Not every run is the same. Some days it is a fight to keep up my pace and others I’m flying through the miles. Having said that, there is one thing that is pretty much the same every run. This past year I’ve been learning about my run, how my body responds and how my mind processes what’s going on. In the worst of runs and the best of runs, I go through the same “phases” in pretty much the same order. It’s something like this:
Slow Start: At the very first it feels easy but then quickly my body realizes what’s going on and pretends it’s not “in the mood” and brings up little reminders of recent workouts (a tight shoulder or a sore quad). The start is an exercise in patience, waiting to find “my rhythm”. On the good days, this part goes by quickly. On the bad days, this is when I’m most tempted to end the run earlier than I’d planned and settle for less mileage.
In the groove: Once sufficiently warmed up and my body is moving efficiently, I’m loving it! I realize how strong I feel and my energy level is high. On good days, this is when I’m most tempted to run too fast and have to check my breathing and pulse to make sure I keep a pace I can sustain for the distance I plan on going that day. On bad days it takes a long time to get in the groove and the strong feeling comes and goes.
The burn: I actually really like the part when I feel like I have energy but my muscles are starting to slightly ache. It’s one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve made in my running this year: the mind over matter aspect of continuing to run past the point of discomfort and fatigue. This is where I’m challenging myself the most right now and I’m enjoying it, believe it or not! On a good day, the longer I’m able to “push through the pain”, the more I’m motivated to keep going. On a bad day, how I handle this can make or break my run, and I’m likely to slow down or walk and feel defeated.
I used to think that good runners ran effortlessly. I mean, it looks like they do. They’re stride is so smooth and if they’re really good, their shoulders and even their face is relaxed. It looks like they’re in “the zone” and focused on doing their thing. However, I have it on good authority that running still hurts even if you’re a great runner. Aha!
When I started running I was frustrated that it felt like such a struggle the entire time. I lived in the first phase where my body kept trying to convince me I didn’t want to do this. It never felt natural or good and I didn’t know that was normal. I thought it just meant I wasn’t a runner.
I’ve come a long way. My body has adapted, as it was designed to do, to the consistent running I’ve put it through. I have a long way to go still, to be able to reach my running goals (longer distances and faster times). Sometimes a little personal reflection on how far I’ve come and what I’m learning is really encouraging.