Running is hard

Training for the Chicago Marathon (which, FYI, is this Sunday) since completing the No Frills Marathon last month has been a little challenging. Nothing hugely or meaningfully catastrophic has occurred, just lots of hiccups. To put it another way, I haven’t been bitten by a bear, just by lots of fleas, and scratching them is tedious and I’m tired.

I’ll catch you up on my training and some of the multiple flea-bites while also bringing to you a message I’ve wanted to deliver for a long time:

RUNNING IS HARD!

This is what Meredith and I say to each other when one of us “overreacts’ to a bad workout, or when the weather is conspiring against us, or when some ding-dong or another makes some remark that minimizes our efforts. It can be an extremely validating and calming thing for a runner to think about.

DM 10-8

Running.Is.Hard. This is my Daily Mile entry from this morning.

Running is hard for some obvious reasons, such as, it takes a lot of energy to run. I don’t mean that a prerequisite for being a runner is that you’re a crazy-eyed-always-moving-fast-talking-knee-shaking sort of personality, I mean, actual energy must be exerted to move your body overground at a more rapid pace than you’d normally take to say, transport yourself from the car to the grocery store.

When your goals begin to move past running for fitness, or “to eat”, to wanting to get faster and stronger, sometimes workouts can be so challenging (read: HARD) that you don’t realize that they were a breakthrough session until much later. This is my Daily Mile entry from about 2.5 weeks ago, I was totally “meh, typical fair” about it until I got the flu last week and missed my final chance for a goal-pace test run.

Running is so hard, that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Running is so hard that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Pet peeve alert: I HATE it when people say “I run so that I can eat/because I love food”, in fact, I call B.S.. Eating is TOO EASY and running is TOO HARD for that to really be the behavioral contingency at play.

Running is also hard for some reasons that you may not think about, and that people actually lie about. Here’s one example, speaking of food, if you want to get better at running, you cannot eat all of the cupcakes, or even any cupcakes, on anything that resembles a regular basis. In this case “cupcake” is equal to the following (not even close to exhaustive) list: donuts, frappachinos, brownies, cookies, pizza, soda, bagels and all the ridiculous toppings, pretty much everything on “Pinterest”, anything Racheal Ray put cheese on recently, mimosas every weekend and beers everyday, bags of candy corn, adult-head-sized cinnabons, or brunch 2-4 times per week. I mean you can, but good luck running that off, and good luck not puking or hating running while you try.

Running is even harder if your diet is crappy.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Running is hard because even though running marathons, indeed running any race distance, has become a wildly popular, there is still a lot of discouragement that you’ll face based on a misunderstanding of how the human body best operates. “You’re tired? Oh you shouldn’t run”, “You’re stressed? You should stop running so much.”, “Oh, XYZ hurts? You definitely need to stop running”. There are probably 100 comments that could be added to this list, and the fact is, that running helps make nearly all of the BETTER, not WORSE.

A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when you run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Two weeks after the No Frills Marathon: A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when to run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Running is hard because as you start achieving your goals, and start getting faster, people make assumptions. It minimizes a runner’s hard work when you attribute their successes to a god-given talent, saying, “oh, they’re fast”, the same way you’d say “oh, they have brown eyes”. When I was in high school and college, in New Hampshire, I had this one 5 mile loop that I ran hundreds of times, and no matter how hard I tried, I never could finish it in under 48 minutes. That’s how frustrating it was, I remember that it wasn’t 45 minutes, or 5o, but 48 that I got stuck on. The last time I ran that loop was about 10 years ago.

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision making to train through some injuries and illnesses, is that other required backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workoutbefore Sunday's race. Running is at its hardest when it's unpredictable. But  I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision to train through particular injuries and illnesses, is that others require backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workout before Sunday’s race. Running is at its hardest when it’s unpredictable. But I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

My first 10k, where I felt like I was running like the wind, my pace was over 9 minutes per mile, it has taken me almost 15 years (of on and off effort) to get my 10k PR pace down from 9:16 to 6:39, and a whole hell of a lot of runners are faster than that.

Like this one:

Hearing what the pro's have to say should be a required element to training.

