14 Sucky Miles & Many Mistakes

Yeah that’s right, Saturday’s long run was sucky.

Since I started getting into distance running, each weekend brings an exciting challenge. Whether I’m training for a marathon or a half marathon, I look forward to my Saturday run, because it’s usually some sort of double-digit definition for fun.

Coach Cane‘s plan for me this weekend was 14 miles. Normally in my brain I would think, “Only 14 miles? Easy! Cutback week! No big deal. I can run 14 miles on an empty stomach and then function all day without a hitch.” OK, Ali. Keep being cocky. That’ll get you far in training…and in life.

But since the whole hip pain thing kicked into high gear this week, Coach Cane told me I could “drop it down to 10 if needed.” Maybe that’s what I should have done. I don’t know.

And hey Coach, have we met? My name is Ali, and if you tell me to run 14 miles, I’m going to run 14 miles. Also, I’m not very smart. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Tally ho.

After many emails back-and-forth on Friday, Coach Cane asked, “Want some company for your 14 tomorrow?”

You bet I do!

And that’s how I ended up running 14 miles through Central Park with my wonderful coach on Saturday.

Let’s backtrack a little.

After work on Friday, I was too tired to make dinner and didn’t want to spend money going out. So I went to bed without eating dinner. Let’s call that Mistake #1.

Mistake #2 would be waking up Saturday with a cold and thinking long running was a good idea. But in my mind, I could have postponed the run and then woken up on Sunday feeling even worse. So why put it off?

(For the record, I woke up yesterday with a sore throat but feeling much better than I did Saturday. Oh well.)

I took my time getting ready, as I always do: sit-ups, some water, bathroom things, checking the weather, and eating the breakfast of champions, thanks to a little Valentine’s Day delivery from Mom On The Run.

Oh so delicious and not at all nutritious.

I slapped my Garmin on my wrist and it was like, “Sorry, Ali, I’m dead.” I spent about three seconds trying to get it to work, but it wanted to sleep, so I headed out without a tracking system.

I ran toward Central Park — the plan was to meet Coach Cane on the west side of the 102nd Street Transverse — and felt fine as I ran slowly in that direction. Not much hip pain, and it actually felt good to loosen things up a bit.

Mistake #3: My outfit choice. It was basically this:

Minus the bib. I did not wear a bib on Saturday.

The jacket? Fine. Shorts in February? Also acceptable. Even the legwarmers? Sure. Coach Cane expects that.

But the headband? Oh, the headband.

The first thing Coach Cane said when he saw me was, “Are you wearing a tiara?”

I very sheepishly removed the headband, asked if he wanted to borrow it (he didn’t), and shoved the glittery piece of elastic into my pocket. I made a mental note to leave the flash at home next time.

Coach Cane said he would run with me for about 10 miles. That would put me at a total of 12 including my warm-up, so then I’d just have to run home once we parted ways and I’d be done. Easy enough, right?

Apparently not.

We started to run, and it seems as though Coach Cane and I have exact opposite views on what constitutes a “fun” route in Central Park. I like the main roads and the Reservoir.

Oh Reservoir, you are my happy place. You're flat and fabulous.

He likes the Extended Bridle Path.

I friggin’ hate the Extended Bridle Path. You start out and it’s lovely and seemingly all downhill. So guess what that means on the way back? Uphill, at least in my mind.

But he was in charge, and so I followed.

Actually, I didn’t follow, which brings me to Mistake #4.

Coach Cane had the watch and Coach Cane was supposed to be leading. He was “pacing me” on my long run.

So why was I running in front of him most of the time? I should have been following behind, not keeping a few steps in front of him. He didn’t point this out to me until the end of the run, and I wish I had taken note earlier. If someone agrees to pace you, stay next to or behind them. Not a few paces ahead. Coach Cane made some joke about “pacing me from behind” and I felt stupid.

Mistake #5, you ask? Well that would be constantly inquiring about what mile we were at and what pace we were doing. I tried not to ask too often, because I knew that would be irritating, but when I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was dying, I secretly hoped Coach Cane would be like, “Yeah, Ali, that’s because we’re cruising at a sweet 6:30 pace, doesn’t this feel great?!”


As we ran, my legs felt heavy. It was like I was dragging them behind me. I felt the effects of no pre-run dinner, and I was cursing Central Park for not having functional water fountains in the winter. I was dehydrated for sure, and I couldn’t breathe too well. My hip was the least of my concerns.

