So last Sunday, I planned on running 16 mi. I had run that far on several occasions in the past couple months, so it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. But the month of May has not been kind to me running-wise, and I had a feeling that the intense heat (real feel of 99-degrees) was going to be a bit more than I could handle. (As I write this today, on another long-run Sunday, it is again hot, humid and I have a sore throat. Trifecta!)
I checked the weather and right as I left for my run, the humidity spiked to 80%, making it tough to catch my breath. I tried to slow it down as much as was comfortable, but it still wasn’t working. On top of that, my legs just felt like jello. I’m not sure why, as I have been doing fewer miles in May, but that was the situation. I still thought I could work through it.
At two miles in when I had to walk to catch my breath, I knew I was in trouble. At four miles when my legs were slightly numb, I still kept going, but I was not optimistic that I would go much further. Sure enough, at 4.5 miles, I threw in the towel because I wanted to walk every .5 miles at that point. So I stopped running, turned around and walked back to the rendezvous point where my husband meets me at mile 7 to give me some cold water.
He pulled up, I told him I was done, and somehow, he convinced me to go a bit further with him. So we drove to our golf course loop and set out. I was able to get another 3.1 mi and I was done. Literally done. Everything was sore and I felt so defeated.
Is it Mental or Physical?
When you have a bad run, is it in your head or is it your body? Or is it possibly both? A physical issue can be a problem, so quickly scan your body and see if there is a pain, a soreness or an actual physical sensation like nausea or a headache. If you are feeling short of breath, slow down or take smaller strides. If you are in pain, it might be a good reason to stop. Consult with a doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to run. But do try to determine if it is a physical issue first.
If it’s in your head, it’s really hard to turn those voices off. But if you want to survive, you have to! Try to ‘change the channel’ on the message your brain is sending. Think of something that makes your happy and consciously focus on that. After a while, you may find that you are back to enjoying your run because you have switched from something negative to something that provides a different emotional feeling. I personally like to picture what it will be like to finish a big race…imagining that moment helps keep me going when I feel like I want to stop.
Feeling of Failure
More than physically, I was defeated mentally. This one bad run where I couldn’t power through set me back so much over the past week. I started doubting myself and my ability to continue with serious marathon training–let alone actually running a marathon! It has been frustrating because I know I CAN do it. I have done it. I’ve run further in similar conditions. I’ve run further and faster in slightly less brutal conditions. Why is it then that a bad run like this sent me in to a tailspin of self doubt? Why are the voices that say I can’t do it so much louder and more persistent than the ones that remind me that I can do it? How can I face the upcoming summer months where I am in the serious training for the marathon, knowing that they will be even hotter and more intense?
All I know is that I am determined to do it. So I took a step back this week, got out for a couple runs (that were also brutal mentally and physically), and have made the decision to continue training.
My husband is thankfully my biggest cheerleader and supports me on my up days and down days. He has reminded me that there have been these runs before where I had to stop before I reached my goal, and I’ve bounced back to earn even more miles the next try. He keeps reminding me that the conditions here are nothing like what I will have on marathon day in DC or Tulsa, and that if I can get through conditions in Grand Cayman on a regular basis, that I will be fine on a cooler fall day.
Getting Back Out There
I may not be setting records right now, but I am thankful that I have the chance to get back out again and try the miles this week. It’s not much better today, but I’m going to give it my best. Because if I don’t, it will be easier and easier to cut back on training over the summer. And if that happens, I won’t be ready to run the race I want on October 25th. And above all, I want to honour those that I promise to run for–Kiernan, Meg (and Scott), Mrs Gardner, my wonderful husband, Whitney…and all the others that I carry with me on my runs. Those whom I want to inspire and make proud; those who deserve my extra effort.
So my advice after a bad run: lace up and try again. It may not be a great run, but it’s likely to be as bad. And let me tell you, those bad runs really are the teachers and remind me that not only am I human, but in my human-ness, I am stronger and more able than I realize. It is an amazing juxtaposition of remaining humble and feeling like I can conquer the world. And I’m ready to see what I learn from today’s long run this afternoon. So I’ll embrace it and run, knowing that I can do, and if I can’t today, that I need to get up and try again the next time!