Hearing what the pro’s have to say should be a required element to training.

Running is hard, and to master it (whatever that means to you) takes a lot of practice, strategy (I don’t just mean for the workouts, I mean to manage it with all the other parts of life too), and patience. There is a cultural oddity in this now HUGE population of runners, where, even though a runner is training hard, and making improvements they should be (and perhaps really are) very proud of, they will look at another runners bad workout and say “oh, man, you’re shitty run is still faster than my best mile!”. I know that the intent of comments like that is very positive. But I always cringe, because running is just too hard for people to self-deprecate like this.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person's running by how many mile they log each week.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person’s running by how many mile they log each week.

Comments like that minimize the efforts of both runners, the faster one and the slower one. Because at an equal effort, runner A might run a 5 minute mile, and runner B might run a 12 minute mile. It’s still EQUAL EFFORT. What I’m saying is that it is OK for someone who usually runs a 7 minute pace to come back from bad run that had a pace of 8:45 and call it a bad run. And it’s ok for a runner who usually runs an 8:45 pace to come back from a run that had a pace of 8:30 and call it the most amazing run ever. And neither runner should feel at all shy about either statement. Because running is hard enough! One of the hardest things for new runners to understand is that above all else running and training (especially for the marathon) is all relative.

So whether you run a 14 minute mile, or a 4 minute mile, you better own that ability, or I am going to internet slap you silly!

Running is so hard that even if it’s their favorite way to pass 20 minutes or  several hours, and even if they are relentlessly pursuing a goal they are passionate about, nearly every runner really REALLY looks forward to a day with no running now and then!

See? Haaaard.

See? Haaaard.

*AB

30 responses to “Running is hard

  1. THANK YOU. This was just what I needed, in both the encouragement and smack in the face sense.

    • Oh good! When I hit post I thought “well, I’m either about to get hate mail, or high fives, I sure hope it’s high fives”.

  2. Dude! Luuuuurve this post. If I ever begin to go down that slippery slope, please please please internet slap me silly. I’ll thank you later.

    • I think sometimes we’re allowed to wallow a little, because, you know, running is hard. But, then it’s time to get back to work ;)

  3. Hey, I run at Horner Park all of the time! Going there, one loop around and back home is 3.1 miles exactly. Anyway, running is the one of the exercises that I can start out doing when I’m dead tired. I just try to get one foot in front of the other until I hit my rhythm. When I look at my splits afterwards, I often surprise myself that I was able to get a solid/fast workout. So, yeah, being too tired to run is not always a legit excuse. Yes, running is hard. But all of this hard work will pay off for you and the BRC. Go BRC! :)

    • I love running at Horner Park, I feel like it’s my little secret spot ;) I knew there was a reason you belong with “the coalition”! Yes, sometimes my tired days are also my best days, I sometimes wonder if it oddly helps my stride relax or something…

  4. Running is hard, that’s why I cycle! :-p

  5. When things get hard, my motto is “well that’s too bad.” This is in running and in the OR too. Tough case? Too bad. Tired run? Too bad. Ultimately I like running and I like my job. I can take the “that’s too bad” moments for all of the good. Great post. Running is hard, running is fun! (feel free to internet slap me when I say silly things) :)

    • I read on another running blog (www.aliontherunblog.com) ages ago (months? a year? I don’t know) that “no one cares how tired you are, everyone is tired”, it was advice her boss (again, I think?) gave her. I’ve tried to get better at not complaining about being “tired” or not having enough “time”, I’m not sure how much improvement I’ve made but the mindset does help to remind me that you can accomplish whatever you prioritize. I’m glad you liked this! I actually drafted a paragraph that was going to talk about your engagement (running is so hard that it’s appropriate to pop the question mid-race), but I took it out…hmm, may I use it in a “Running is Hard, Part 2″ ?

      • Haha, yes of course you can use my story. Running is so hard, that even if you get engaged at mile 22 and are given a beautiful ring, you can’t even cry. :)

  6. I love so much about this post!! For the same reasons I love the name of Jennifer’s blog – It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Better. Running is hard, but that’s what makes it awesome. Also, I totally agree with your annoyance over the “I run to eat!” crowd! To me, that seems a bit disordered, plus, I feel like it takes away running for it’s own enjoyment. But that’s just me. If i was just doing it to lose weight, I’d go to Jazzercise or something? (Question mark because I have no idea if I’d enjoy that.)

