Running is hard.
That’s a fact I’ve conveniently forgotten over the last few months.
It’s been a while since I pushed myself. I haven’t raced since Halloween. I’ve been disingenuously slapping the terms “tempo” and “speedwork” on miles that are only slightly faster than my comfortable pace. I haven’t approached my limit in a while.
For a few weeks I’ve been avoiding an unavoidable truth: the only way to become a faster runner is by running faster. Reading other peoples’ race reports and workout recaps and thinking: why can’t I do that? Well, duh: because I’m not doing it.
So tonight I set out to run hard. It was cold. The route was hilly. My legs felt heavy. But I told myself that I wasn’t going to give up unless I passed out or puked.
I did a four-mile tempo and as cheesy as it sounds, I felt like the Little Freaking Engine That Could. As in, if you would have asked me during that first tempo mile whether I could do this for four miles, I would have said: no effing way. I was working a pace that should have felt relatively easy and was taking it block by block. Odds of quitting seemed high.
But then something bizarre and wonderful happened.
Instead of slowing down and quitting, I picked it up. And as running became physically harder, it became mentally easier. Each step was validated by the one that came before it. I looked down and saw 6:XX and for the first time in a long time, I actually sort of believed in myself.
In so many ways, running is all about confidence. And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: so much time passes since you last challenged yourself, and you gradually forget your own capabilities.
Tonight’s tempo was simply joyous. Joyous because I hit splits that I hadn’t seen in months. Joyous because it felt good to feel good about myself. Joyous because I was on the verge of vomiting. It felt great.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
And if it were easy, I’d want nothing to do with it. Because the feeling you get after knocking your own expectations out of the park with a deliriously tough workout is pure bliss.
Here’s to hard running in 2011.