I couldn’t just let go and relax and enjoy the run. I should have soaked up every single minute I got with Coach Cane. How many people get the opportunity to run one-on-one with their coach? I was lucky, but I felt like shit, and that was all I could focus on.

Perhaps the most embarrassing moment during the run was after I had asked Coach Cane — twice — if I could “stop and stretch my hip.” The first time was after a slight uphill climb on the Bridle Path. The second time was as we cruised around the Reservoir. I was exhausted and we were only at mile nine.

I “stretched,” and he totally called my bluff.

“If you keep wanting to stop and catch your breath, don’t tell me you have to stretch. Let’s just slow down.”

I felt like a moron, honestly. I was embarrassed that he saw through my plan, and realized that I do this way too often on runs. I wear my watch and I don’t like to see the pace slow, and so I stop, pause my watch, catch my breath and then keep going.

“The clock doesn’t stop on race day, and we have to prepare you for that,” Coach Cane said.

Clearly Mistake #6 was lying to my Coach, telling him I needed to stop and stretch, and getting awkwardly busted.

I couldn’t get out of my head on this run. I’m not used to having tough long runs. Throughout Hamptons training and then Las Vegas half training, every single long run went perfectly as planned. So to have a tough run — alongside the one guy I want to impress — was sad and a bit humiliating.

Of all people, Coach Cane understands, I’m sure. He knows every run won’t be a good one, and he knows we have good days and bad days. I just felt like a wimp.

That’s probably why, when we split ways on the 102nd Street Transverse where we had started nearly two hours earlier, I stopped running as soon as Coach Cane was out of my sight.

The second I stopped, my hip began to hurt. I walked for a minute back toward the east side, and then ran again, albeit very, very slowly. I have never been so happy to be Garmin-free. Those splits would have crushed me I’m sure.

As I ran/walked my way back home, I neared Engineers’ Gate and saw Brian — out for his first post-knee injury thing long run! — coming my way.

And then, this should come as no surprise, I started to cry.

I saw him and kind of lost it. I was embarrassed I’d had a bad run in front of my Coach and I was frustrated that my hip hurt. Honestly, I just freaked out a little, and had a good curbside cry…in front of all the passing runners. I’m so hardcore.

Brian and I chatted for a bit, and then he finished up his run and I hobbled home. I got really cold and desperately thirsty. I stopped at the New York Road Runners office near the park to stick my face under the bathroom faucet because I wanted water so badly.

I felt pathetic. And I was acting in accordance to how I felt.

I finally got home and I tried to ice my hip, but I was so cold that I just needed to get into a shower. I stood there for about 30 minutes, thawed out and then spent two hours being horizontal on my couch.

A productive Saturday for sure!

Mistake #7 was not being honest enough with Coach Cane. He was out to help me, and I tried to be tough instead of telling him that things were going on. I didn’t want him to think I was weak because I had a “little cold,” but it was taking a toll on me.

I worry so much about what Coach Cane thinks of me, which is stupid. Saturday night, though, I got a text from him thanking me for joining him on the run, and that improved my mood beyond belief. Also because the text included a picture of Simon:

HI SIMON!!! Seriously, you are the cutest human alive.

I iced and foam rolled quite a bit on Saturday, and yesterday I hit the roads again to see how I would feel.

And I felt so much better.

I ran six miles, my hip didn’t hurt and I was relaxed. Weird.

I also saw horses on the Bridle Path, which seemed cool and fitting, since that’s what the path was initially for, right? Not for us sweaty people.


Mistake #8, not just on Saturday, but in life: I over-think things and put too much pressure on myself. But you knew that already. I cry when I’m worked up and I don’t reflect on things until about 24 hours later.

I’m looking forward to my doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I can have a professional check out my hip. In the meantime, I’m besties (according to the teen magazine I work for, the cool kids are using that word) with my ice pack and my foam roller. I’m running slowly, but I’m still running, because I can.

Today’s plan is five slow miles. I kind of like this “slow” thing, at least for now.

Also, I’m excited for my next long run, because I bet it’s going to be good. I got the tough one out of the way, and that means I earned a solid one next, right? Correct.

Running, you crazy beast. You keep me on my toes. And on my couch. And I love you.

