In honor of today's running of the Boston Marathon, I thought I'd revisit Marathon Monday today. My friend Alison will be amongst those running masses today and I'm hoping she has a great race with the wind at her back. Go Alison, go!
Yesterday I ran the Horsetooth Half Marathon in Ft. Collins with a group of running friends from our old neighborhood. It's a fun race that ends at New Belgium Brewery, with live bands and um, FREE beer, which almost makes the 9% grade monster hills worth it. According to my Garmin, I finished the race about 30 seconds faster than last year, with a time of 1:55:13. That's a new half record for me, and while it's always nice to see your times improve, I've decided that number is not really important. And here's why.
Over the last month, my training had stalled. Actually, it would be more accurate to just say I STALLED. After three months of weekly speedwork, tempo runs, and longs runs (all designed to help me run my goal race-pace) my desire to run starting waning. And then, it just crashed. I began to dread every workout. It wasn't just getting out the door that was hard - it was the entire workout - before, during, and after. Thinking about workouts made me aggitated and irritable. Doing the workouts made me even more bitchy because the joy I used to find in a good run just seemed to be missing. I found myself skipping runs, making excuses, being "too busy" to fit it in. Every day I faced with the question: Do I really want to be a runner? And every day, I struggled to answer.
(Quite honestly, I almost had myself convinced that Overweight Couch Potato With No Athletic Aspirations could look good as the title on my business cards. In the appropriate font, naturally.)
So what had changed? I had completed two marathon training schedules the previous year, and while there were ups and downs, the slumps were never bad enough to make me contemplate giving up the sport entirely. Yes, I had increased the training intensity in an effort to improve my times, but isn't that what any competitive athlete does? Isn't the desire to improve and excel the driving force behind any sport? Shouldn't I, as an upstanding member of the running community want to run faster, faster, faster?!
And after much soul-searching and chocolate comsumption I found my answer. And that answer, for this runner girl, is a resounding NO.
I realized that my recent running goals were all focused on finish times. I publicly stated that I wanted to run a half marathon in under 1:50 and a full marathon in under 3:50. And I implemented a plan to make that happen. My runs were no longer a "mental check-out." No cranking up the ipod and tuning out the world and just hitting the pavement. These workouts had a purpose - to make me faster and stronger. They required constant clock-checking and an equally constant racing mind (was I on pace? did I need to speed up? slow up? stride out?) And just like that, the main reason that I run - to get out of my head - was gone. And it's those mental health runs that keep me coming back to this sport. Those glorious miles where you're just sorting it all out in your head to the rhythm of your pounding feet. The runs where you finish and everything just seems better, clearer, and more defined. And you're ready for whatever life is gonna throw at you.
So what's my plan now? To rediscover the joy. For the time being, I've thrown out the running schedule with all its complex intervals, times, and paces. I've decided to make the act of running more important than the finish time. And I'm getting back to the basics: me, my shoes, and the road. Because somewhere out there is the reason I run. I've just gotta chase it down.