The end of last week was a mixed bag. Friday’s “tempo” (note the air-quotes and the hedging here), which was only a little over 4 miles, went fairly well but was tiring–even though the “tempo” part of it (again, note the air-quotes and the hedging) was definitely not at a tempo pace. Faster than MP but probably not even as fast as HMP. I think I’m still on the mend from being ill, but I’m definitely on the upswing. Plus, to complicate matters, where I was running got me held up at a stop-light a couple times, and since I had auto-pause turned off on the Garmin, my calculated pace dropped bit by bit as I was waiting for clearance to go. Once I finished the run, I felt discouraged, tired, kinda pissed that I wasn’t able to run as strongly as I wanted to, and a bit worried that I felt as tired and somewhat weak as I did.
It was one of those wonderful moments where Her Holiness Humility shows up, smacks me around a bit, and makes me remember that I’m not as invincible as I sometimes think I am. She and her BFF, Sister Self-Doubt, often work together to make me question my training, my sleeping, my eating, basically anything and everything that could be a variable in my training and performance.
Her Holiness Humility and Sister Self-Doubt can go to hell.
Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate them and value them for what they do to me… but they can still go to hell.
Saturday’s long run back in the city, a nice cut-back 15 from last weekend’s 20, was great. Another run with Jack along the best city in the world’s lakefront, from the northside down to Navy Pier and back. God bless crazy midwestern temperatures though in late March because it was around the low 40s when we began at 7:30, so we saw tons of people sporting full-on winter running gear as well as those who decided to be a bit braver and go for summertime attire, like tanks and shorts. Yours truly donned tights, a long sleeve, and a short sleeve, along with specs and a hat (of course, always the incognito runner), and it was more or less perfect.
Then finally, on Sunday, “recovery” was the name of the game– especially since last week was my biggest week of running in a couple weeks, thanks to good ol’ sinusitis. I aimed for either an hour or 6 miles, whichever happened first, and I ended up with just a shade over 6. I felt relaxed, my muscles were feeling much more springy than they were the day before (tight hip flexors on Saturday morning, probably resulting from a more sedentary lifestyle in Rockford than at home), and the weather was just a tad warmer, which probably lifted my spirits a bit more.
There’s a lot that goes on with running. Clearly. I wouldn’t write about it as often as I do if that weren’t the case. Training for a marathon (or really, any race, I’d venture to say) takes up a healthy amount of time, to be sure, so the focus on the physical and the physiological elements to training are obvious. What I’m asserting here that isn’t so obvious is the mental, psychological, spiritual, whatever you want to call it element that training has the power to do to a person.
I’ll own this and explain everything as it relates to me and my experiences. For me, when I’m knee-deep into training (as I am now), I find that it really has the potential to cut to the core and essence and soul of my being and challenge me in ways that few other things in my life can. There’s the obvious physiological and biological stuff going on here that is challenging, to be sure–people don’t just run 20 miles or 15 miles or whatever for the hell of it–but I’m also talking about what goes on mentally for me as I’m training.
Setting goals is such a huge part of running and training for me, and I often–very often–think about these goals when I’m on a run, no matter if it’s an ass-kicking speedwork session, a maintenance or recovery run, or a long run on a Saturday. I’ve written before that probably a big part of the reason that I get so much out of running is because of how easily it lends itself to goal-setting and performance enhancement. I know there will come a time when I will plateau and the PRs will be more or less set in stone, but I don’t think I’m there yet.
And besides, if every time I set out for a run I was aiming for a PR, I’d be disappointed 99.9% of the time.
That’s just the way it goes.
Fortunately, PRs aren’t the only reason I run.
Training and attempting to reach toward the goals that I set for myself teaches me perseverance, tenacity, patience, and the value of a high and hard work ethic. I can’t expect to reap what I don’t sow; I can’t run a 3:35 or a 1:30 or whatever meaningless and arbitrary time goal I set (meaningless and arbitrary in the grand scheme of things) if I don’t put in the leg work (pun intended) to make that happen.
To some degree, running and training is about suffering, and for me at least, there is so little suffering in my immediate world and existence that I find that it’s actually pretty easy to lose sight of things and take things (and people) for granted, including my ability to run in the first place.
Fairly recently, I read about this great cartoon that featured ultramarathon legend Dean Karnazes and explained his story and outlook on running. I totally, 100% feel the same way. What running does for me, among other things, is re-connect me with the world and with other people–my friends, my family, even perfect strangers.
It makes me a better person because it grounds me, and (maybe due to the endocannibinoids- helllllllllllllllllo, runner’s high!) it just makes me a better person to be around in general. It makes me more giving, more generous, more empathetic because it is one of the few things in the world that connects humanity together with each other and with our ancestors.
Running is both primal and contemporary, ancient and relevant, and it’s egalitarian. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you own (or don’t), or what you did earlier in the day or what you’re going to do later in the evening; what only matters is showing up and putting your pound down on the pavement and giving it all you’ve got.
It’s hard to tell exactly why I’m waxing philosophic about this tonight, especially when I have a somewhat lengthy list of other stuff that I want to write about, but I guess I can blame it on Her Holiness and her BFF. Running can lift me up of course, but sometimes it also smacks me down (a la Her Holiness and her BFF, Sister SD). At the end of the day, though, that’s what it’s good for.
In life and on the roads.