Ignorance Is Bliss

You know how I know this weekend was good?

I didn’t wear any makeup.

I’m not a big makeup-wearer in general, but I do usually throw on a bit of please-hide-these-bags-under-my-eyes concealer or foundation or whatever it’s called, and my eyelashes are short and blonde, so a bit of mascara helps in that department.

But this weekend: Makeup-free. And I loved it.

I probably looked like ass, but I liked rubbing my eyes every two seconds because I didn’t have to worry about splashing black mascara crumbles down my cheeks.

The weekend was pretty unremarkable in general, but unremarkable is what I enjoy these days. I did a yoga class on Friday, did my last I’m-not-officially-marathon-training-yet “long” run on Saturday (10 miles in brutal heat, didn’t go super well), saw the Rock of Ages movie (so bad — you’re better off paying for a trip to NYC to see the Broadway show, which is a billion times better) and traveled to Pawling, NY, to spectate the heck out of Brian’s bike race on Sunday.


I’ve grown to love the whole bike racing thing. One thing I find really cool about these bike races is that usually, until the final sprint, the riders are all cruising in a pack (a “peloton” if you want to get fancy, or just, you know, accurate) and working together to get to the finish line.

Of course, as soon as the finish is in sight, it’s a sprint and a ballsy competition, but I really like the camaraderie of these events.


I’m also managing to learn a lot from the sidelines when I silence my cowbell long enough to eavesdrop on peoples’ conversations.

I overheard a little gem yesterday while I was hanging out in the parking lot — I believe those with the clip-in shoes were calling it the “staging area” — and I can’t get the conversation out of my head. Here is how it went:

[Cyclist returns to his car from his warm-up where a lady is waiting. It is unclear if she is his girlfriend or just a friend who is a girl. They did not kiss or engage in any PG-13 activities that I could see, so for the sake of this story they are just friends…or people who know how to behave appropriately in public.]

Girl Who Is A Friend: How was your warm-up?

Guy About To Race: It was OK. My watch died, so I won’t be using that for the race I guess.

Girl Who Is A Friend And Who Is So Cute But Does Not Seem To Be Romantically Interested In Cyclist: [Audible Gasp] Oh no!

Guy Who Is Maybe Just Her Brother: Doesn’t matter. All that matters is holding the wheel in front of me. The numbers don’t matter.

The numbers don’t matter.

I just wanted to type it again for emphasis.

I probably need to be friends with this guy, because he is so wise.

Obviously, to some extent, the numbers do matter. But I loved where Racer Man’s head was at. Whereas most people (um, most people named Ali) would freak out if minutes before the race their watch crapped out, this guy didn’t care. All he knew was that he had to hang on to the leader, follow his pace and ride hard. Whether that meant 25 miles per hour or 55 miles per hour, he was planning to keep up.

And that’s the kind of mentality I need to adopt as I begin marathon training.

Brian loves numbers. He analyzes them even more than I do. Yes, he did well in his race, and yes the first thing he did upon finishing was say, "Ali, let's have a photo shoot together. I'm dying for my close-up right now."

I am a firm believer that when it comes to certain things, ignorance is bliss.

My best-run races — the National Half Marathon and the Race to Deliver — were two where I had little to no expectations. I didn’t stare at my watch, I didn’t know about negative splitting, and I wasn’t even necessarily seeking a PR. I was running innocently and happily.

That strategy works for me.

Because the more I learn about running, the more intimidated and overwhelmed I am by all the information out there. It doesn’t help that every time I post about going for a run, I get a handful of comments telling me I should speed up, slow down, negative split, positive split, banana split, do a split, be more flexible, take more yoga, get my heels to the ground in Downward Dog and eat less ice cream.

Just kidding.

No one has ever suggested I eat less ice cream.

I love learning and I appreciate feedback since I admittedly know very little about running. But the more I know, the more I over-think things. As marathon training kicks off, each workout will have a purpose. I’ll have pace plans, goals and enough Garmin stats to freeze my computer and my brain.

I still consider myself a running newbie, and I truly believe that as I’ve learned more about running, I’ve gotten worse at it. The knowledge seems to hurt me more than it helps me.

