Discouraged runner

Confession: I cried during my last workout.

Since I started my training in January, my goal has changed from running a sub-1:45 half-marathon to a sub-1:40 half marathon and now, somehow, to a sub-1:35 half-marathon. With these new goals comes pride, fear, and more intense training.

When I think of heavy training, I pretty much see a “Rocky montage.” Maybe I throw-up, someone forces me to do 10 more sit-ups or I run down a beach high-fiving passers by… I did not however picture crying.

Confession: Sometimes my workouts are inexplicably bad

This past Sunday, my run buddies and I had something known ominously as the “Truth Run.” We were assigned different segments to complete at different paces. The result would give our coach an idea of where we’re at in our training. All my other teammates are training for a marathon so they were running 32 kilometres and thank goodness I was doing “only” 20.

This was last week. It was a gorgeous morning: sunny, dry and about three degrees. Perfect running weather. I was to run four kilometres at aerobic pace, six at half-marathon pace, four at aerobic again -10 seconds and then six kilometres at 10K pace.

The first segment was relaxing. I ran alongside my coach and we chatted about craft beer. I turned back before the marathon runners grabbed some water. I had run a lot of miles that week and it wasn’t race day, but running six kilometres at half-marathon pace was hard. I didn’t know how was I supposed to keep up that pace for my goal race. The third segment of a lower aerobic pace was a welcome “rest” as I passed lots of other runners out for their long run along the Leslie Spit out on Lake Ontario.

Before I went out for my last segment, I was thinking about the task at hand. Just thinking about running six kilometres at 10K pace (4:11/km) after running 14K simply seemed impossible. I was talking with one of our coaches and all of a sudden, the tears started flowing.

I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was frustrated and discouraged. Since my training started, I had already cut almost seven minutes from my half-marathon personal best. That was more than I even dreamed I would accomplish and it wasn’t even at my goal race. It didn’t seem fair that after that success, I felt like I was failing in my workouts. I understood that workouts should feel hard, but I doubted whether my body was physically capable of running at that pace.

My other coach was understanding and gave me the advice that I would have given to someone else: just go out and don’t look at your watch. Maybe try to hit a 4:20 pace, maybe just log the miles. Take a deep breath and finish it.

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So I put on some music to grind out. Physically, nothing was wrong. I wasn’t injured, my cardio was fine. Mentally though, I was exhausted. I’ve heard many runners say that they packed it in on a run because they knew it was time to stop. I always struggle with knowing when I should be smart and pack it in and when I’m trying to use that as an excuse to quit.

Though I took three 30-second walk breaks, with one kilometre to go, I put on my favourite pump-up track to take me to the end.

I managed to hit under 4:11/km for three of my final six kilometres and with my last kilometres to go, I ran 4:01. I’ll take it. I proud that I finished my mileage and while it wasn’t ideal that I walked, mentally it helped me gather strength to get through.

Chatting with my coach after, I made it clear that I didn’t want paces that I didn’t think I could hit. I’ve never been an elite athlete, I didn’t even run at all before three years ago and I certainly wasn’t the sporty kid in high school. I had already hit my goal when I ran a 1:39:30 half and I was happy with that.

My coach assured me that as a coach and a friend, he wouldn’t set paces he didn’t think I was capable of achieving. If every workout was easy, what would be the point of training?

His final words stuck with me: “Remember, I’m not here to make you feel better and stroke your ego. That’s what husbands are for.”

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