Turning Out My Pockets, Part I – Running.

March 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., My life | 9 Comments

The thing about not writing that much is that when you DO try and go back and write, it’s full of starts and stops and messy and rust and nails.

I really have so much to say, but it’s all jumbled in my head.

I suppose the cleanest topic I can write about is running.

Last year was our Break Year; after my miscarriage in Fall 2012 I decided I’d focus on losing weight and running a marathon. In hindsight, it was an attempt to take back control over my body. I had this idea that okay, I might not be able to nourish another life, but if my body did something USEFUL – got me a Boston qualifier marathon time while remaining uninjured – then maybe I could make peace with it.

Except that’s not how it turned out.

I had an AMAZING training cycle. There was a 22 mile run I had where I hit my my goal marathon pace for the last 2 miles and finished on SUCH a runner’s high I smile when I think of it today, more than 6 months later. There were speed workouts where I felt like the pace was SLOW, like I could go faster and run harder and I just wanted to laugh with the sheer joy of it. I ran a half marathon comfortably, without a watch, finishing JUST over my personal best time for that distance.

And then race day came, and I held marathon pace for the first half of the race, and then the wheels started to fall off. And I ended up walking far more than I ever wanted, watching precious minutes off my goal time slip off.

The thing with a marathon is that you can’t just go out and run another marathon if you fuck up. You have to recover and start the process all over again.

So I came away from my marathon experience in October with renewed focus. I could qualify for Boston, I knew it. I just needed more marathon experience. Which meant I should run more marathons, OBVIOUSLY.

This winter, my training experience has not been at ALL what last summer was. I’ve had a plethora of runs where I’ve loathed every minute of my run. I’m cold ALL THE EFFING TIME. Granted, it’s been a ridiculously cold winter with little thawing and lots of snow, but still. But even discovering the magic of those throwaway hand warmer things? They’ve only made my runs for the past three weeks tolerable.

Tolerable. More runs than not that feel hard and cold and are without joy. The ones that I like are merely tolerable.

So I cried uncle, and had coffee with my coach last night. I truly expected him to tell me it was marathon training combined with winter training blues, and that I should just suck it up and get through it.

He didn’t say that.

Instead, he told me that marathon training was a huge time suck, and that maybe it was better for me to aim at lower mileage weeks and race shorter distance races. He said, People would be SO much happier if they just went out for a 5 mile run every day. He recommended that I let go of the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, at least in the near future, and find the happy in my running again.

Let’s bring the fun Serenity back! he said.

I don’t know why it is that I’ve decided I need to qualify for the Boston Marathon. After what happened last year, even thinking about running it gives me nightmares. Running the race means I’d have to training in winter. And the course is not one of the best marathon courses, either – through the suburbs. Granted, with tons of crowd support.

But still. Suburbs aren’t pretty to run through.

I think, quite honestly, this idea that I need to get better at running marathons comes from this idea that I have to be getting better, showing progress. I can’t just run because I love it – I need to get faster and be better at it with every race. And with marathons, I have this idea that I have to PROVE to myself I am a “real” marathoner by getting better at it. I’m a good runner, so clearly I need to focus on running to my capability, yes?

What that means is I turn it into Work. And making it Work sucks the joy right out of it for me. Instead of running for fun, I’m looking at my watch and worrying about my pace. Instead of finding a comfortable easy pace on the mile long hill in mile 3 of a 5 mile run, I’m pushing myself up and over so I don’t get slower. Instead of feeling strong and capable, I feel sluggish and worn out.

So yeah, I think it’s time to step back and stop this pattern I have of making everything into work.

I will run my marathon on Mother’s Day this year, but I’m not going to do it with any sort of time goal in mind. I want to run the whole thing – the only walk breaks I want to take are at the water stops – and finish feeling happy that I ran the whole thing.

