This weekend, I re-learned a running lesson.
I had a long run set up with my friend, Rebecca. Because of timing, we had to meet at 8:30 and needed to be done 10. My schedule called for 10 miles on Saturday but, as we were figuring out the plan to meet for the run, I decided to scratch that. Sure, I wanted to run 10 but that meant we'd have to hit the path right at 8:30 and run 9 minute miles the whole 10 miles.
I didn't think that would happen.
And then Rebecca wrote that she wanted to run 10 -- or maybe even 11 -- miles at an 8:30/9:00 min/mile pace.
Stop sand-bagging, Happy Runner. You can so easily run at that pace. Didn't you run a half marathon at 8:15 pace and an entire marathon at 9:00 pace? So, 10 miles at 9 min/mile? You can totally do that.
Yes, I could.
So I agreed to meet Rebecca and we'd bang out 10 miles at an 8:45-ish pace.
And that's almost what we did.
Rebecca was delayed getting to our meeting spot (darn one way streets!) so we didn't get to start right at 8:30. Since we got off a little late, we decided to run 9 miles. We settled immediately into an 8:45 pace and kept it going as we chatted and chatted for the first 4+ miles. We turned around at 4.5 miles and continued to run strong. About 7 or so miles into our run, Rebecca needed to make a pit stop. She told me to keep going (because she knew I needed to be back at my car by 10) so I did.
Here's the thing: I started our run feeling cruddy. My breathing was crap and I couldn't get into a good rhythm for the longest time. The whole first 4 miles, I wanted to stop. If I hadn't been running with Rebecca, I would've slowed down or maybe even cut the run short.
And then, after 7 miles at a good clip, I had to finish the run alone.
|Photo from my friend, Amanda. Lonely stretch of road -- |
that's what the last two miles of Saturday's run felt like in my mind.
For a second, I felt my body slow. Just take it easy. Slow down. Why do you want to run so fast, anyway?
For a second, I entertained those thoughts. And then I silenced them.
So what if I was now running alone? I can push myself. I am a strong runner. This run would make me an even stronger runner.
I reminded myself that I have run much faster than this for much longer. Then I reminded myself that discomfort in training runs leads to better races. I focused on my breathing -- in, in, out, out, in, in, out, out -- and on how strong I was truly feeling (brain fatigue aside). I did a posture check.
I picked the pace back up and told myself there was no way I was finishing this strong run with two weak miles.
I finished with 9.05 miles at 8:43 pace.
And felt great!
Now, what of that running lesson that I re-learned?
The lesson I re-learned is that running is one heck of a mental activity. Your legs might be propelling you forward but if your brain isn't thinking the right thoughts, you aren't going to go as far or as fast as you'd like.
Your brain is in control. And, sometimes, it is going to want to stop.
I am working on getting my brain in the game.
Saturday was a success. I overruled the part of my brain that didn't want to run at the 8:45 pace and then I overruled the part that wanted to slow down 7 miles in to the run. I ended up with a great run. I've done it before, I will do it again. It is a running lesson to learn over and over and over.
To make this easier, I've put together a short list of awesome training runs and races that I can look back on when I'm hitting a rough patch in a run and my brain wants me to slow down or stop. It may seem like a dorky thing to do, but just writing those performances down gives them more life and -- I hope -- will make them a more powerful tool against the "slow-down" brain.
So there you have it. My running lesson re-learned and my tip for overriding your brain.
Thanks for stopping by!