Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How to Run When You Don't Feel Like It

On Saturday I had to do a 22 mile run. I didn't want to but I had to. My marathon is only a little over a month away (Run for the Red), and I want to qualify for Boston. That means I didn't have the luxury of taking off a long run just because I was tired. Tired and whiny.

I'm usually tired. And sore. And at least a couple parts of my body are in pain at any given time (right now it's my lower back and, randomly, my right shoulder). So I usually don't care if I'm tired. I just make up for it with more whining.

But because I'm stupid, I ran 10 very hilly miles on the Thursday before. And then I ran another 6 on Friday. Saturday morning my body was devastated. Geoffrey had invited me to run with him and his sexy lady friend that day. But I knew there was no way in heck I was going to keep up with him at his usual 9:00 - 9:30/mile pace for over 20 miles.

So I told him that I felt "like being alone with my thoughts" and went running on my own while the two of them still slept. That wasn't a lie. But as I mentioned, the bigger reason was that I was just too destroyed to run anything other than "really slow". And I went out while they slept so they couldn't guilt me into going with them. Or lure me with hard root beer (which is a dangerous substance by the way).

Had it been any other day, I would've just done a short run and then not eaten too much for the rest of the day. But lying there in bed Saturday morning, my legs on fire, I knew I had no choice. I didn't think about the run.

I just thought of getting out of bed. That was my only goal. To get up. It seemed challenging. Really challenging. But doable.

Get out of bed.

I did that. I was vertical. I immediately felt accomplished. There's a sense of freedom and empowerment that comes from getting up off a warm and cozy bed. The cool air touches your skin and reminds you that you're alive.

"We feel plenty alive, thank-you."

My next goal was to put on my running gear. That's it. Just put it on. Are you going running? My body asks me. No, I reply. I just like these short shorts. They make me feel giggly.

Get dressed.

So there I am in my room, wearing my running stuff. I'm not thinking ahead. I'm just laying out very tiny little goals and accomplishing them. Creating a motivating pattern of minor successes. And just wearing my running stuff makes me feel better. A sort of memory infuses them. By a similar token, it's easier for me to break bricks when I'm wearing my karate uniform (you can see I'm a big fan of self injury).

The next step was to go outside. This was a tough one. My quads hurt abominably, and walking down the steps was painful. I made heavy use of the handrails. I can't understate here how much my body oozed agony. Once outside I would feel better. Everything would be flat after that.

Go outside.

I still didn't think about the 22 miles. Instead I picked a 5 mile loop that I liked. My only goal was to run 5 miles. That was it. I even told myself that if I felt really awful, I could quit and I'd be close to home. But 5 miles wasn't bad. I could do 5 miles on sore legs.

Just Run 5 miles.

And that loop had lots of street corners. And intersections. And turns. Many many little milestones to break up my loop even further. The traffic that morning was terrible. Usually this is a nuisance. But on Saturday I was thankful for the traffic. Because I felt accomplished every time I dodged a bunch of cars without dying.

Many tiny little goals. Many tiny little accomplishments. All adding up. Some part of me knew I was just tricking my brain. That when I came down to it, I was pushing my broken body to run 22 miles. But I didn't care. I only thought about those tiny little goals.

And I did it. I ran the loop once. I felt good. I told myself I just had to do it one more time. I did it one more time. And then another time. I felt happier and happier with each completed loop. On the last loop I felt downright elated. I reminded myself that I was on my final loop. Oh sure I had to do a couple more miles, but that was just a couple extra streets. No big deal.

It would be a lot easier to just live somewhere scenic.

On that last loop, it started hailing. Hard, fast, sharp balls of ice. And the wind was insane. The hail was flying in sideways, smashing me in the face. But I didn't care. I was so happy to be almost done that I barely even noticed the hail. Everyone around me was running in panic, uselessly holding newspapers over there heads. Not me. I ran like the weather didn't exist.

And then I was done. 

The run felt short. And it felt fast. Even though I ran it at a ponderously slow ten and a half minute pace. That was probably the slowest I'd run since I started training for the marathon. But it also felt like the quickest 22 miles I'd ever run. Because at no point did it seem like it was any more than just 5 miles.

I had finished. I was honestly surprised. But I was ecstatic too. After that I could eat and drink whatever I wanted, and just relax for the rest of the day. And I did just that. And it was amazing.

I'm sure you've heard the advice before to break up big goals into manageable bite-sized chunks. Instead of losing 50 pounds, just lose 5. Instead of writing a whole book, just write one chapter. Instead of adopting all the cats, just adopt 1.

I don't usually bother. I do the things that I feel I have to, no matter how hard they seem. But that Saturday was extra hard. When I broke it up into tiny little missions, it became a lot easier.

Give it a shot. 

Go forth and run.

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