I’m just gonna go out and say it.
Running is frustrating the hell out of me lately.
And feeling like a frustrated runner makes me even *more* frustrated.
Because I am capable. Because I am lucky to be able *to* run. Because I know that ultimately my frustrations are mostly of the headcase variety.
So rather than wax poetic about the last couple weeks of my run challenge or whine about my running frustrations, I thought I’d use this post more effectively and productively by exploring my running strengths and weaknesses (a la Amanda at MilesGoneBy and my sis, too!) and maybe I’ll come up with some better rationale on my ‘meh’ running experiences of late.
(are ya still with me after that massive preamble?!)
I’m going to mix these up into weaknesses-turned-strengths, because honestly, I think half of my weaknesses have a strength to them, if that makes sense. Sort of like when you are interviewing for a job, and they ask you what your weaknesses are? And they are sort of strengths masked as weaknesses? Am I making any sense right now? Show of hands? Head nods? moving on…
- I am a headcase, by nature. And this certainly affects my runs from time to time (okay, a lot, lately, anyway). If my breathing is off, if I feel the twinge of a cramp or I have any sort of calf pain, that is all.i.focus.on. And it can ruin a run for me.
- While I may be a headcase, I have vastly improved this weakness and therefore, feel it is a strength, or at least an improvement. I am so much better at powering through a run, at booting my overthinking out of my brain and ‘just’ running as much as possible, to actually enjoying running. Comparing myself now, as a runner, to who I was at the beginning of this run challenge, even, and I’ve definitely shifted this away from automatic headcase at the outset, to more of a rarity. (but it still rears its ugly head, like the last few weeks!)
- I am determined, like whoa, to stay consistent, improve my pace and focus on even breathing. This run challenge has, by far, kept me running four days a week for almost the entire winter, something I had never previously been able to do, because the dreadmill has always been my nemesis. But in embracing it, I embraced intervals (hello pace increases!) and it massively helped my breathing. Given it is easier to breathe on a treadmill without a lot of incline or natural road shifts as with the outdoors, it was much easier to keep my breathing in check, and in turn, take my mind off my breathing and onto the run itself. HUGE shift for me. HUGE.
- I am stubborn as hell when it comes to my running schedule and mileage. I have been, in recent weeks, so focused on fitting in all of my runs (amid a building schedule for teaching at barre n9ne etc) and trying to extend my distance (amid some less than pleasant weather making it much less motivating to run long INDOORS) that it just bound me up. I ran stressed. I overthought all of my runs and what to fit in where and how to get my longer run done solo (when I know I am not the best runner by myself). I declared being at peace with mileage yet I still struggle with that. I wonder if I am better with a goal than goal-less runs. It’s huge food for thought for me right now. (thoughts welcome)
- I’m still (relatively) slow. Not that speed is my ultimate goal, because let’s face it, I will never be an 8mm runner. If I had to hazard a guess (since I don’t run with a Garmin or anything), I’m probably somewhere between 9:30-10mm but closer to 9:30mm…and I’m actually proud of that. Weakness is probably the wrong term here. And calling myself slow is probably the wrong way to put it too…I guess what I mean by this is, I don’t know how to run fast outside. It’s easier to do that on a treadmill because you have something helping speed you up. Outside? It’s all you. I so easily slide into my comfortable pace than trying to pick it up a little. This is why I am a ‘bad’ solo runner as well.
- I am a fast(er) runner than I was six months ago. And a better one, at that. My running is stronger, faster, more capable (thank you barre n9ne for stamina, like whoa!). So no matter if I consider myself ‘slow’, I am still faster than anyone on the couch and I am still faster than the runner I was six months ago.
- I’ve learned to embrace hills, speed work and getting into the uncomfortable zone. I always steered clear of hills and speedwork because I would get out of breath in a flash, and then aforementioned in-my-head-ness would occur and all bets were off for the rest of that run. It was terrible. But now? I rock the intervals at the gym (today was a particularly strong one as I pushed myself to go 30 seconds faster for each interval, which for me, is big progress, as I’ve been scared to do that for well, several months, admittedly). As for hills? While I still WANT to shy away from them, when I face them, I slow down, and I take it slow and steady (thanks sis, you always push me through these when we run together!).
- I’m a bad solo runner. I still have a lot of work to do here. And I think this is the root of my ‘meh’ runs of late. The most ‘meh’ runs I have had in the last 3-4 weeks have been those that I have attempted to do solo. When I start to struggle with my breathing, or get a leg pain or any other phantom pain or fear, my first instinct is to stop. I regress back to the ‘old’ runner that I was rather than draw upon my newfound running confidence. And it is so friggin frustrating. I WANT to be able to run outside by myself and enjoy it. I know I am capable of that. But herein lies the problem. I’ve gotten so headcase about it that I just plain don’t like it. And I honestly DO prefer to run with others (which is also an ironic shift since I NEVER ran with others a couple of years ago!), because it’s motivating, it’s fun, it keeps my mind on the conversation, not into OATT.
So, there you have it. My interplay of strengths and weaknesses of running. As I am into weeks 20 and 21 of my run challenge, I am hoping this little writing prompt helps get me back into the game, back into the fun running can and should be (thanks again, sis, for capturing it perfectly!).
Has this ever happened to anyone else? Struggling to run solo outside? Letting the headcase ruin the run? Etc?
I know it’s relatively common. I know it happens. I guess I am just frustrated that it keeps happening to me, despite all of the improvements I’ve made and the progress, too.
But, at the end of the day, I know I am capable and that will give me the confidence to keep trying, to keep pushing through whatever wall this is. Because I am a runner, and I love to run. (I swear!).