thoughts on tough runs

The other day I went out for a 14 mile long run with my buddy Chris at 5:30 in the morning.  It was HARD.  Harder than hard, in fact.

I found myself questioning everything about my running.  Why was I out there so early in the morning on a Friday, when I could be in bed sleeping?  Why was I running the pace that I was, trying to hang on to 8:00 miles?  Wouldn’t slower just be easier?  Feel better?  Why was I running so MANY miles anyways??!  It’s not like I’m training for a marathon or anything.  Good grief.

This is why the run was hard.  Because of that voice in my head that doubted every. single. thing about my purpose.  About it being worth it.  My own mind is what made it hard for me.

I thought about giving up.  And I mean I really, really thought about it.  I slowed down for a few miles, struggling to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I thought about stopping, calling it a day.

But I didn’t.  I just kept going.  I let the negative tape play in my head until IT gave up.  I outlasted it.

And then I found myself running my last mile – up a freaking hill (which we call “Honey Badger Hill, in case you were wondering) – in the fastest pace I had seen on my watch all morning, well below 8:00 pace.

I decided to take the run back, to make it mine.  A run I could be proud of.

A similar thing happened to me yesterday when I found myself back on the treadmill for the first time in a long time.  I wanted to do a 5 mile run with 3 tempo miles in the middle, and with the way logistics were going for our family yesterday the only way for me to get it done was going to be on the treadmill at the gym, after a 45 minute strength training session that kicked my butt.  Not exactly ideal, but I had to get it done.

I warmed up with a mile around an 8:40 pace.  Then I was feeling ready to knock out 3 fast miles around a 6:50 pace.  That is, until I started actually running.

It was awful.  The first mile was really so NOT FUN.  I felt like my legs were moving so fast I couldn’t keep up with them.  I was sweating like a monster and my breathing was heavy.  I was tired.  And then that voice started talking.  It was so conniving, so sneaky – telling me to ease up, to run closer to a 7:00 or 7:15 pace.  It would be easier, it would feel better.  It would still be a great workout.  I was so so tempted, trust me.  But I kept going because the thought of how I would feel if I gave into that voice, well, that would feel MUCH worse.

I made it through the first mile and as I started running the second mile, the voice started talking again.  Telling me I should just PAUSE the treadmill for a second.  Take a tiny bit of time to catch my breath, to reset myself.  I literally had to put my hands behind my back to resist the urge of pressing buttons on that stupid treadmill.  It was ridiculous.  I am SURE I looked ridiculous.  But I did not want to touch that treadmill.  I wanted to keep running, to make it through this run on top.

I am running a 5k this weekend and there will be no PAUSE button on the course.  I am going to have to push through my pain, my discomfort, my tired legs, my negative voice – to get to that finish line.  Especially if I want to get to the finish line faster than I ever have before.  I can’t give up just because it would be easier if I did.  That is not okay with me.

By the start of the third mile, I knew I was going to conquer my doubts and finish the tempo strong.  I increased the pace to somewhere in the 6:30s and put all of my energy toward not giving up.  Toward fighting for me and just getting through it.  I imagined myself running my 5k, giving it everything that I’ve got.  Beating that negative voice and the self doubt into the ground with each and every foot strike.  It. Was. Awesome.

When I compare how I felt after fighting through these runs versus how I would have felt if I had given up or made it easier on myself, there just is simply NO COMPARISON.  I would have been disappointed in myself, and it would have eaten at me for a long, long time.  I would have fueled that negative voice, and allowed it to grow stronger.  The next time I was faced with a hard run (which WILL happen, a lot, I’m sure of it) the negative voice would have a leg up on me.  It would remind me of that time I gave up …. and the self doubt would increase.

Rough runs like these are an important element of training.  We need them in order to become stronger runners.  Not just because they make us physically stronger, but because they build our mental toughness.  They show us what we are made of.  And they help us learn to believe in ourselves.

With that said, I really, truly and completely enjoyed my beautiful 10 mile run this morning with the Honey Badgers.  The run started out under a moonlit sky…

5:30AM = pretty

And was shared with some of the best running buddies a girl could ask for.  10 glorious, happy and (mostly) comfortable miles with good friends.  We chattered the whole way, laughing and catching up on anything and everything.  It had been a while since all of us had been together, and the conversation and energy just carried us through to the end.

We finished feeling blissed out and grateful.  Grateful for the run.  Grateful for one another.  And excited to do it again tomorrow (and the next day).

9 thoughts on “thoughts on tough runs

  1. Amy & I were talking about this on Sunday as we were trailing you 2 speedsters towards the end of our run. She, because she had run something like 35 miles already that weekend; me, simply because I'm not as fast as you all, and trying to keep up. We both agreed that neither of us would have been running that pace or distance had it not been for the two of you in front of us, or with running as a group. I keep doubting my fitness on thse long runs with the run club, and I keep seeing (through my stats) that I'm much stronger and more fit than I realize. So, thanks, Jess!!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post. I think we've all been there – those up-in-your head runs. I love the notion of outlasting it though. It's true, if you can just keep going, at some point it typically turns around. Maybe it's the sense of accomplishment, the pride of not stopping, whatever it is, it's a great feeling.

  3. Wow, Jess- way to push through! I am awful at speed work on the treadmill. I always feel like I'm dying! I am sure I would have eased up on the pace a little bit. You are developing some incredible mental toughness!

  4. Isn't running just like life? You have those tough moments when you think “What the?” and then the next day you have a wonderful time. I love that you have the Honey Badgers to run with.. so great to share those misty early morning runs with good friends. (btw- there is Terry in that picture!) so cool that I met her the other day at the Rockstar 8K. xo

  5. Great job pushing through on some tough runs! You are right, it will definitely make you a mentally and physically stronger runner!! Good luck on your 5k this weekend. I know you will rock it! hugs! 🙂

  6. Fav line: …They make us mentally stronger…

    There's no weight training program for that right?!

    Friends can make a huge difference with runs and it looks like you have a GREAT group!

    Your pace is killer! WOW!

  7. This article has come at the perfect time. I did my 2nd half marathon over the weekend. And it was HARD. I felt so defeated. I had to stop TWICE for the bathroom which isn't like me and then I walked…WALKED!!! My mantra in running distances is to Just Keep Running! But on Sunday, my body just wouldn't. I know it was mind over matter and I let the negative win out. As disappointed as I was in myself, I talked myself off the ledge by reminding myself that there are going to be good runs/races and bad ones. I realize that I have to ignore that little voice in my head that got me so down during my race Sunday. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has heard that nagging voice…thanks to you and this article, next time I WILL NOT let that voice get the best of me. Thank you!!!!!


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