Running and Doubt (and my NEW Longest Run Ever)

This past weekend, I had 15 miles on the calendar and BOY was I looking forward to it. I hydrated well in the days leading up to the run. I spent the day before walking and relaxing down in LBI. I got a lot of sleep that night. Because I wanted a change of scenery (and the boardwalk bathrooms are still open), I decided to take my run to a new venue down the shore. My plan was to park at my usual starting spot, go 5 miles in one direction, 5 back, then continue on for 2.5 then back for my 15 total.

So I got down to the shore and took off in one direction for about 4 miles… before I ran out of boardwalk. I’m sure I could have probably explored a little more and gone into town for a bit until I picked up the boardwalk in the next town, but instead, I ran up the side street for half a mile then back down to the boards again for my 5.

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Fun Fact: at Mile 5, I stopped for a stretch on the sidewalk. When I realized I’d shorted myself on this turnaround and I’d need to make up that extra .5 somewhere down the line, I let out a breath and f-bombed the frustration out in one long, loud groan. But when I stood up, that’s when I saw the tiny girl at her Hurricane Irma Relief Lemonade Stand staring at me from across the street in a perfect recreation of the wide-eyed-person emoji:

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She made the face. Then I made the face. And then I ran across the street and threw my five sweaty singles into her basket and thanked her for the awesome thing she was doing and basically bought her silence on the matter. And I didn’t even take any of her lemonade or cookies.

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Anyway, once I got back onto the boardwalk for miles 5-15, I found a BRUTAL headwind coming from the north. After about 2 miles, I started to flag. I walked a bit. My music wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I accidentally stopped my watch (!!!!) at like 6.16 miles and threw off my whole mileage count for the rest of the run. I tried doing mental math and said OK, start the watch again and just go 8.84. This is easier said than done when there are turnarounds involved.

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By the time I got to new mile 4 (really mile 10), I stopped at my car to refill my water and reapply sunscreen. Apparently that was the wrong thing to do, because the last 5 miles were THE WORST. With my new math, I’d told myself I just had to go until my watch said 6.5 and turn around. So I put my head down and went. I was so delirious that when I hit 5, I sighed in relief and thought OK, just a half left – but then I realized I’d said 6.5, and that was it – I started to cry.

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I pulled over, sat on a bench, and cried behind my sunglasses like a big baby. I said some mean things to myself. Discouraging, nasty things that I never would have said out loud to anyone else. A marathon is impossible, I have no right to claim I could even attempt that distance, etc. But after a few minutes of hating on myself, I knew I still had to finish the run, so I went about another half mile before I gave up entirely on that direction due to the crazy crowds, and turned around for the final 2.5 mile stretch.

While 2.5 miles seems like nothing right now, I couldn’t imagine going for that long. Not because my body couldn’t do it; the soles of my feet burned but other than that I was physically FINE. It was my mental game that had fallen apart, and there was no getting it back in order.

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I switched on my power playlist and took a bunch of walk breaks, shooting my pace to hell (in my mind). By the time I got to the car, I lapped the block I parked on over and over to get to 15, unlocked the car, got into the driver’s seat, and cried. And this time I didn’t try to hide it. I just put my head on the steering wheel and let it out. I was disappointed in myself, plain and simple.

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I posted some videos to my Instagram stories that day in the moment, and received a LOT of love from you guys there. I really appreciate that, truly. You have no idea how reassuring it is to know that I’m not the only one who’s had doubts and bad runs and all the negative stuff that comes with this process.

Upon reflection, I  know that I CAN RUN 15 MILES. I just ran 14 a few weeks ago and felt unstoppable. This is a fact, that I can physically take on these distances. But once I told myself I couldn’t do it, I knew it to be true in that moment. That Henry Ford quote really is true: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

While I’m disappointed in what a flop that run turned into, I’m determined to learn from it and grow. I’ve slightly increased my strength training to keep every part of me strong, not just my legs. Last night I ran the 4 on my schedule even though I was still sore and slow. This run was proof that I need to work on my mental game as much as the physical part of it, and I’m not going to fail in that.

9 thoughts on “Running and Doubt (and my NEW Longest Run Ever)

  1. You did a great job of sharing those feelings that I think most distance runners have had. Trust your hard work and stay optimistic. Optimistic runners always do better. If you want a great read on the mental aspect of endurance athletics, check out “How Bad do you Want it?” by Matt Fitzgerald. That book changed my whole perspective.

  2. How powerful the mind is! I’m still trying to find the secret ingredient… and hoping one day I’ll find it! Until then, there will always be days that are worse than others I guess.

    Congrats on pushing through, and huge congrats on the distance!!

  3. I lol’d at that picture of you and the lemonade stand girl! Oops! And seriously, awesome job with the run, lady! I’ve never hit 15, and could totally see myself going through similar feelings. Way to get it done!!

  4. The lemonade stand (awesome and awkward-aweskward..? :), the mental math (been there… and even when I’ve figured it out, it’s on mind-loop til I’ve gotten to the turnaround point, so annoying), and the tears (what is it with running and emotions!? I swear running simultaneously heightens and mellows them! Great post 🙂

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