There was once a time when I would just go out for a run without a plan for distance or speed. I’d end up flying through those runs, loving every minute, every mile.

I’m all about having goals and expectations, but I do miss the freedom of mindless running. Even when my plan says to go out for an “easy 5 miles,” I know that “easy” should mean hitting a certain pace, not going too fast, and not going more than five miles, no matter how great I feel.

I never realized running was quite so scientific. Weird.

While my big NYCM goals are to nab that sub-4:00 finish and to make it to the start and finish lines healthy and injury-free, I’m declaring another goal today: Don’t over-think it. Just run.

I can push hard without obsessing over my pace.

I can run slowly without worrying about it being “too slow” or “too fast.”

I can let some runs hurt.

I can let some runs feel effortless.

Today is Day 1 of training.

Time to start getting ready for you...

I kicked it off with a bike ride.

Going forward, I have a plan. I’m going to follow it. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to accept that every run won’t be perfect, but more importantly, I’m going to remember why I’m doing this: because I love it.

I’m not going to win the marathon. I guess I’ll leave that to Firehiwot Dado or whatever. I’m such a good friend.

I may never win a race, or an age group award, and I may never be as fast as I’d really like.

But I remember how awful it felt when I was injured-or-whatever this spring. I remember how miserable I was when I couldn’t run. Now I can run, and so I will, and I’ll do it happily. I will never be the girl who complains about “having to go for a long run.” Oh, you want 18 miles from me? Gladly! With the last 4 at marathon goal pace? Sweet, hand me a Gu Chomp.

I’m lucky I’m able to run. Make sure I don’t forget that over the next four months, OK?

HAPPY TRAINING TO YOU: Who’s gearing up for a fall race? Which one? Tell me everything. Be my friend.



61 Responses

  1. Ah I’m doing my first marathon ever November 10th in Richmond! There’s pizza at the finish line so that was basically the deciding factor. That’s around the same time as your NYC Marathon right? I will definitely be following as you blog about your training! 🙂

  2. I absolutely LOVE getting to rub my eyes when I don’t have mascara or eye shadow on. It is one of the best feelings in the world!

    Good luck with training for NYCM! I’m training for Philly…as long as my body decides to cooperate. I hope yours does, too! Sometimes I think the hardest part of a marathon is getting to the start line in one piece!

  3. For a second, I thought that bridge on your blog page was the Golden Gate Bridge. I was wondering how I missed that you’re running the San Francisco Marathon. Then I realized that I’m geographically challenged and it is the Verrezanno Narrows Bridge. You don’t want to attack that bridge. The first mile is uphill. It’s hard to do (I certainly blew it last year), but we’re supposed to take that first mile easy — not blow it all there. 🙂
    I’m trianing for the NYC Marathon. This will be my second time. I don’t know if I’ll do 2013, but I’ve already fulfilled the 9+1 requirements for guaranteed entry for 2013. I’ll have to give that one extra thought next year.

  4. I need to remember to just enjoy running and not focus too much on the numbers and the stats and the science and the calendar. I’m starting training for my first half marathon next week — the BAA half on October 7. I am scared sh*tless about running twice as far as I have ever run, but I am also excited to the moon for this challenge.

    Looking forward to training “together”!

  5. Sounds like this might be a good time to revisit one of your as-yet-unfullfilled New Years Resolutions. Go for a “naked” run. And if you want to get really crazy, run that naked run someplace new so you can’t even mentally estimate how far you’ve gone. 🙂

  6. Man, I read your posts sometimes and wish I could take you out for a beer: You say all these things I think all the time.

    Negative splits? I’ll negative split ya, buddy — I’m just trying to run here. And numbers don’t really matter, because let’s face it: I’m not Mo Farah and I’m not going to win this thing. I just want to go out there and have a good time.

    (To answer your question, I’m training for my first marathon, this coming September. I’m freaking out about it a little, though I know I can do it and then some. Why does it get so intimidating as soon as you hit the “Register” button???)

  7. I’m not training for anything! 🙂

    I’m commenting because I can’t believe you spent time in my boring, crap-ass hometown. When did Pawling start hosting bike races? I hope you got some ice cream up there, at least – its one of the few things that part of NY does right!