And Coach Cane, I think you’re great. Thank you for running with me and getting me through those miles.



45 Responses

  1. Hi! I’m sure I’ll write you an “I’m obsessed with your blog and think we might be twins lost at birth” side-note soon, but in the meantime – did you know there’s a water fountain in NYRR so you don’t have to drink the bathroom sink water? If you are looking at the door to exit, it’s on your right side next to the door – kind of like where the merchandise is. (You probably already knew that, but just in case!)

  2. oh man, I’d be just like you if I was running with my coach trying to be all cool and pretend that I just needed to stretch!

    Lately, I’ve been leaving my Garmin on for the whole run and not stopping it when I stop to walk for a second of climb stairs. My times are not as good.

  3. Thank you for this post! I had a terrible run-unfortunately it happened in a 10K race— I know only 6 messily miles! But non-the-less, the run sucked. From the weather-cold and a little snowy, to the roads, side streets—covered with snow and slightly plowed, to my overall attitude. I’ve been doing well in the Polar Bear Series and wanted to keep my streak going—I think I went out too fast and by mile 4 was exhausted! The 10 mile is this Sunday and I hope to have a successful good run. Since my bad run, I’ve only ran once, but I hope to get back out there tonight and get things back on track.

    Love Mistake #8! I too push hard and overthink and when I knew I was falling behind, I was like screw this; the weather stinks, the roads suck—who cares how I do—then I was disappointed in myself and depressed. I think all of us runners get that way at some point.

    Anyway here’s to the next run! Hope it a great one!!

  4. oooh dude. I’ve definitely had runs like this – they suck from the beginning to end and take SO MUCH out of you. STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF. AND WORRYING ABOUT BEING FAST DURING A LONG RUN. Sure, easy for me to say. But you’re an awesome runner, just slow that brain down 🙂 Also, if you need an easy running buddy this week you know who to call. Seriously…

  5. See? Bad runs = learning opportunities. So bad runs don’t exist. Even though we both know they do. Nice miles this weekend but listen to that BOD!!

  6. Good luck at the doctor tomorrow. As someone who’s had hip/leg issues before and currently the best thing you can do is get advice from a professional.

    Also, don’t forget that for every sucky run there are many great ones and they make the sucky ones worthwihile!

  7. Hi Ali! I just came across your blog and love it. You’re a huge inspiration, becoming so speedy and all, I’m on that mission too. I have one very important question, where do you get your leg warmers from? I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without owning any!

  8. But look at all those things you learned! Would you learn that much from a perfect run? Nope. The bad ones are just as important as the good ones 🙂

  9. Wow! I can’t believe you actually took off the sparkly headband…haha.

    It seems like you are learning a lot and Coach Cane is awesome so listen to him. He will lead you well. Also remember by running your workouts so that you “like” the pace you see (and stopping in order to get that pace), the only person you are hurting and cheating is yourself. There is no need to impress people with you stats on a daily basis. People aren’t going to think more or less of you. Plus times are so individual anyways. What is fast to one person is slow to another so you are really just running for yourself. We follow you for your enthusiasm and love of running, not for your individual splits.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, take care of your injury and forget about this one bad run. 🙂

  10. I had hip stuff like that for a while. Where it’d not really hurt when I was running but then HURT when I started to walk or slow down. Foam rolling the shit out of it, constantly, eventually did the trick. Eventually.

    Good luck, Ali! I am glad you are getting it checked out before it gets worse. 🙂

    Oh, and I’m totally guilty of watch-stopping on runs, too. I finally just broke the habit, but it took a looooong time!

  11. So sorry, Ali! I have a lot of tough LRs like that. I always come back to that I made it the full distance and that I did not give up. And you didn’t either! When you’re running Eugene, you’ll remember that — the last 6 miles of that marathon cannot get any worse than running on no food, with a cold, and some hip pain (or at least that’s the kind of stuff I tell myself).

  12. Try not to let your hip pain get you down. I’m sure it’s something that you & your body can recover from relatively quickly once you know what’s really going on. Dealing with my own knee injury has been SO overwhelmingly stressful .. 6 weeks ago the dr. said I shouldn’t run for a month and that there was no way I could run a marathon in May. But I’ve been determined & working hard every day to heal & strengthen things .. and then whaddaya know I ran 15 miles almost pain free yesterday! (Oh but was also pretty dehydrated and then totally puked after inhaling a smoothie too soon after the run ended.. yay!). So just remember that injuries come with the territory and all of us runners will have to deal with them on and off over the years .. you’ll get through it!

