These past few weeks of winter training runs have not been the most inspiring or motivating. I’ve given over to my lazy voice and have taken more rest days and shortcuts on my runs than I ever did throughout my marathon training season (May-Jan).
As someone who loves to run races, I like to fancy myself as always in training. I had planned to treat Feb – Mar as maintaining a half-marathon training schedule. Coming off a marathon training season for the first time, I found it hard to restart a new training season.
On weekdays I have been forced to hit the dreadmill at my YMCA because I don’t feel safe running alone outside in the dark. The dreadmill is fine for working on speedwork. It holds me at a steady pace and within a timeframe. However, for those nice, easy 6m runs, the dreadmill is utterly dreadful. And with daylight savings time the morning’s have just become a whole lot darker.
After months of training in winter weather, Spring cannot arrive fast enough! I am bored with running indoors, staring at a dark parking lot. I am done with the cold weather and biting winds. I am sick of running around black ice patches or through snowstorms where the snowflakes disrupt my breathing. I want to retire my three winter jackets and simply go outside for a run without having to winterize myself.
I am nostalgic for my marathon training season. I miss running 6 miles almost daily and to regard it as an easy run. I envy anyone running long 18 milers now as they prep for a May marathon. I miss feeling ravenously hungry, legs achy and body depleted of energy after a week of hard training and a long run (i.e. 10miles Saturday, 14+ on Sunday). Although I long for marathon training season, I also know that I need to rest.
Sometimes my runs start out bad and then flip to pure elation by around mile 3. Sometimes I’m like a race horse and immediately get started with a strong energy that holds to the end. And every so often, although not frequently, the entire run simply sucks. My legs won’t move smoothly. My breathing is uneven. My head is weighted with every negative thought and stress in my life that finds its way to my legs. My stomach feels either bloated or hungry. My lips are too dry. My ears are cold. My neck is too hot. My legs are chilly. Nothing feels right. Everything is off. These past few weeks have been very off.
I am told this happens to all runners eventually. It’s part of the process and makes for stronger mental training. I think it happens because our body or mind needs to properly rest. As runners, we need to allow time for our muscles to regenerate tissue fibers and our mind to clear itself of ‘runner’s clutter‘. Runner’s clutter are all those nagging negative thoughts that are leftover after months of hard training and races. They are the thousands of no’s and i can’t’s that our mind tries to scream at us while we push our legs forward mile after mile. Eventually they become a pile of clutter blocking our positive flow of thoughts. The only way to clean them out is with proper rest. Sometimes rest is a day, sometimes it’s two days and sometimes you really need a good week or two for Spring cleaning.
Sometimes my Sunday Long Runs are with a friend. Having a running-mate makes a world of motivational difference. We keep each other moving. We help each other forget about our legs and think about life. The simple act of talking helps us improve our breathing as runners. This past winter my solo Sunday Long Runs were a big challenge. I would wake up late (8:30am) and eventually drag myself outside for a run. As I stepped outside and got blasted with the cold air I immediately wanted to go back inside. Normally I relish being outside for a run, no matter the elements, no matter the company or being solo.
I have a few bad runs and suddenly the drama plays out in my head that it’s all over, I’ll never have a good run again, I might as well just give up. My biggest fear is to lose it all. To never be able to run again. So when I miss even one day of running or encounter even one bad run I start to panic. It feels like the end of the world! But I refuse to listen. I have faith that it will get better. I never, ever give up trying. I know tomorrow is another day to hit restart.