I took the whole winter off from running, and now that the snow and the ice has melted and the sky is a little lighter in the morning, I’ve started lacing up my shoes again and venturing out for a long run on Saturdays.
Let’s get something straight. I equate anything longer than 10 kilometers to a long run. Why? Probably because running longer than 10K has been the bane of my existence for years.
So, here we have me on that fateful first running day in March. I hadn’t run all winter, but had trained on the elliptical machine some. I even did some weight training during winter so hey, I really thought that I could be at the same level of running condition as I was last year after the half-marathon.
I walked down the street. Earplugs in. GPS on. Runkeeper ready to go. I started at a slow jog for 10 minutes. I fully expected that 10km was going to be a little hard, but I would, of course, complete it.
SH*T. I could barely make 6 km, and that was with walking.
I couldn’t breathe. I was tired. My legs wouldn’t move like they did last year. I felt the reverberation of each heavy footstep. I felt like I had lead weights for legs.
OMG. My heart sank. How could this be?
I ran for the next four Saturdays and found that my progress hadn’t improved the way that I wanted it to (reaching 10k). I found that I would walk less and less, but I still couldn’t reach the distance I wanted.
Break things into smaller, achievable goals
I realized that I was starting to become intimidated every time I even thought about running.
I kept repeatedly hearing in my head, “You suck. What is wrong with you? You’re out of shape. You’re never going to be in the same shape as you were last year.”
It was an awful feeling. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Regret.
I was really down on myself for 3 weeks.
And then last week, I had an epiphany.
Who said that I had to go for 10 kilometers? Was there some kind of written law that said that I had to do 10K?
I realized that I would just keep disappointing myself if I kept setting goals that I couldn’t achieve right now.
I wondered what would happen if I set a new goal. Let’s say, 7 kilometers but no walking.
I’m happy to say that reached the goal.
And this little change in thinking gave me back my confidence in myself. I felt like I was ready to tackle another challenge because I was able reach this one.
So, that was a lesson learned. I didn’t always have to go for the grand goal right away. Just because I broke things into smaller chunks didn’t make me a loser either. In fact, it gave me more confidence to continue.
Run in the present moment
Since I ran 7 km last Saturday, I told myself today that I could go for the 10 kilometers, if I took it easy and didn’t set any speed expectations upon myself. I thought that since I was so successful with this strategy last week, I was pretty sure that the same strategy would work today.
However, what I found today was something different. I found that my mind kept worrying about what would happen later in the run. For example, on the 2km, I was already thinking —
“Wow. 10km is far. By the time I reach 5km, I’ll be at Rykkin. Then, I’ll have to turn back. And I’ll be tired. I won’t make it back.”
“Oh, my legs hurt. There’s going to be hills on the way home. I won’t make it up the hills. I’ll have to stop.”
The first time I noticed that my mind was wandering away to the worry thoughts, I pulled it back to the present. I told myself that I had to focus on where I was now. That I should be listening to my audio book and enjoying the fact that I could put one foot in front of the other.
The worrying miraculously stopped.
Another kilometer or two, I felt myself starting to think the worry thoughts once again. I talked myself into the present again. Put one foot in front of the other. Oh, hey, I’m actually running. I haven’t stopped, I marveled to myself, even though these hills are a b*tch.
Again, this strategy worked.
I realized during that run that it was crazy worrying about something that hadn’t even happened yet. My mind was playing tricks on me and every time I let those thoughts take a hold of me, I would start to panic and then I would start questioning myself.
My time today wasn’t miraculous. My distance wasn’t spectacular either. But, what I learned today was priceless. Don’t worry about the future or get hung up on the past. Neither one of those is going to get you anywhere. But the greatest things can happen if you can just focus on the now by putting one foot in front of the other.