  13. Oh goodness.. bad runs happen and I have definitely been there. At least you made it up with a pain free run on Sunday! Hope your dr. appt goes well tomorrow!

  14. I’m sorry to hear your run was crap. But it takes a run like that to realize how great the good runs are. Also, running with a cold sucks.

    I also ran 14 in Central Park on Saturday! I felt okay physically but everyone kept passing me which was a little sad. New York runners are serious!

  15. You said you had “not much hip pain” which implies that your hip did in fact hurt. Of course, I do not know how your hip actually feels, but as a cautionary tale, I have been known to say “I’m only kind of sore” or “my knee only kind of hurts” or “My hip only hurts the first few miles” or “I feel 75%” and then run like normal. But what happens is that running on a “kind of” injury makes it into a MAJOR injury. I hope you are being smart and not pushing your hip too much.
    PS. I’m not trying to criticize you or anything and I love your blog, but as I sit here nursing my own hip injury a month before my marathon, I just don’t want you to be in the same boat.

    1. I’m having a hard time writing about this hip stuff, honestly. Sometimes it hurts a little, but it’s never a sharp, worrisome pain. It feels much more at ease when I run and when it does hurt it’s when I sit for a long time and then stand up too quickly. During the first 12 miles on Saturday it felt fine, but it did start to feel tight during the last two miles when I slowed down (er, walked, hehe). I’m looking forward to seeing the doctor tomorrow so I can get some kind of idea as to how much pain I should “tolerate” and when I should stop completely. I appreciate your concern very much and really hope your hip gets better before the marathon!

  16. Ali– I am a regular reader of your blog and just wanted to let you know you are such an inspiration. You inspired to sign up for my first marathon and maybe even start a blog to chronicle my training. You are so dedicated to your running and that will get you through your hip problems. Hope the doctor goes well!

  17. sounds similar to my weekend…still feeling the hip.. ART is great- good luck at your apmt!
    You sound very much like me- don’t be too hard on yourself (easier said than done!) 🙂
    As Ryan Hall says- rest days are much needed! And now I am off to take my own advice haha

  18. I think the important thing to remember here is that YOU RAN 14 MILES! Running 26 isn’t going to feel great either at times and you’re going to keep running at those times, just like you did during this run. BE PROUD OF THAT! Also, I’m not sure we can trust any coach who doesn’t appreciate sparkly headbands. Keep your eye on him.

  19. I totally understand that you feel that you NEED to run. You are training for Eugene, and getting injured isn’t in the plan – I get that but, running simply “because you can” is not always the best approach. If you have a real hip injury, you should probably tone it down a notch for a few days. Running 14 miles, feeling like crap, and then going out and running 5 the next day – When did your hip have time to take a break and recooperate from that 14 miles you put it through? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh (&and i’m not a pro by any means), you are one of my favorite blogger/runner – I feel like I can relate to you in a lot of ways, so I only say this bc I don’t want to see you really injured.. but you really should give yourself a break.

    I really do understand the need to train bc you have a race coming up. I’ve run 6 half-marathons since October, (I’ve been training since August) and have 2 more coming up(and FWIW, my last half was 1:47:02). I had to take the entire week off last week bc of some foot junk that appeared after my half on 2/12. It was awful, I hated every day I couldn’t run, but, what would have been worse was if I ran on it, and made the injury worse than what it was.

    I’m glad you are seeing a Dr. I hope he/she gives you good news. Good Luck!

    1. I promise I’m being smart. My runs are slow and I’m communicating a lot with Coach Cane. I’ll know more after I see the doctor tomorrow, but trust me, I’m tuning in and the plan is to never run injured! I have lots of time still to train for Eugene, so I’m not too stressed. Just trying to get the miles in while I still feel pretty good, which I did yesterday and today. The 14 miler was rough mostly because of feeling run down and dehydrated — my hip didn’t really hurt until those last two miles, and that’s when I started to walk. Thank you for your concern! I don’t want to be Ali On The Injured List!

