Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to Fall in Love with Running.

For me it was easy.  Love at first foot fall.  For others, not so much.  But I'll get back to that in a moment.  I have a bunch of random thoughts about which I want to blog.

I thought of all of them during my 14 miler, which began at an obscene 5:30 a.m.  I'm so glad when I'm done before 7:30...but it's soooooooo hard to get out of bed and start out in the dark.  This run was pretty uneventful.  Hardly any abdominal pain and no shoulder pain, so that's awesome.  Oh, of note is that I was almost run down by a cyclist.

I have seen this guy before.  He's very skinny and always riding very, very fast.  Like a lot faster than Tim, Bill et al. ever ride--which in my mind must be too fast.  Anyway--at 5:30 a.m. there are not too many people out.  I have waved at him before but he's never responded.  Some cyclists are like that--they don't like runners.  While I don't understand why cyclists like to ride, I am all for people getting fit.  And I always wave.  Today, about three miles into my run, he came whizzing by me about three inches from me.  Scared the crap out of me, as I didn't hear him (hard to hear a bike).  Later, when I was running on Hillcrest Crest Circle, a resident with two dogs stopped and asked me if I'd seen that "crazy cyclist."  I stopped for a moment, hoping he wasn't talking about my husband (he rides there a lot), but knew he wasn't when he told me some of the stuff this guy has done:  told him and his dogs to "watch out" while speeding by them, gone BETWEEN two runners at full speed, and he never stops at stop signs.  This man told me that if I saw him, to please call the police and complain.  This guy also had a large stick, which he motioned to while talked about the cyclist and said "that's what this is for."  Um.  Okay.

I was almost home, and who did I see but Mr. Speedy Cyclist.  He was barreling it toward a 4 way stop.  And you know what?  He didn't stop.  He didn't even slow down.  I stood my ground, not jumping on the sidewalk as my mind was telling me to.  He again came within inches of me.  "Dude!"  I shouted.  "That was a stop sign!"  I know he had to hear me, but he didn't respond.  I'm not going to call the police, but I am really intrigued about who this guy is.  I have heard that he's possibly an injured runner.  If that's the case, I understand his angst against runners.  It's hard to be injured and see other people running.  But that's no reason to ride so recklessly.  I'm not too worried about him, as I don't think he'd actually run me over. I'm just more intrigued.

Okay, now onto lovey dovey stuff.

On Loving Running
One thing I thought about on my run was my statement in my blog yesterday about running being a sport punctuated by pain.  That's actually not what I meant.  Racing is punctuated by pain, and especially marathons (though 5Ks can put the hurt on you, for sure).  Running in and of itself is intensely enjoyable.  It feels extremely natural, and causes the release of endorphins.  Endorphins are awesome.  For me, it takes about 5 miles for them to kick in, which is why I like really long runs. Unless I'm having a very bad day, it's honestly like getting high.  Now, I've never been high.  I've never even smoked a cigarette.  But I have to imagine that how I feel at the end of a long run, and feel like I could conquer the world or run how it feels to be high.

Because I want to do it again.  And again.  And again.  It truly is addicting.

But people say--oh, how on EARTH do you run that far?  Running is AWFUL and PAINFUL.  Running is hard when you first start, especially if you're not fit at all.  Even if you ARE fit, if you're not're not running fit.  And so when you first start, it will be challenging.  Do not let this discourage you.

Most new runners make the mistake of trying to go out too fast.  I did this.  I would run so hard that after three minutes I had to stop.  That is very discouraging and accounts for why many, many people give up running way too early.  If you're a new runner, you need to go SLOWLY.  I slowly as you can while still running.  You should be able to talk to someone.  You should not be sucking wind.  That will come later.  Run short segments at a very comfortable pace.  And gradually add distance. Trust me, you'll love it.  Well...maybe you won't love it.  But you won't hate it anymore.

Before you know it, you'll be stashing water the night before a run so that you don't have to carry a handheld on your 15 miler.  Next thing you know, you'll be peeing in the woods.  You're really into it when you start eating things called "gels" on purpose.

It is a true misfortune that running is seen as horribly difficult, even as a punishment (as in running laps in other sports as a way of disciplining a team).  You were born to run (Don't believe me?  Read this book).  Even if you're not a runner, and you don't ever want to be, know that running is a natural state for your body.

One other thing about how to fall in love with running...don't feel pressured to do any kind of running that you don't enjoy.  Do you HATE speedwork?  Don't do it.  But recognize that (depending on your goals), you need to substitute it with something else.  If you're not running fast, you need to run far.  And vice versa. Unless it's your job, you shouldn't have to run in any way that you don't enjoy.  Now, if you're competitive and trying to reach some certain goal--yes, you are going to have to endure certain kinds of running that you don't like.  I know that my dad loves track work.  I know that he's not too keen on long runs and he hates longish hard runs (i.e. tempos) even more.  But he does them because he wants to reach his optimal potential.  It's all relative to YOUR don't think you have to do what I do.  And I don't think I have to do what so and so does.

How to PR
Most competitive runners are always chasing a PR.  If you're new to the sport, you'll soon hear this acronym.  It stands for Personal Record.  Others called it personal best.  It only means that you ran a certain distance faster than you ever have before.  Recently, I was talking to a moderately new runner, and she mentioned to me that she was frustrated that she wasn't PRing anymore.  When she first started running, she said, she PR'd every race.  Now she didn't anymore.  A lot of new runners (myself included, when I was a new runner) get so used to PRing that they expect it every time.

Not gonna happen.  PRing is easy when you're new.  You are getting a lot more fit than you were before because you're running for the first time ever (or in many years).  When I first started running, I only raced 5Ks.  My first was only about 6 weeks after I had started running.  And here's how my progression went:

1st 5K (running for 6 weeks):  20:23
2nd 5K (two weeks later):  19:50
3rd 5K (two weeks later):  19:17
4th 5K  (one week later):  19:06

Then I got injured, and that's a whole other story.  But you can see that, at first, I was dropping a ton of time each race.  Then it started to get a bit more difficult.  It's normal--you can't keep dropping 30 seconds off your 5K PR every race or you'd soon break the world record.  That 19:06 up there...I was trying to break 19:00.  I ran my butt off, and though I PR'd, it wasn't by much and I didn't meet my goal.  The faster/more experienced you get, the more difficult it is to improve.

To PR after the honeymoon period of your running, you've got to do one thing:  train consistently.  By consistently, I don't mean go out and do the same thing every day.  Or even every training cycle.  But you need to be running on a very regular basis.  You'll find what works best for you.  Some people respond to lots of miles.  Others need lots of intensity.  Do what's best for you, and do it consistently.

Okay, I think it's time for me to stop acting like a running expert.  I'm not.  But I do love running, and that must count for something.

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