  8. I’m a fellow Crohny, and I’m so glad I’ve found your blog! I’m coming back from a surgery and 1 1/2 years off from running, and can’t wait to finally be back! Starting over yet again is just plain hard, so I’m looking forward to being back in the groove and checking in with you for motivation!

  9. I read “eat less ice cream” and almost gasped! Luckily no one has said that to you. I am (hopefully) training for the Indianapolis Marathon but I am super nervous to sign up. Hoping I do it this weekend. Good luck in your training! Maybe your next race should be a triathalon? You already run and bike 🙂

  10. I have an idea (I don’t do it so I don’t even know if it’s a good one..), but if you want to run freely, but still know your performance, you could have your garmin with you, just not on your wrist! Tie it to your bra strap or put it in a pocket (?) so you can’t see it WHILE you run, but you can see it once you’re done at home!

  11. I totally agree! I love the races/runs when I don’t worry about time or have any goals I just go out and run for fun. I usually end up doing just as well during those runs, too!

  12. I love your attitude and your blog (just found it a couple weeks ago). You say some great stuff! I am signed up for a half in Oct and I am currently battling tendonitis. Boo! So, I am going to take another couple weeks off of running and hopefully train to run it with no time expectations. Good luck with your training! 🙂

  13. This reminds me of that cartoon movie – the one with the penguin (I think) who likes to surf? And he enters a big surfing competition and the winner ends up being the funny chicken who never takes it seriously in the first place, he just loves to surf. And in the end, he’s the best surfer! *sigh* I love kid’s movies.

  14. This was such a fantastic post—I just may print it out and hang it up on my wall to remind me while training for the Philadelphia marathon that not all runs have to be perfect. I find I am happiest running when I let my body dictate what it feels like doing that day. Some days I far exceed my expectations and others, well not so much. But the great thing is, your body has such an incredible ability to get you where you need to be. It’s just a matter of listening to it and blocking out what everyone else is telling you to do!

    I look forward to following your posts as you train for your race this fall 🙂

  15. If you haven’t already, you should definitely read Born to Run. It hits that exact point. Being joyful with running (and life in general) matters more than the numbers. I’m reading it now, and it’s blowing my mind a little bit.

    I don’t have a specific fall race in mind just yet, but I am starting to train for my first 10k! Nothing amazing, but I’m still excited =)

  16. Hooray for day one of training!! And training smarter, from what it sounds like….well smarter, and less stressed, more happy running! That’s what I’m AIMING for with my own marathon (eeeeks, still can’t believe I’m doing this!) — running with joy vs. running with stress. My long run on Saturday worked out pretty well with that mindset in mind, let’s hope it ‘sticks.” Chicago here I comeeeee!

  17. This is such good advice! I always feel like I’m not running “good enough” but that’s total crap cause as long as I’m running (or swimming, or biking, or whatever I choose that day) that’s all that matters.

    I want to sign up for the San Antonio Half Marathon in November but I’m scared of training in the TX heat!

  18. I sit in the middle on this one. I’m such a new runner (well, I ran when I was young, pre-injury, and now this post-injury, post-family running is a while new ballgame) that I am really motivated by progress. So I start the Garmin, but then FORGET IT until I get home. I don’t watch the watch, but I like looking at the overall picture later.

    Being one of those folks who can tune things out, head to lalaLand, suspend disbelief at the movies, etc. makes for a sweet and easy level of ignorant bliss. 🙂

    Last year I ran my first HM, and have just started training for the same event this Sept. Adding another HM 3 weeks before it too.

    Cheers to your Day 1!

  19. Ali,
    I am new to your blog but LOVE it! I, too, am running the NYC Marathon. I also have Crohn’s Disease. Went for a 12 mile this morning. I felt fast and amazing until about mile 9 and then I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it home without an accident (I am sure you can guess which kind…LOL). But I kept going and tried to go a little faster (what great motivation to speed things up, hunh?) Ended up running 12.11 miles with an average pace of 10.30; I am super happy about that. No more long runs till next week. Yay! Happy training!

