My journey as a long distance runner who started the sport later in life.
I just finished a sub-30 5K training run, my second one in about a year. I know that I have the capacity to PR a 5K, but my brain is a giant obstacle to it being the norm for my training runs. Running is such a mental sport and I know that most of why I have continued to be a mid-pack runner is simply because I am not that great at the mental side of the sport, yet. There is always a way to talk myself out of pushing harder; giving myself permission to take a walk break, take a drink break, take a selfie break. Once I do that, even one time, my pace gets slower and it’s the green light to stop as often as i want instead of picking up the pace and forging on. This became the theme of the 21K Monterrey this past Sunday, the heat was a great excuse to take it casual along the course. I throw in the towel so very easily after briefly stopping even once. I guess that’s how I used to be with portion control on food: one extra bite of dessert and I would eat the whole cake. I have managed that particular issue, so why not try a little harder on managing the same mindset when it comes to running?
Today I decided that I would run until I could no longer breathe. It sounds harsh, but I have no race goal, it’s a holiday here in Mexico, and it’s a nice day. I thought, “Why not be a kid again and run until I almost fall down from exhaustion?” Whee! I pushed hard through the first 3K, stopping only briefly at about 2.75K to take a drink. Instead of walking for a minute or so, as I usually would, I immediately picked it back up. My Garmin 310XT display always shows average pace and I could see that I was still well below a pace of 6 min/km. I used that as motivation to keep going; I needed to keep that average under six, so on I went.
I rounded the final major corner of my chosen route, facing a long low-rise hill on a major four-lane street. I was deep within the 3K to 4K stretch and I was glad that the traffic was light. I sometimes use annoying traffic as a reason to slow down and give up on pace goals on training runs. Standing on the side of the road waiting for a gap in traffic for over 3 minutes can be very demotivating. I had to let myself walk again at the top of the hill, I needed more water and to catch my breath, but my watch said my average pace was 5:59 min/km. It was now or never and I only had 900 m or so to go. “Come on, Leslie, pull yourself together!”
With my half marathon finished and nothing else of that distance to sign up for in town until October 2015, I am on a race break. Until this moment I have continuously had a race goal since March 2013 when I started trying to be a runner again in earnest. A lot of runners do this; a race ticket in your pocket keeps you from finding reasons to stop running altogether. The races aren’t very expensive here, but it’s the principle of the thing; I don’t want my name attached to a “did not show” if I am of able body to run. Today’s push for a training PR was probably possible in part because I felt as though I had nothing to lose. No race goal means no potential for an injury sidelining me and having to sit out on a race. Now it has occurred to me that while a race goal can be used as a form of motivation, too many of them in a row without breaks for simply having fun while running can be demotivating, at least in my case. It’s food for thought in my journey as a runner.