  7. LOVE this post! I find that on those days where I have to force myself to lace up and head out there when mentally I want to do anything but can sometimes be my best runs. Then there are the days where I am desperate to run but I have a cold and so I can’t… insanely frustrating!

    Good Luck on Sunday – Hope to see you go whizzing by me while I am camped out near the 15K mark!

    • Ooh! I will post my outfit, so far all the variables aren’t really aligning for me for Sunday, so I’ll need all the shout-outs I can get (I get a HUGE performance boost from seeing/hearing people I know, even if only virtually!).

      Oh man, if I look back at my dailymile, or my training notebook (binder, actually, heh), I have MANY great training runs that start out with some variation of “dragging my feet, warmed up, paced around, went back inside, started making food, threw a temper tantrum and went back outside, then had the BEST TEMPO RUN EVER!” it’s so confusing.

      • I will most likely be camped out before the 15K mark… my place is along the route so I am just going to hang out outside but not sure how crowded it will be. For sure, I will be on the west side of Clark near Fullerton

        Yea – I have had a TON of runs where I started to change then stopped then got insanely angry and just changed and walked outside before I could change my mind again.

        There is a lot to be said for the whole “The hardest part of the run is walking out the door”

  8. It’s a helpful mantra to have when you have a crappy run, or if weather conditions are not in your favor, or if you’re struggling at mile 23 of a marathon — this sport is hard, and it’s that difficulty that pushes you to improve.

    Excellent, varied and cathartic post.

    • Thanks Dan! Isn’t it amazing that even though it’s so hard, sometimes it’s after the very hardest marathons, or workouts, that we turn right around and say “hmm, I bet I can do that better.” I just love it.

  9. Responding to this post is hard, because I have brown eyes.. and because you are girl that is totes awesome and I’m just hanging around posting gifs! hah
    seriously.. Good good stuff.
    Running is hard because I no longer know what sleeping in feels like, but I don’t care anymore! I run

    • If I had your talents for finding perfects gifs this post would be far more entertaining than with my intermittent DM post screen-shots! haha! I can’t wait to sardine-can into that start corral with you on Sunday! Gack!

  10. I wish I had read your last few paragraphs when I first started running. Running IS really hard, and it’s also really hard to not constantly compare yourself to other runners. I feel good about my pace now, but it took a while to realize that and stop falling into that trap of “your bad mile is still faster than my amazing mile.” I’m slower than pretty much every other runner that I know, but you’re totally right – equal effort is just that, equal!

    Also yes, people need to stop saying they run to eat crap. Someone I know will post that on FB all the time, commenting that her 3 mile run will make up for a night of gorging. Uh no, it won’t.

  11. annereallyblogs

    I wish I had read your last few paragraphs when I first started running. Running IS really hard, and it’s also really hard to not constantly compare yourself to other runners. I feel good about my pace now, but it took a while to realize that and stop falling into that trap of “your bad mile is still faster than my amazing mile.” I’m slower than pretty much every other runner that I know, but you’re totally right – equal effort is just that, equal!

    Also yes, people need to stop saying they run to eat crap. Someone I know will post that on FB all the time, commenting that her 3 mile run will make up for a night of gorging. Uh no, it won’t.

  12. Nailed it. Totally. So much truth. Being connected to so many runners now via the twittersphere and DM is awesome, because it totally feels like I have a bunch of cheerleaders in my back pocket cheering me on for every running pursuit I do, but it can also be exhausting… especially when we get caught up in the comparison/’OMG you’re doing 40000 400m repeats? maybe I should, too!’/whatever nonsense. Running is hard. We’re good people for even attempting.

  13. I guess you don’t run for chocolate then? :) Yeah those 2 min runs where you just turn around – those are *the* days to go find some gluten-free or vegan donuts depending on your orientation, sit, relax, and smile for reasons other than running.

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