  20. I have to remind myself the same thing all the time. Being a slow runner, numbers are always in my head because I so badly would love to pace with the rest of the group. I have to remind myself I am doing it and that is what matters!! I officially start training for Grand Rapids Half this week!! Half #2!!

    Happy training everybody

  21. I am saving this post and plan to re-send it to you several times over the course of training. 🙂 Because what you said is so important – the numbers don’t matter! Yeah, sometimes you need to run fast and try to hit certain paces if you want to get faster. But it shouldn’t be every run. And the most important thing when you set out to accomplish something huge like successfully train for a marathon is that you actually ENJOY the process. I know you have big goals for the fall, but you won’t get there if running is always a chore.

    When I was younger, my mom used to tell me to “run stupid” and it’s something I still try to remind myself to this day. I went through something very similar as you once I started becoming a more experienced runner (and a runner that had gotten injured). Like you, I started over-analyzing every single thing. And my running suffered a lot for it. I needed to remind myself to let go a little bit and run by feel. It’s still something I struggle with from time to time….especially now that I’m coming back from injury. So from now until November I’ll be here to remind you – and you can do the same for me!

  22. I’m training for the Chicago marathon! I received my “i heat sweat” shirt, I love it! I recognized your impeccable hand writing on the envelope! 🙂

  23. I absolutely agree that ignorance is bliss 🙂 It’s so easy to get psyched out about a run before you even get started. Having goals, not expectations, is key for me! So much more stress-free 🙂

  24. I saw Rock of Ages yesterday.. on Broadway.. and LOVED it! Now I know not to follow it up with the movie!

    No real races to train for.. but I am doing another Tough Mudder in Jersey in October! 🙂

  25. Sounds like a great weekend!

    I am training for NYC too – it will be my first marathon. I’ve been following a plan for a few months to build a solid base and now I’m getting a bit scared as the “real” training begins. But I’m very excited!

  26. I love your attitude! I just started running, and I have my first 5k in October – the Color Run. I’m hoping to be able to run a 10k by the time I actually run the race, but I figured I’d start my first race off with something easy and fun.

  27. Ali- you should give yourself more credit!!! To me- and probably many people reading this- even your “slow” runs are really great! I just started running in March, and will run my first half in November….. as a “newbie” like you described when you started, I am running without too many expectations. I try hard to let my body dictate what I do…..while I have a basic “plan”, it generally consists of “short” runs and “long” runs- but I let my body and feelings that day tell me how short or how long. I tried to follow a strict plan when I attempted to start running at other times in my life, and I always felt pressure or discouraged. This time I feel great, as long as I stick to that mindset. Last thing- I read an interview iwth Kara Goucher recently where she said a general rule of thumb to follow is one easy/ shortish run per week, one speedy/ interval run per week, and one long run per week. I’m using that as a guide for my “plan” also- it helps me feeling like I don’t HAVE to run 4+ week to be successful. Anyway, you rock, and good luck to you and everyone with training!!!

  28. Love your attitude! 🙂

    I haven’t run in weeks and now I’m starting to run again for a 5k in a few weeks and then later in this summer I’m going to start training for my first ever half marathon (which is HUGE for me). The most I have ever run is a 10k, but I’m super excited! The numbers won’t matter…crossing the finish line will! 🙂

  29. Is Brian as obsessed with the Tour de France as we are in our house? I bet he is,

    I’m training for the Wine Country Half on October 14th and I. Am. Going. Sub. Two. Very excited already. So excited I didn’t get out of bed this morning to run as planned. There’s dedication for you! Ooops.

    1. I was reading along, all happy and content with my plan to keep increasing slowly, not thinking about any races until the Oakland Half in March, then WHAM!

      Wine Country Half. In October.

      I may have to change my training plans, because that sounds AWESOME.

  30. I’m still debating the fall half. Training would start in 3 weeks but I’m nervous that I’m too out of shape. But it would be cool to get to run a race in 2 countries…..

  31. I am training for NYC Mararathon too! I am soo excited, it will be my first full marathon. I often get caught up in looking at my garmin and worrying about my pace too much but I am trying to enjoy training and not get too caught up in numbers. I love to run and just want to have a good time and remain injury free. Goodluck training!

  32. I think I have a half marathon on my calendar but no marathons.. Good luck with your training!! Soooo excited to read about it!

