Tag Archives: run

A bad run.

I’ve mentioned here before that I’m training for a marathon.

This morning’s training run was awful. Okay, maybe not awful… but not good. Not good at all.

I just couldn’t move naturally. Everything felt heavy and stiff. I set the treadmill at a pace that normally feels easy and comfortable and natural to me, and I felt like I had bricks for legs. When I bumped to a sprint (it was an interval workout), I was panting like a dog. Normally my sprints light me up and then tire me out, but this one drained me right off the cuff.

I told myself right away that I would finish the workout, even if I had to walk a few times. I did let myself slow to a walk a few times during my easy intervals – though for no more than 45 seconds – and still felt out of whack. I did all six circuits, but I felt like garbage. Heavy, stiff garbage.

I just couldn’t get comfortable. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to discomfort. I’m training for a marathon after all. But there comes a point in every run when you just kinda settle into your pace and go. My eighteen-miler on Saturday felt like that. Once I hit a good stretch of trail, I found a rhythm and relaxed into it. I did get tired and my running got kinda wobbly, but I kept going without exorbitant effort.

Today? Not so much. I had to work for every damn step.

Of course, during the run I composed a comprehensive list of possible reasons why this particular run was so awful:

1. I didn’t warm up enough.

Possible. I really didn’t, and I hadn’t done a sprint workout in two weeks, so I could’ve just startled my body.

2. I’m still recovering from being sick.

Unlikely. I’ve covered over 20 miles since then without trouble.

3. I’m still recovering from my 18-miler.

Mildly possible. Yesterday’s run was fine, but there were no sprints, so maybe I’m not back in it for sprints yet.

4. I’m not cut out for speedwork.

I am finding that I don’t enjoy speedwork and much prefer to just go and let myself enjoy the run, but I think that’s preference rather than biology.

5. My supper last night was abnormal and didn’t fuel me very well.

Reasonably possible. I had polenta and roasted veggies last night. It was delicious but not a supper I have often, so maybe I didn’t get enough fuel out of it. The rest of my diet yesterday, however, was normal, so it couldn’t contribute that much.

6. I’m a terrible runner and I should just quit and who the hell am I kidding I can’t do this I want to go back to bed.

Yeah, this crossed my mind. I’m not proud. I also know it’s not even remotely true, because the mostly likely reason is:

7. Bad workouts just happen.

They do. There are bad stretches of everything in life. Bad days at work, bad nights of sleep, bad batches of cookies, bad relationships, bad friendships, bad fights with your sister, they just happen. Sometimes there’s no reason, and that’s okay. All that matters is that you decide when it means “quit” and when it means “brush it off, kid, and get back to it tomorrow.” See that list I made up there? Toss it in the garbage and just get back to it.

My dad always says that a really bad run is what makes you a runner. Being able to work through it, keep going, don’t let it discourage you, don’t let it make you feel like you can’t. Which is why I’m going to finish up this smoothie, take a shower, stretch it out in yoga today, and then get up bright and early tomorrow and get right back up on that treadmill.

Because I am a runner.

Also: let’s just talk about the fact that I managed to keep myself from making any digestive jokes about “bad runs.” Does this mean I’m an adult now?


Day 25: good things.

A lot of good things happened today. Like one of those days where God just throws a grab bag of good stuff at you. Know what I mean? Since I’m not exactly firing on all pistons after my big day (ahem, see #3), I decided to cheap out and write a list. Hey, YOU try banging out 40 straight days of excellent posts!


1. I volunteer at an animal shelter nearby, and I was there for an hour or two this morning. I typically help clean out cat cages on Saturday mornings, which means I share a sink with the woman in charge of small critters such as bunnies, guinea pigs, etc. This morning she told me she admired my work ethic and gentleness and asked if I would be willing to receive special training so I could work more closely with the little fluffers. How could I say no? I was so touched and so thankful that I could help her. Plus: bunny snuggles!

