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.


32 responses to “Hard

  1. sounds like a great start to running had! wooo!

  2. Great mile-by-mile emotions. It’s completely thrilling to rediscover some of your speed after time away from it. For me it’s all about redefining “uncomfortable”… sort of a mental retooling of how to perceive the paces as I get back in touch with my fast side.

    Anyway, this post made me smile. Also, your cartoons always have the most perfectly expressive eyebrows. Gold!

    • Definitely. I know that during periods of lighter training, my whole framework just shifts a little…and picking it back up, it can be hard to remember that uncomfortable is OK.

      I only give my avatar awesome eyebrows because mine suck. And need to be plucked…hmm.

  3. Sounds like a great workout!! I can’t wait for this snow to melt so I can get out there and push myself. 🙂

  4. Awesome 🙂 Love workouts like that. So jealous that you could do it outside! Are you training for a specific race right now?

    • Next “big” race is the Shamrock Half on March 20 – I’ll probably knock out a couple of shorter races between now and then too, but I don’t have anything specific planned.

      Lack of snow and ice – one of the benefits of living in the south! Remind me of this in July…

  5. Congrats on your awesome tempo run! I feel the same way about them (like there’s no way I can possibly make it) while running, but when they’re over I’m SO happy!

  6. Way to bring it Shelby! What are you training for next?

    • Hopefully an “adult PR” (I hate that term, but I’ve accepted that my 17-year-old times are just out of reach) at the Shamrock Half on 3/20. Breaking 1:40 would be good…

  7. BAD ASS!

    Lesson: Sometimes blissful happiness is the threshold of puking. Makes me wanna go out and run ’til I puke.

  8. This is so, so true. Congrats on the great run!

  9. I’m still a beginner but I really think running is at least 75% mental strength, 25% physical strenth. Our bodies can do it; we were designed to. It’s the nagging doubts, laziness, external factors, and excuse-making that make it so tough.

  10. You are right about running being mental. Some days I’m just not into it and I stink, other days I feel so great and I rock the run. Congrats on your awesome run!

  11. Nice job! You gonna be so fast in 2011.

    True story – I actually DID puke after my run last night. But I think it’s because I have a stomach bug (or something???), not because I was reaching my limit, heh.

  12. Ugh I can’t imagine seeing 6’s on the Garmin. Towards the end of my half training I saw 7’s once or twice during my last few miles home and would get excited. But never for long enough for that to be my average pace, haha.

  13. Great words! I also agree with you that running can start to feel mentally easier as it gets physically harder. I never would have believed that a few years ago, but it seems to be especially true for me on the treadmill. When I really crank the pace and tell myself “just 5 more minutes” its amazing how much stronger and more like I a runner I feel than during easy treadmill runs when I’m just bored and loafing.

    Congrats on hitting 6:XX splits – go Shelby!

  14. maybe i channeled some of your awesome, because last night i did a 2×2 mile tempo as well (we’re running buddies in spirit) and i saw splits i’ve never seen in my LIFE. what an amazing feeling, so glad you’ve got your groove back, sista!!

  15. Whoaaa girl, look at those splits! Well I’m impressed.

  16. Oh hell yes. And those MS paint heads made my day.

  17. Haha, I love the splits cartoon, hilarious. Negative splits are the best feeling- good for you!

  18. Running IS hard and it HURTS. But usually in a good way. It’s been like 5 months since I’ve run outside since my injury…the treadmill is awful and too easy and I know as soon as I go outside again I’ll be puking in the bushes. 🙂

  19. Isn’t it funny how we can surprise ourselves?! We really can do more than we think we can. Now if I could just get more people to believe me that this really is the case……….. 🙂
    Great job!

  20. this is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. Thanks :o)

  21. You have such a gift for capturing *exactly* what it feels like. I wish I could see a 7 again. Congrats on a great run!

  22. this is exactly my sentiment from my workout yesterday too! hard running is the ultimate confidence boost. man, this post makes me want to go out and do another hard workout

  23. Congrats on the speedy tempo run! I had a similarly joyous run this morning, though it wasn’t speedy. But it was one of those runs that made me forget the running blahs I’ve had recently and remember why I love it so much. Hopefully I can carry this into my next hard workout.

  24. so much running love here. and athleticism in general. working hard and pushing yourself toward achieving a goal – be it a time, yoga posture, whatever – is so gratifying. bring on the struggle!

    PS when again is your NYC visit?!

  25. Booo. I wanted you to puke.

    One day I’ll figure out how to physically get my body to go faster. The brain leg connection just isn’t there for me.

  26. “And if it were easy, I’d want nothing to do with it.” Uh…guess this sort of ends our friendship, doesn’t it?

  27. Wow nice run! You dropped your pace a whole minute during the tempo portion.

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