I’ve had a very challenging week with my training. On Sunday, I caught a cold. Last week, I ran into a temporary medical issue (not running related) that’s forced me to stop running whenever I feel pain (I don’t particularly care to share online what exactly this medical condition might be…sorry, curious ones!).
As you might imagine, I was not able to complete my long run this weekend. Instead, I ran a comfortable 1.5 miles before I was doomed to the elliptical for half an hour, the amount I hoped to have otherwise run. This was the first time I actually felt disdain for the elliptical machine — it felt sort of absurd. I’ve never minded going on the elliptical, and as people like to say, it’s soft on joints, good for aerobic exercise, yada yada. But that day, I had been determined to finish my long run, but I could not because of the pain I mentioned earlier.
On Monday, I took it easy and rested up. My cold took its course fairly quickly, and Monday was by far my worst day. Convenient, since it also coincided with my rest day. I would say that the lesson for these past four or five days has been that I should not respond so negatively to any condition or moment in my life that causes me to fall short of my weekly running goal. The reactions I have to failing to meet my own expectations are pretty toxic if they continue to manifest the way they did this week. Whenever I had this pain and knew it was time to stop running, I walked around the gym like an angry hawk, glaring at all the people in the gym who were running on the treadmill, stopped by nothing. So, I lifted weights and used other aerobic exercise machines on Sunday and Tuesday, extending my weight lifting workout slightly. Even then, I felt dissatisfied, feeling stingy and stubborn about the fact that running was the only thing that was going to make me feel better, “normal” again.
I’ve realized, however, that there is really no point in being disappointed with not reaching my expectations for this week. Life happens. Things happen all the time that disrupt a routine, and getting back onto this course is just part of this entire challenge. But more importantly, these disruptions are things that I need to anticipate. I’m sure eventually I’ll develop some sort of routine way to respond to weeks where I may not have the chance to train the way I’d like. It might involve a combination of cycling and elliptical on days when I need to take a break from running. If that’s the case, I had better learn not to hate the elliptical machine the way I did this past weekend.
The hiccup I ran into this week gives me the opportunity to talk about last week’s run of five miles (still surprised I managed to do this…but for now, I am in a strange limbo where I don’t yet have 100% assurance that this can be recreated!). As I ran, I was listening to Murakami’s book on audio. It happened to be chapter on his experience of running from Athens to marathon in dangerously hot, mid-summer weather. He decided to run this whole distance as a challenge for himself, an alternative to posing for a few pictures along the historic route for a magazine feature photoshoot in Runner’s World (?). You can imagine how I felt listening to this narration — “Well, if Murakami can run the original marathon under humid, summer temperatures, committing himself to some masochist task when it could’ve been easily avoided with a glamour shot, then surely I should be able to run five miles.” Of course, this kind of mentality can’t be casually applied to any situation where one wishes to achieve something comparably easier than some extraordinary feat. There’s a bit too much relatively to feel like that kind of judgment is justified, or if the valuation is done correctly. But listening to this chapter definitely did make me feel like I had a ridiculous advantage.
I couldn’t help but find the situation humorous. Here I was, running on a treadmill of all places, in front of a mirror where I could see my knock-kneed legs flail in all directions. When I think about it, what kept me going, at least around the 3 mile point, was more so the sensation of curiosity and wonder than pure will or an aversion to failure. I was genuinely curious about how far I could go, and what that distance would look like. When I got to 4 miles, however, I started to hear the suggestions that started to enter my mind: “Run slower! No, just stop altogether. Why are you still running at this pace? Actually, you could just stop run now and be satisfied with the distance you covered. Why keep going?” I didn’t expect these thoughts to sound so existential. Why keep going? That’s something I’ll probably never be able to answer.
This internal struggle was the soft backdrop to most of the later half of my long run. I did my best to just accept that these were the thoughts that were going to be conjured when my body was being pushed to a new limit. And when I did, these thoughts passed quickly, and I barely had any reaction to them. They were simply clouds passing by, and all I could notice were their shapes and sizes.
So, I hope that you’ll forgive me for my somewhat anti-climatic post today. I did manage to talk about one thing I found challenging: staying patient when things don’t go my way with my training schedule. Health and wellness is number one to doing any of this, and those requisites were not met this week. Until next time!