  33. I’m training to run the Bix (July) here in Davenport, IA and the IMT Des Moines Marathon (October) with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (GO TEAM!), and this is starting from couch status! I have been running since April 11, so I am so green that the grass is jealous!!! LOL I admit that I do get discouraged when I see all these other runners talk about their 8-9 minute miles and I’m plugging away at about 15:15-15:55 minute miles, but then again most people aren’t truck drivers like myself trying to move 265 lbs. either. I’m trying to stay positive and just keep moving forward, and read awesome blogs like yours for motivation and inspiration! Happy training and stay strong! ;0)

  34. I’m training for Chicago, and just went for a 14 miler this weekend. I always get caught up in numbers, and it is definitely hard to not pay attention to it. But I try… I am also going for sub-4:00, so good luck to you on that as well!

  35. I’m working on base mileage right now and start officially training for Philly on July 31st! Almost skipped out on a fall marathon but so glad I didn’t because I would have been super jealous of everyone training for MCM & NYC. GL with your training!!

  36. I was never an athlete growing up and only started running 2-1/2 years ago. I too started out with no expectations and enjoyed every step of every run. Since I started running some races, I have lost some of my joy of running for running’s sake. Why are we so hard on ourselves and hold ourselves to such high expectations? I mean, its not like i will ever win! Ha! Not even close. I must say, i am so much slower than even you…..SO much slower! So, i laugh (in a nice, friendly way i promise) when i read about your disappointment at 9 minute miles. So you should definitely be proud of your runs. But i know i should too, because 100+ pounds ago, i would have never believed any run for me was possible, let alone finishing any race. Thanks for this reminder to get back to the real reasons to run with this post! I will try to remain conscious of it as I continue training for my first marathon: Chicago. woo hoo! Time to head to the gym for my interval run. 🙂

  37. Have you read Born to Run? I’m only halfway through it but a main theme seems to be running for the pleasure of running and that people break the rules of running and excel. Anyway it’s a good read.

  38. Totally believe numbers don’t matter. My watch crapped out the morning of Boston. Ran the race by feel, completely even splits the whole way through. Plus I was occupied for a good quarter of a mile, each mile, figuring out my splits. Pr’d and finished in 3:11. I think numbers are important in speed workouts, but after that you need to let your body learn and feel pace. Racing will become less stressful when you can run by feel! Good luck with your training.

  39. Love your mentality entering this cycle of marathon training! I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon 2 weeks ago. It’s been fun for me since I’ve introduced speedwork into my training plan. This is my second marathon so I still consider myself a newbie runner, too. Here’s to a sub-4 marathon!

  40. Oh so true and well spoken! I get all caught up in numbers, too, and drive myself crazy for not having broken the 2-hours for the half yet or still being unable to maintain a decent 8:50min/mile. You do tend to forget to just go out and enoy it. That being said, my next half marathon is coming up, the Great Eastern Run (in Peterborough, UK) and yes, I WILL break the 2 hours then. No pressure or anything… Happy training, can’t wait to read more about it!

  41. The most important thing is to make it to the start :0 Love that! I’m training for Chicago, just finished my week 3 long run of 14 miles on sat and I wanted to DIE. Long Island/NY has been crazy humid but I kept telling myself that this is a training tun, doesn’t matter if it sucks or what my pace is….. (I think I actually learned that from you!).

  42. Today officially starts my training for the Newport Liberty Half, and then I have the Richmond Half a little more than a month later so I’m working on some goals there. Also, I agree with you that knowing too much can be a setback. Two of my three PRs were when I wasn’t trying to PR and was just really enjoying the run.

        1. It was the post on your blog about how great Richmond was that got me to sign up for Richmond in the first place! Cannot wait!

  43. I try really hard not to frame my long runs as something I HAVE to do… especially among my non-runner friends. Perhaps every mile is not awesome but when I am training for marathons it is what I WANT TO DO. Therefore I just do my long runs… because I like them and it is part of my life!

  44. I like your attitude- the most important thing is that you get to race the race you trained for- and in order to do this, you need to train smart. If I learnd anything this year- this is it. Also, bike racing seems to be awesome!

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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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