day 12: my new @oiselle shirt finally came in the mail and it was a great evening for an easy run. 4 miles of soaking in the fall weather, of marveling at the fact that I'm in good enough shape to be able to forget that I'm running while I'm running, of being grateful that I've done this one thing right for my body and my health – getting to a point of loving and craving exercise. #running #halfmarathontraining #runmilwaukee #runmke #fall #fallleaves #flystyle #autumn #milwaukee
I understand that when training takes up a lot of time, and you’re really focused on a particular goal, it can get hard to be grateful and appreciative while you run. I get that. But I challenge each one of you reading this to try it on your next run. Don’t think about your pace or your stats or whether you’re on track for your weekly mileage goal or whatever. Just lose yourself in the sights and sounds around you, and let your monkey brain fall asleep to the crisp, soft sound of your shoes striking the ground. I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing this, but it really is a privilege that you get to run at all. Don’t waste it.
…are you ready to barf from my preaching yet? Good, because I’m about to tell you about how I totally failed at being mindful and meditative during my run last night.
Last night, I laced up for my first tempo run at half marathon effort of this cycle. I was pumped and ultimately a little nervous, because I knew that if my paces weren’t where I needed them to be it might mean my goal is out of reach.
This run had all the promise of a successful workout. Save for a couple Cosmic Brownies I wolfed down an hour ago, my nutrition had been good that day. My lingering soreness was gone and I was ready to burn off some steam from the work day. I even warmed up before the workout!
But after my warm up mile, the wheels came off. I charged into my first tempo mile paying no mind to the fact that I was supposed to ease into things and focus on my effort level instead of my speed. Midway through my 2nd tempo mile, I started to feel like crap. I was more than relieved when I had to stop at a traffic light because this was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I was seriously going to throw up. The light turned green and I stayed a few more seconds to collect myself before soldiering on. After that fast first mile and the ensuing stomach discomfort, I had slowed my pace to a more maintainable level so I could get through the run. Eventually I began to regroup, and it wasn’t until the 4th and final tempo mile that I felt like I had recovered and found my happy pace.
Despite my malfunction, I couldn’t help but be disappointed when I saw my tempo splits later: 7:49, 8:01, 7:58, 8:06. But Hanna! That is the exact pace you wanted to hit! You did it! Yeah, I know. But those paces have never felt that hard before. I mean, what gives? Sure I started out too fast, but a 7:50 mile isn’t THAT fast. Although, in retrospect, the 7:50 miles I’ve run in the past felt easier because I didn’t start out with them.
This run left a bad taste in my mouth. But I feel more confident knowing I can learn from this. In a way, bad run experiences are gifts – they teach us lessons we really can’t learn from good runs where everything goes well.
I’d like to think my bad tempo happened because I needed to learn some lessons that will make me stronger in the remaining weeks of my half marathon training. In a couple weeks I’ll do this same workout again, and when I get to the 1 mile point in the route my brain will say to me “hey, this the part last week where we started going really fast. Now I know that I need to go a little less fast then what I was going at this point one week ago. Hey, last week I was going at this effort, and I remember that ended up being too hard, so now I know I can ease up the effort just a little bit and probably still hit my paces.”
Training is about taking the good with the bad. Running is a lot like regular ol’ life in that way – some days are just better than others, and we don’t always know why. It’s possible that I could have done everything right, and even if I hadn’t eaten that cosmic brownie and had a stomach ache, I still might have had a gnarly run anyway. But I also know that a lot of the reason for this outcome was that I didn’t stay grounded. I was excited, I hyped up this workout and got ahead of myself, and all I could think about was running fast and seeing stellar splits on my watch. I wasn’t focused. I knew in that first tempo mile that my effort was way above half marathon level. But I did it anyway. I disobeyed the cardinal rule of training: “We train to race, we don’t race to train!”
But I also like to think there is a hidden glimmer of sunshine in this run. During my 4th and final tempo mile, I had finally started to regroup and get back in my element. I wasn’t running as fast, but I was still plugging along at a brisk clip and I was feeling pretty good. Things had clicked back into place. And what do you know – that mile ended up being 8:06, which is exactly my A goal pace for the half marathon. I like to think this is a sign from the almighty running gods that my goals are within reach and a 1:46 half is meant to be. Granted, at the time I didn’t exactly feel like I could run another 10 miles at that pace, but I’m guessing that has more to do with the fact that I burned up all my energy in that first tempo mile.
Stay grounded, my friends.