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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!