There are some days when running feels less like a hobby and more like a job; those days when you’re feeling kind of wishy-washy about lacing up, even if you don’t have a reason to not be pumped to do that one thing you love. On those days a 5K run can feel longer and harder than a half-marathon; your body can feel depleted and you start to convince yourself that maybe you should take an extended weekend off from running.
These days are not a sign that we’re all-of-a-sudden terrible runners or all the hard work you’ve put in over the last several months has gone down the drain with one short run. We all have off-days. And it’s important to remind yourself that that’s what it is: an off-day. It’s not the end of the world, or a result of your true ability.
I say all of this with certainty because I had one of these days this past week. I had a 5-8K tempo run on deck. I usually enjoy these quick runs but by the time I reached the end of the first street on my route, I was over it. My upper body was stiff, my legs felt like they each weighed 200 lb; my shoes felt like brick on my feet, and I was literally huffing and puffing while warming up at a pretty slow pace (for me). The good thing was that I still felt mentally tough, so I pushed through and made it home without quitting. It was a terrible run, but at least I finished.
The next day I was set to do some half-marathon-pace splits. I was a little reluctant to go out because of my experience the day before, plus it was raining. But I’m a west coast gal, so I I just went with it. Half a kilometre into my run I knew I was feeling better than I had the day before. I changed up my shoes and felt lighter on my feet. My upper body felt strong and stable, not like one of those skinny blow-up tube dudes that wiggle around in the wind – you know, the ones at used car dealerships.
Despite the rain, I was feeling great. And I knew I’d be able to push myself when the time came to move into the half-marathon pace. (Side note: I’ve never run a half-marathon so I don’t actually know what my real pace is. I have been judging it based off of various paces from certain exercises and looking at pacing calculators. But more on this another time.) When my watch buzzed at 3K, I picked it up and eventually found my groove in a quick-but-steady pace. I had never run this pace outside before, only on the treadmill. I was so excited and proud of myself for pushing a little harder when I knew I had it in me. I ended up running one of my fastest 10Ks and had some really wicked splits.
The moral of the story is: don’t let a bad day get you down because you never know what you’ll be capable of in 24 hours. And also know that pushing yourself can look completely different one day from the next, and that’s all part of the fun of marathon training.