2. I joined a online message board nearly ten years ago that was made for young fans of a certain fantasy author (don’t judge me for being a nerd, that’s God’s job). I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the girls, one of whom messaged me today with a very special request. She and I have both recently connected more closely with our faith, and she wanted to strike up a relationship where we could talk about God and his workings in our life. It was the best kind of surprise, and what a blessing! I’m so excited to talk with her!

3. I ran 16 miles today. Did you hear that? Sixteen. Two eights. Four squared. Ten miles, and then half again, and then a little more. It took forever in the slush, and I’m hobbling more than walking, but still. SIXTEEN. AMEN.

4. The peanut butter oatmeal banana smoothie I drank after was the greatest smoothie of my life. I may start a petition demanding that it replace wine at communion. I’m only sort of kidding.

5. I went to a CD release party tonight! It’s a brother-sister pair here in Illinois. I don’t really do artsy things like this, so it was a really, really fun new thing to do! This was three-fold good:

a. My boyfriend opened for them. I don’t know if you have a guitar-playing boyfriend, but it turns you into a major groupie fangirl. Watching him sing and play was so much fun!

b. The duo’s whole family was at the party, and I made friends with their mother. Turns out she and I share a love of athletics! We wound up chatting for at least an hour, swapping stories about our favorite races and talking about “our” respective musicians. I tell you, befriending someone unexpected is the best part of events like this.

c. Kendel and Shep were incredible! Kendel has such a unique voice, and their music was refreshingly original. The lyrics were fun and clever, and the sound was new and different without being intentionally weird. I also want to reiterate how much I enjoyed spending my Saturday night at a local music event like this. Dating a musician has its perks!

6. The leader of my Tuesday bible study invited me over to have supper before group this week. She’s training for a major bike trip (check out her blog!), so we have our distance athletics in common. She wants to chat about veganism and my choice to eschew animal products. I’m really looking forward to spending time with her, and I’m thankful that she reached out! Also: she’s making chickpea sweet potato curry. YUM.

God is good. Little blessings are still blessings, and we must be thankful for each and every one. Right now, I am thankful for the blessing that is my bed, and off I hobble for some restorative sleep. Good night, all.

Day 24: prep.

I’m running 16 miles tomorrow.

It’s part of my marathon training. I knew it was coming. I’ve already run 10 miles, and 12 miles, and 14 miles, but 16 seems… big. Important. Meaningful. A little scary.

I’ve been thinking about it all day. I googled a few trails and picked one that I like. I’ve mentally planned out my meals leading up to the run (oatmeal when I wake up, smoothie after volunteering and my meeting) and my meals for after (giant stack of pancakes, smoothie with peanut butter and oats for extra carbs). I’ve picked out my outfit and gear. I have a plan for mid-run fuel (dates, nuts, cut-up Clif bar). Technically speaking, I’m all set.

But planning only means so much. I can buy fancy gear and read running blogs and pick routes, but I’m not a runner until I start putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m not a runner until I run.

Tomorrow, none of my planning and prep will matter. It will help, but it won’t mean anything. The true value comes from reaching deep inside my heart, reaching up to God, finding whatever he and I can create together that keeps me going for sixteen miles.

God is a lamp unto my feet. God made my feet. God powers my feet. God is the reason I put one foot after the other. I run for him. I run for me. I run for us.

I also run for pancakes. God loves honesty, right?

Day six: the first day of forced blogging

I’ll be honest: I’m really not sure what to write about today. But here I am, stringing words together to form coherent sentences. That’s the whole point, though, right? To regiment myself. To force myself to write every day, to build the habit of generating text, prose, something (hopefully) worth reading.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has been writing a lot recently about developing a habit. He places a major emphasis on “tiny habits” as a method to build a steadier, more substantial habit. Run five minutes a day, eat one vegetable a day, put away one dish a day, and soon you’ll be running a marathon and enjoying a daily salad in your immaculate kitchen. It’s a gradual process in his eyes. Trying to bite off too much at once will result in failure.

I agree with this to a point, but I also know myself and know that I do better with brute force challenges. In late August of 2012, I realized my running was not up to snuff and decided to set myself a challenge: run 100 miles over the month of September. This would require me to run an average of three miles per day, every day, in order to meet my goal. I’ve written before that I embraced the challenge head-on and broke 100 with a week to go. Save for a surgery-induced hiatus, I’ve been a strong, regular runner ever since and am gearing up for my first marathon in April.