And then, this summer, I’m going to focus on racing shorter distances. Maybe run a half marathon in the fall. Run with lots of my friends. Run without a watch. Run in pretty places where I can swim in the ocean afterwards. Run happy.



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  1. “Run happy”
    That pretty much sums it up doesn’t it. It sounds like an awesome plan.

  2. I could have written this myself. Though my wakeup call came last November, when I developed a nasty case of shin splints while training for a half marathon, and then got violently ill immediately after running the race (bilateral pneumonia and influenza). I ended up having to take 6 weeks off work almost 3 months off of running. But I was doing the same thing- pushing hard, making it work, always trying for a personal best. And for all the same reasons as you. This year, I have decided is going to be a rebuilding year- lots of long, slow miles with no real goals in mind. No racing at all, because I’m too competitive, and I WILL race, whether or not I intend to. It’s tough to break those habits. Wishing you nothing but the best with the marathon, and with rediscovering the love of running- I’ll be right there with ya! 🙂

  3. I’d invite you to come run Rocket City here in town – but it’s all suburbs too 🙂

  4. I haven’t run a marathon since 2010 and honestly….I like training, but I hate training for marathons. It was no fun. So, I’m a big fan of running happy….and you can focus on shorter races and get better at those races. Maybe with a break, you might find yourself with a desire to do a fall marathon or shoot for a faster 1/2 marathon in the fall. You can still run and train and get faster without running that god awful distance. There are a lot of women in my running group that were more focused on overall health and running shorter marathons than running longer races. You might even find that more well rounded fitness (hot yoga anyone) and a toned, fit body through varied sports to be more satisfying than the ability to complete one long race.

  5. My Dad did a lot of running when he was younger. He only ran one marathon. He said to me that it just ate way too much time (especially as a military officer, recently divorced father of three). He wanted to tick off the “ran a marathon box”, and when he did that, he was happy. I would like to run one, once. But I don’t think I’d do more than that. Every time I look at the training that is involved, I can’t see how it can be made to work without sacrificing everything else in my life (and a significant amount in Q. and E’s lives too).

    I think you’ve come to a really important conclusion about yourself and how you approach things. Because what I would be worried about would be, if you qualified for Boston and ran it, what would come next? How would you better that, if it had always been about progress/improving/doing more? Would you have to run Boston again, in a faster time? Run more marathons in a year? Run an ultra-marathon?

    I think Run Happy sounds like an amazing mantra. And it will get warm again soon (I hope), and the days will be longer, and the runs will want to be fun again.


  6. “Run happy” sounds like a perfect goal. And what if you became the best short-distance runner? What if you set small goals for yourself and kept topping them, vs. setting your sights on something that — as you say — doesn’t have a lot of room for trial and error or re-do. It’s a little like cycling, nu? That you’re stuck always waiting for the next cycle when one is a bust, and it can take so many months to get to that next try. Unpack that 🙂 As someone who only runs short distances (and actually, never races. I only run for myself and run alone), it was the first thing I thought of when you described marathons.

  7. As a long time reader, I do agree that qualifying for the Boston marathon gave you a goal, one that required you to work hard, up your pace, and work at qualifying. I also think that is a metaphor to the high standards you hold yourself to in many aspects of your life.

    Sometimes, doing something for its own sake and not for the sake of something else (to take control, fill a void, provide a distraction) is where contentment is. At some point (and I’m not even saying this is that point for you), but you have to let go of the end and hold on to the means.

    Be your happy.

  8. I’ve always been jealous that you get to run through pretty rural areas! I run on major roads (when I manage to go at all), which is nice for safety but annoying in having to pay attention to not get hit by cars.

    And I started running because it gave me an excuse to have time to myself, when I wasn’t with my husband & kids or doing something for the house. Although it’s cool to feel like I’m pushing myself and getting better (although lately, I don’t go often enough that I really am getting better), I think it’s more a way to clear my head than anything else. I know it does that for you, too. So I hope you can get back to getting some of the positives that running has brought you.

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