  20. I’m with you, Ali. I also had a shit-tastic long run on Saturday, and I got really, really down on myself about it. I was supposed to do 12 miles, but after 10.5, my head was no longer in it, and the blisters on my feet were screaming bloody murder. I probably could’ve pushed myself that last mile and a half, but I didn’t, and I spent the rest of the day absolutely miserable. My boyfriend finally had to shake me out of it and make me realize that 10.5 miles is still better than zero miles, and that it wasn’t that bad of a setback. He’s right, and I’m going into next week’s run with a much, much better mentality!

  21. I’m sorry you had a bad long run. Life is about learning and the learning and it looks like you learned a lot about yourself this weekend and what you can do to improve. That’s a bug accomplishment, so even if you didn’t slay the hills of Central Park or have a run that would have rivaled Olympic champions, you had some success this weekend. Don’t cry! I wish you luck at your doctor’s appointment, and I’m sure your next long run will be just as planned.

  22. Soooo I went to central park on Saturday, so awesome. Just wanted to share, I loved everyone running about and me the crazy tourist in the way.
    It was cool.

  23. We all have those kind of days. Those days really do make you stronger. Hang in there and stay strong! Allow yourself to have crappy days without beating yourself up. Glad you have Coach Cane to lean on…it really does help to have that kind of accountability in your training.

  24. I do the SAME THING — I always stop my watch when I need to pause running. Oops. Glad to know I’m not the only one…

    Also, not to sound like a giant stalker, but I thought I saw you on the transverse during my long run on Saturday, when I was struggling with majorly sore calves and an Achilles that is acting up…and I thought to myself, if Ali can run with her hip, you [I] can get through your [my] run too! So while I’m sorry your run wasn’t the best, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  25. That’s the great (yet frustrating) thing about running, you never really know what you’re going to get. No matter your ability, there are good days and really bad days. Some runs feel effortless, with light legs and a happy head, and other runs are torture where every quarter mile feels like 10. I think crappy runs are the ones that teach us the most, though, and prepare us best for race day. And you know this, but Coach Cane is awesome, even if he doesn’t like sparkly headbands.

    1. First of all, thank you for your kind words Lindsay. Secondly, congrats on your strong performance at Cherry Tree yesterday. Finally, Ms. Feller is correct that I asked her if she was wearing a tiara. I did not, however, say that i disapproved 😉

      1. That’s true. There was eye rolling, but no direct “I disapprove of your sparkles” quote. There also may have been a brief moment in which Coach Cane tried the headband on, but I wasn’t going to mention that…

  26. ahh! No dinner? Where are those english muffin pizzas when you need them 🙂
    In 12 weeks of Half Marathon training, I’ve had one really bad run – and it wasn’t even my pace – it was my attitude.
    Sometimes you just have to get through it, and sometimes you need to stop (or slow down). Hopefully, the take away from these runs is that we learn to know he difference.
    I’m glad your slow(er) runs are going well. As a newer and slower runner, your pace and drive really inspire me. I hope you realize how amazing you are!

  27. This sounds exactly like my long run a few days ago (although replace lack of dinner/water with way toooo many valentines day sweets that left me totally energy-less the next day/and lack of water) My 18 miler was the WORST run of my life! And then today I woke up with a serious chest cold. I’m running the D.C. marathon in a few weeks and seem to be having a ton of set backs…but I’m trying to stay positive and hopefully all the bad running now will lead to good running come race day! Good luck with your run today:)

  28. To add to the encouraging comments, this run is only helping to make you a better runner in the end, you’re growing from it.

    I’ve been jealous of all my runner friends and their long runs because I had surgery last week and am supposed to be running a marathon in less than two weeks. I’m trying to deny the devastation that could come with this being a very difficult marathon if it even gets to happen. Why can’t our bodies just do what we want them to do?? Ha! I hope you have a great, slow, run today!

  29. You realize there has been a theme lately on this blog, right? And that theme is you never give yourself a break and you need to. Please give yourself a break!

  30. I have had a lot of runs like this. Some long runs feel effortless and I’m like “Marathon PR, Imma comin’ for you!” and then there are runs like yesteday when I say to myself “OMFG how am I going to run 90 seconds PER MILE faster than this on race day? I will die”. I think you’ve done a pretty thorough job identifying your mistakes and that will be helpful for your next long run, yes? If you need a Friday night dinner buddy, hit me up girl. 16 handles has carbs I think.


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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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