Reflections on a Dark Run

When you run at 60% of your ability, your mind wanders and it can dwell in dark places. 
I had a tough run this weekend, not because it was hard, but because it felt impossible. On a day of a super cold 23F start (cold for this warm-blooded runner), I struggled from miles 4 – 7 and it was almost impossible to think of me ever completing Little Rock Marathon. A little mind shift after miles 7 helped me focus and complete another slow 4 miles. 11 weekend miles was not all the 16 planned, but it will do for now. 
Sick, tired, cold but spunky and bull-headed runner.

As always, I’m trying to look for what I can learn from these runs. Bad runs are just as important as good runs in understanding what your body rejects and what you can do better the next time and on race day. 
  • Your body needs time to recover from being sick. Patience is the key.I ran knowing that I wouldn’t be able to run all miles on the plan, but I wanted to get my legs moving a bit. But when I was struggling at 15 minute miles, I was frustrated at how I seemed to have lost all my fitness in just 4 months of being sick on and off. It took me a lot of strength to remember that life and sickness happens and 4 months from now, I will be in a different place.
  • An Empty Mind is the Devil’s Workshop.
    My mum used to tell me this all the time when I’d fling myself on the couch saying “I’m bored”, and she’d put me to work with extra homework. On this run, as I felt my mind wandering, it would dwell into dark places. Places that make me question myself, my motivations, my love for running. While all these questions make for great soul searching, I do not want to confront them while on a run that I cannot bail on!
  • You can always do anything for 30 seconds.
    Originating from track workouts with the group, this used to be my mantra when I would climb hills. I would run for 30 seconds and walk 30 seconds. I used the same strategy this weekend when I was just wanted to be done. I could run for 30 seconds, just 30 seconds. And then 30 became 60, and 60 became 90, and ….
  • No matter how much you wish, the miles are not going away anytime soon.
    Unless you run through it and make it go away. Wishing that I was done or that I would walk didn’t make the miles go by any quickly. If anything, it made things worse and slower. Repeat above 30 second mantra and keep trudging along.
  • Take your nutrition by time, not miles. 
    I’ve always taken my nutrition by miles. I take it at every 3.5 miles until mile 18/20 and then take it every 3 miles. Why miles? Because it is easier to calculate looking at the mile markers. Why 3.5? Because it usually ends up being anywhere from 3 and 4 miles, which gives me some flexibility (in my mind). However, going slow made my 4 miles close to 1 hr instead of my usual 40-45 min. So when I had that Gu 3.5 miles apart, it ended up being 1hr apart and I did not get the complete nutritional benefits out of it.
  • Dressing for the weather makes it much more bearable.
    It was a chilly 26F when we started. And knowing that I would be slower and doing a lot of walking, I packed on some extra shirts, thick gloves and the Buff headband (I loved it, review coming soon …) with wool socks. While there were a lot of complaints about the cold, mine wasn’t amongst them. 
  • Bad runs are just as important as good ones. 
    While the “ideal” number of bad runs for a training cycle of 4 months is 2-3 (in my opinion), for me this season has been something after the other. And these bad runs are helping me strengthen my mind and learn to respect my body, respect the sport of running and respect the distance.
I have one last “official” long run. I don’t think I shall be able to do all 21 however. Going to do whatever my body can handle and then pray hard for the rest of taper time!

Many of us runners run while sick, or while recovering from sickness. How do you feel on that first post-sickness, not-completely-feeling-ok run? Is your greatest challenge physical or mental? How do you manage to plow through the challenge well knowing that you are not at your best yet?

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