Lately I keep saying that “running is hard.” I’ve been lamenting the fact that, after a little break on account of mental exhaustion, illness, injury and more illness, getting back into running has felt more difficult than I expected, anticipated or, obviously, hoped.
While, yes, running is hard, I don’t think I can blame my lack of a kickass comeback on the sport itself.
It’s not your fault, running.
Over the past two weeks, as my stomach started finding its “state of calm” and my leg pain had completely gone away (yay!), I started to run again. I took a relaxed approach, never planning paces or mileage, and knowing that extended time off meant getting back into things would take some patience.
So each run was planned around bathrooms and nothing more. My stomach still isn’t what I’d call “better,” and I’ve used that as a reason to take it easy.
I’ve been calling most of my runs “easy runs” or “recovery runs.” I hover around a 9:00–9:30 pace, never really feeling the need to push it. I’m “easing back into things,” right?
But this morning I realized: What the heck am I recovering from? My little injury has been gone for almost a month, and while I’m not ready to be out racing or knocking out marathons, that doesn’t mean I need to relinquish any effort whatsoever.
I can’t keep complaining that “running is hard” if I’m not putting in the effort to get stronger.
It’s nice not having a training plan right now and I appreciate this little break where I can just go out for whatever kind of run I want. There’s no pressure of having a race on the horizon. However, I want to go into marathon training in July with a solid base of both mileage and speed. I don’t want to feel like I’m starting from scratch during week one. I want to kick off the season with confidence, and I’d like to start building that now.
While this morning’s run was certainly no life-changing confidence booster, it did require some effort.
And you know what? I’m proud of myself for doing it. I haven’t gotten out of my comfort zone in a while, and that’s not usually my style. So today, instead of doing yet another “relaxed six or seven miles,” I decided to do something of a tempo run.
I say “something of a tempo run” because I went into this run with a “semi-plan:”
- 1 mile warm-up
- 4 miles “faster”
- 2 mile cool-down
You’ll notice that “faster” is not very specific. But this was my first “workout” back, and I didn’t want to kill myself. I knew I needed to be realistic and put forth effort while not setting myself up for failure and disappointment.
So I ran hard. Hard enough that my breathing was heavy, my legs felt tired and I felt like I was working.
I also refused to let myself stay in my “safe place,” which is the Reservoir loop. It’s completely flat up there. I know I can pick up my pace where it’s flat. I needed to push it on hillier terrain, so I stuck to the regular Central Park loop, which added some extra “OMG I’m going to die now” essence to the run.
I’m happy I stuck it out. The first pickup mile was comfortable, the second and third were not, and by the fourth I gave myself the, “Get this done, Alison Feller, you will be so proud of yourself afterward” pep talk. And happily, the fourth pickup mile was my speediest.
Pat on the back. Pat on the back.
What did I learn from this run? You know I can always find a lesson in my workouts, just like Danny Tanner could find a sappy-music-worthy lesson every time DJ skanked it up with Steve or Stephanie felt bitter about Michelle being “Princess of the Day.”
I learned that I may be a little more out of shape than I’d like, but if I’m willing to work hard, the 8:20s I ran today won’t feel quite so hard a month from now.
A few months ago, 8:20 was a very comfortable pace for me, and today it felt mighty challenging. But again, I haven’t tried to run 8:20s in a while, so can I really be surprised that this feels tough?
Write this down: You can spin your heart out and do plenty of strength training, but you may not wake up one day with your running speed magically recovered. At least that’s the case for me, apparently.
I’m excited to track my progress (there better be progress on the way) and continue adding in weekly tempo or speedwork sessions to my lax little plan. Even though my run today wasn’t easy, I did get that oh-so-sweet runner’s high afterward, and I’ve missed that. I’m eager to get those 8:20s down to 7:30s.
I’m ready to leave my comfort zone every now and then. I’m ready to work hard.
In other news, today is a special day.
Today is my mom’s birthday. She is the best person ever. She knows that, because I tell her all the time.
I’m sad I’m not up in New Hampshire to celebrate with her, but she has a big day planned: work (she’s a teacher), “exercise class” and then my dad is cooking dinner (scallops to start and ribs as a main course — I assume they’ll be sending me the leftovers).
Mom, I hope your day is filled with love and many photos of your new grandson, Tyler.
And to everyone else, I hope you have a magical Tuesday!
Also, if you’ve ever taken a little bit of time off running and found it tragically difficult to regain your speed and fitness, feel free to give me your advice on how you went from fast to injured/sick and then came back way way way faster. I love that stuff.