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Running on Empty

Running on Empty

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This post was originally written on 30 Sept 2013

Running, not-running, and running: that sums up the fortnight. It’s been a very challenging 2 weeks. I ran the Dublin Half Marathon last weekend, and it took everything I had, including my confidence. I ran a personal best of 2.07, but the numbers are just numbers; energetically, I ran a personal low, and the weekend crept into a new week with no let-up of the low I found myself in. Something shifted; old demons I thought I had exorcised came back to haunt me; beliefs I held about myself a long time ago that I had run over, now ran alongside me, taunting me, mocking me and all the while telling me to just stop running. As a relative newbie, this is a first for me. Up until now I’ve been revelling in the lovely highs of running; the sense of accomplishment, the strength, the stamina, the weightloss, the ‘oh-yeah-this-is-just-who-I-am-now’ of it all. A couple of weeks ago after a training run, I’d felt a bit low having only done 14 miles instead of 16, but it quickly dissipated when I accepted that I had run 14 miles. 20 minutes that low lasted. I got over myself pretty quickly! But why I wasn’t doing the same thing this time around, why I wasn’t accepting the victory of a personal best, or the fact that I had run 13.1 miles, was a new low for me. I was utterly disappointed with myself, with my attitude. I had let myself down by thinking this was all a let-down. Round and round my frustration went. I would never have spoken to another person the way I spoke to myself that Saturday morning. Who was I, and what had I done with positive, kind-hearted, team-playing me?

Time-Goal
Accountability is a really strong driving force when pushing yourself towards a goal. This was my third half-marathon this year (and ever), and my times were 2.11 in March, and 2.09 in May. September was going to blow it out of the water; I was aiming for 2.00. Knocking 9 minutes off my time after a summer of training in the heat (a heat totally alien to Irish runners), 3 months of kettle bell strength and conditioning sessions, and a total of 350 training miles; I really felt I could do it. It was mine for the taking. But when I realised at mile 5 that I was running a minute behind my goal pace, and by mile 6.5, the halfway mark, that I might end up finishing at 2.03 or 2.04, I totally lost heart. My brain was delighted! Here was the excuse it needed to make me stop, to tell my legs that it was all for nothing, that my goal was unattainable. An old voice started shouting louder than it had done in months, and started to drown out my little voice telling me just to keep running. ‘You’re exhausted; have a walk’, it shouted. ‘I got this’, I whimpered. ‘No, you don’t. Just walk’. And so I walked. Then, I ran another bit. Hills. I stopped and walked again. Then at the 12 mile mark, knowing I had about 8 or 9 more minutes of my day to make a difference, out of the depths of my being, I mustered enough mental energy to run at full speed to the finish. 2.07.36. Average pace 9.45. Last mile 7.05 pace. My legs could have kept going. They hadn’t been the problem. The problem was my shitty attitude and I haven’t quite shaken it off. When you race against yourself, you better be ready to defeat the witch inside you before she defeats you.

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Back in the Game?
I’ve a 20 mile training run scheduled for this weekend. The Dublin marathon is a little over 3 weeks away, and this is my last long run. I’m praying for a miracle that lets me off the hook. I don’t want to run. I’m scared of that feeling that wouldn’t leave me, that voice that wouldn’t back off. But ultimately, I’m not going to let it win. When life hands you lemons, make a gin and tonic and chill the hell out! I’m going to rest and reevaluate. I’m going to turn off the damn clock and I’m just gonna run; the same route I’ve been running all summer. I’ve got this. I don’t need to race against myself and I don’t need to set myself a goal that doesn’t serve me. Is it possible that I could start running with joy again? Running just for the sake of running? Not being held accountable and not answering to anyone, especially myself? Is that the type of runner I need to be? This is all so new, and I’m still figuring it out. But there’s absolutely no joy in shouting at yourself for a failure that looks to everyone else like an achievement. As a good friend of mine always says, Go Joy or Go Home.

I’m going Joy!

What kind of demons do you battle with in training? How do you move beyond the doubts and the pessimism? Share below any helpful tactics you have for silencing your inner critic.

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