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Long Slow Run

If you’re a loyal follower of my blog, surely you remember my overjoyed post about my first half marathon, which I ran in April. My time was a disappointment, but the experience definitely wasn’t. And I think of all the obnoxious pictures of me as I’m crossing the finish line are proof that, although I wanted to quit at some points, I still had a blast and was super proud of myself.

I ran my first with minimal training (meaning, one Long Slow Run through the hills in my neighborhood at home, usually on Saturdays, supplemented by five or six days on the stationary bike at school). This time, I decided it would be different. I decided I would drag my butt out of bed and head to Forest Park, even if I was intimidated by the Wash. U boys’ cross country team. Yes, I decided, I wanted to use the weeks leading up to my race to make myself into a real runner, not just a weekend runner. And what do real runners do? Well, easy! They run.

My first few nights back at school for the semester were a disaster. I hate living in a dorm (have I ever mentioned that before? I have a vague feeling that I have!), and honestly, I just wanted to go home. I had my alarm set to get up and run long that Tuesday morning, and when I woke up, I seriously wanted to go back to bed. But I knew that if I made that choice, I would be angry at myself for skipping a workout on top of being miserable and homesick. Sooo, I laced up and dragged my butt out to Forest Park as planned.

And that’s when the most amazing, beautiful thing happened.

You may read this and think, “BALONEY!” (or in my case, “CHEAP, PROCESSED, FAKE BALONEY!”, but I digress), but I swear, it’s true. When I came back from that run that Tuesday morning, suddenly, I was no longer homesick. After that magical run, I began to crave my time out there (oh, and seeing those Wash. U runner guys helped a lot, too, actually…HA) and the inevitable runner’s high that was sure to follow. Seriously, one day after the Long Slow Run, I was so gosh darn happy that I almost started laughing. Instead, I just ran with a cheesy, “I love running!” grin on my face. (Cute.) I had finally achieved what I have so desperately wanted to achieve: I came to love running, to need running in my life. It just made everything feel better.

Fast forward to today. The past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to get myself out there, but it’s been hard since it’s still dark and kind of cold at seven in the morning. This morning as I stood in my corral waiting to go, I contemplated jumping over the little fence they had surrounding our corral. I was, for some reason, extremely nervous, which translated into a stomachache and weak feeling legs. By about mile three I had my mind made up: I couldn’t do it. In my mind, it was all downhill from there. The course, however, was the exact opposite. I had traded my once a week runs through massive hills for nearly daily training runs in a park with very few hills. So, I hit the infamous wall. And my Clif energy gel never really helped me recover.

I finished about six minutes faster than my first. Which is great! I’m glad! But I felt miserable the whole time. My legs were dead. I was feeling nervous and unconfident, and I almost let myself walk on more occasions than I’d like to admit. There were no obnoxious, happy pictures of me as I crossed the finish line. Instead, I pretended I didn’t hear my dad as he yelled for me, loud and clear, as I passed, when obviously, I did.

So. You know how they say that it’s the journey, not the destination that matters? Is that true, or is it a bunch of cheap, processed baloney that I’m feeding myself to make myself feel better? Because, looking back on it, the training was the best part of this for me. Like I said, I came to love running. I’m taking tomorrow off, then getting back at it on Tuesday (looks like I need to find some hills this time). Running feels easier and more comfortable to me now. I know what I did wrong training-wise and what I can do to make myself more prepared for my next half in April. But the mental blocks…are those things I can get over? I hope so!

“Okay, so your race didn’t go as planned. How does this relate to me?” My answer: “Sorry, it probably doesn’t. I just wanted to make myself feel better.” But that’s not to say there’s not a lesson you can learn from this long post. What really screwed me up was getting nervous and worked up about making a certain time on my watch. I was so focused on the number that it ended up sabotaging the race for me. I guess the lesson to be learned here is that sometimes, it’s okay to just relax and not let such forms of external validation mess you up. Like with grades. Caring is vital, but if you get so freaked out about making a 100% on everything or being perfect, the heat of the stress and pressure will probably just make things worse (unless of course you are one of those people who thrive under such conditions. In that case, sorry, this post actually does not relate to you whatsoever. If you want to stop reading now, I get it.). If you honestly put in the effort and the work, all you can do is relax and trust that your studying (or, in my case, training) will help you get the score you want. Maybe if I had done that, not only would I have shaved six minutes off my time, but I also probably would’ve had a lot more, dare I say the “F” word? Fun. My race would have been so much more fun.

Until April, then…

Have a good week!

-Carly

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