I started my Stitcher podcast app just before the race started and had my Runkeeper ready to go. I always feel awkward doing the weird shuffle at the starting line, everyone pressing the button on their Garmins and me, as a historical amateur runner, fiddling with my new phone, which was much larger than my old iPhone, and too big to fit in my older-style fuel belt.
My expectations for the run were low, having run 3 miles once since June, and a handful of 200s, 400s, and 800s otherwise. The focus has been strictly Crossfit and The Outlaw Way, which left little room for casual running, though running rarely ranks high on my to-do list. And frankly, I’m not a runner, nor do I choose to distinguish myself as one.
I sillily (can we make that a word?) signed up for this race for a couple of reasons: one, because I occasionally like to
torture push myself outside my comfort zone; and two, because this race is a part of a four-part series that yields an extra piece of bling at the end.. 😉
I know when I run it takes me about two miles to warm up, and have had a history of doing my races: run-as-far-as-you-can, walk. Run-as-far-as-you-can, walk. But today I set a personal goal to make it to that 2-mile marker without stopping.
Crossfit takes a higher priority over running and I had little to no thoughts about the run; so much so, that I absent-mindlessly did a WOD yesterday, as a team of three, that included 60 total burpees, 120 push-ups, 180 front squats, 240 push presses, 300 wall balls, and the remainder of the 40 minutes (for us, almost 10), doing plate pushes across the turf. Quad. Killer.
Despite mashing my quads last night and taking a long epsom salt soak, I acknowledged it was going to be a tough race. 5 minutes into the race, my Runkeeper audio cue sounded, “Time, 5 minutes, distance .7 kilometers, pace, .” I usually don’t like to have the time and pace audio cues on as it gets mental, but since I switched phones (and haven’t run) I didn’t have any time to switch the settings, and it wasn’t letting me turn off the audio cues mid-run.
Concurrent with my running app, I was listening to a great Barbell Shrugged episode about a man who ran 40 marathons in 40 days with a fridge on his back and an upcoming challenge of running across America. 42kg weighed marathons. Yep. He compared himself to Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill, a Greek myth interpreted with a message of people working harder when their work seems more meaningful..
And here, all I was doing was running a little road race for fun, well, fun being relative.
Ten minutes in and my little Runkeeper lady was at it again: “Time, 10 minutes…”. There was no way I was going to be able to listen to this podcast and not have her remind me every 5 minutes of where I was at in the race.
So I took the headphones out, closed my eyes for a moment, took some slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.. and ran.
It’s a funny thing running without background noise. Last year while training for my half marathon I traded running with music for listening to podcasts as it was easier to not disrupt my pace. But running in silence as my sister suggested I try a million times before, was quite liberating. I focused on the people around me, the positive energy from the race participants and the spectators.
I made it to Mile 2 and made a new goal of making it to Mile 3 without stopping.
I thought about how much stronger I am now that I was last year at this time. Sure, my endurance is far worse (as this point last year, I ran my best 10k ever – and tied it a month later), but I am physically stronger.
I am mentally stronger.
I often keep this post I wrote nearly two years ago in the back of my head, but despite wanting to be faster, stronger, better, sometimes the mental game gets the best of me.
But lately I have been lifting heavier. Committing to my workouts more. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and doing things I thought I was incapable of doing. Focusing on the mental toughness over the physical limitations in my workouts. And it has been working.
I told myself at Mile 3 I would give myself a reprieve, pat myself on the back for rocking three miles, take my walk break, and move forward. As I passed the mile marker, I smiled to myself; I cannot remember the last time I ran three miles without stopping. Heck, even doing 800m repeats last week I ended up walking at the 400m turnaround point. I knew once I made it this far, I had to push to 4 miles.
I just kept focus on my breathing, enjoying the scenery, reminding myself of how strong I have become.
I passed Mile 4 and remembered my only 10k that I ran so many consecutive miles. That race was the first time I ran more than 4 miles without walking and I was overcome with the emotions that I had when I ran it then and how proud I was of myself.
I had zero intentions of PRing this race, and at mile 4 the 60 minute pacer passed me which confirmed it. But I wanted to focus on staying consistent, focusing on breathing, focusing on this race that I was going to run straight through, even if it meant a slower time than in the past.
My 10k in March I finished in 1:15, and in June, 1:10. My two prior 10ks to that were both 1:00.
Today, I crossed the finish-line at 1:06.
I didn’t panic at any point during the race; I didn’t stress out; I didn’t cry.
I just enjoyed the run..
Well, maybe not enjoyed, but I did not hate it..
Aside from my half marathon, this run was a pretty defining moment for me. I realized that I am capable of doing things that are uncomfortable. I can push past that sticking point where I normally would have given up. I did something I was unprepared, unconditioned for. Without training. Without being emotionally invested in running. Without stressing.
The body is an amazing piece of work.