Had I decided on a Babauta-style challenge, I doubt I would’ve stuck with it. “Why,” I would’ve said, “would I go to the trouble of changing into workout clothes and stuffing my crazy hair into a ponytail and lacing up my running shoes for the sake of running for three minutes? Why bother?” I would’ve found no answer, and I would not have bothered. My running would’ve remained stagnant.

Instead, I decided to go big or go home. And that worked for me.

I do believe Babauta’s theory is absolutely sound, but I recognize that it does not universally apply to all people, all challenges, all habits. My running and, apparently, my blogging require a leap off a higher diving board.

One thing I will strongly and universally support, however, is Babauta’s claim: “The only thing you need to do is start.” I procrastinated this blog post until now because I didn’t know what to write about and thus didn’t know how to start. And now here I am, nearly done writing, having honed my craft and created a half-decent blog post in one fell swoop. Because I took the plunge. Because I just sat down and started.

I think that last paragraph deserves its own post in the future. But for now, I’ll sign off with a silent fist pump: my first day of forced blogging has been a success.

Day four: breathing with intention

I had a rather profound thought while running today.

I don’t always have profound thoughts when I run. The most impressive thing I’ve dreamed up recently was the blueberry-chocolate-chip-walnut combo that I fantasized about last Saturday and proceeded to turn into a stack of pancakes when I returned home. Delicious? Yes. Profound? Not particularly.

Today, however, was profound.

I’ve been trying to follow the advice of No Meat Athlete’s Matt Frazier when it comes to my breathing. Matt encourages careful attention to one’s breathing by pacing it with your steps. He also advocates breathing through your nose, but I’m not going to talk about that (yet).

Here’s the deal: you pick a number of steps. Three works well for me. And then you breathe in for three steps and out for three steps. In for three, out for three. Three in, three out.

It sounds simple, and it is, but it makes a huge difference. When I breathe like this, I run better. Way better. My running is smoother, quicker, more efficient, and easier on my body. My throat doesn’t tighten or get gunky. My pace and steps are consistent. It feels easy and natural, just because of my breath.

Breathing like this requires intention. You have to plan and commit to keeping your steps and, in turn, your breath steady so your body gets enough oxygen. You have to commit to return to this breathing pattern right away if a hill, a road crossing, or some other obstacle throws you off. More difficult is the attention, I find. If my mind wanders (usually to the type of pancakes I’m planning to eat upon my return home), my breathing falls apart. I usually regress to a rough two-two pattern, which is too ragged to keep my lungs nourished and too short to provide any structure to keep my running smooth and strong. My steps get sloppy and my joints and pace both suffer.

This type of breathing – this ragged, bare minimum, absent-minded panting – is technically enough to get me through my run, but it’s not enough for me to flourish. But when I run and breath with intention and attention, I fly.

Here’s the profound part that came to me while I ran: breathing with intention is like living a life mindful of God.

As I ran, I thought about how I live differently when I have God on the brain. I’m much more patient and forgiving, I smile more, and I seek the company of people I love and admire. I pray about my questions and concerns rather than ruminate on them, and I trust God without question to lead me in the right direction. I am at my best. I breathe with intention.

But the minute I let slip, the minute I wander away from God, everything changes. I am easily frustrated and quickly grow impatient with those around me. I get judgmental. I get more sullen. I get anxious about my future. I fall back into my ragged default breathing. Will it get me through? Technically yes. But it’s sloppy and random and unstructured and doesn’t sustain me for very long. I’m forced to cut my run short.

Am I good at breathing or living with intention? Do I do it all the time? Do I remember to focus on my breath, to focus on my God? Of course not. I forget. I stray. I don’t feel like it. But I come back. Because in the long run, it feels better. It feels stronger, smoother, gentler. It feels right.

And then it feels like you really earned your pancakes.

Live with intention. Breathe with intention. With God.