I’ve had a few starts and stops with running. My first in 2007, stopping a few months later. At the end of 2012, another start. I ran my first 5K race (a untimed color run), a timed 5K, and even a 10K. I thought I’d run a marathon, but after jumping in distance really fast, I decided I was no good at it, slow, and gave up.
Then, I started again in December of 2013. A month later, I signed up for a marathon for November. I was at it again. And I started this blog.
Not only did I sign up for a marathon in November, I signed up for a January 5K (3.1 mi), a February 10K (6.2 mi), and a March 5K/8K double race. In this post compilation, you can see all my newbie mistakes, struggles, and journey. I don’t recommend my game plan to anyone, but I do recommend running and I know it has a learning curve.
Here was mine.
Starting Long Distance Running (The Origin Story)
Three Hundred and Counting
January 13, 2014
Three weeks ago, I started running again to get away from my sedentary life. I could probably jog 1.5 miles straight, slowly.
Now, here we are 300 days until the Savannah Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, my first marathon.
Last year I trained for a few months with a marathon in mind, but I never signed up. I was scared how slow I would be. And I stopped running, altogether. My fitness is too far from a marathon to have a goal time.
I just want to finish.
Right now, I’m training for a 5K in 2 weeks.
An Excuse for Every Good Day
I always have a slew of excuses to not workout “right now”. Of course I’m going to go workout (ermmm), just not right noww…
- It’s too cold/too hot
- Sun is worse at noon/It’s too dark
- Boyfriend is home (we should spend time together!)/Boyfriend is not home (it’s safer if someone is close by)
- I just showered/I’ll have to shower again
And this one I can use all day:
I’m hungry and should eat something/I just ate, I should let it digest/…I’m hungry and should eat something.
I’m still finding ways to pull myself out of some of these cycles. One of the best ways so far, is to say,
That’s fine. But go ahead and put on your running clothes now, anyway.
And that helps. It gets me out the door sooner than if I just sat and watched another episode on Netflix while I “digest”. And also, it gets me out the door.
The Post Workout Ritual
I don’t want exercise to be a painful experience that I resent and “have to do”, so I’m trying to play up the reward system. Any rational person can think of excuses not to run today, for a marathon in November. Psh.
I’ve always tended towards food-rewards. I used food to get me through studying, exercise, or a bad day. It’s a reward system that I’m trying to get away from, but the problem is – you need food. If I don’t eat within a couple of hours of working out, I’ll gain an insatiable hunger that is, well, insatiable.
So for now, I’ve created a post-workout ritual that involves a healthy food choice to reward myself for getting off my butt.
After stretching, I shower, and then soak for a ridiculously long time in the tub. Then I fix myself a serving of whole-grain oatmeal fluffed up with 3 egg whites with cinnamon, flax-seed, maybe some berries.
So far my body seems satisfied with that, and I can manage my food choices a bit easier the rest of the day.
Today, I felt like a runner
I’m up to 4.3 miles!
One of things I tell myself when I’m struggling is that “I am a runner”. And I don’t allow myself to add modifiers like “slow” or “bad”. I am a runner. Runners struggle. Runners get tired. Runners run anyway. Runners push through.
Today, I felt like a runner.
I’ve only ran one timed 5K before. The Pi mile race at Georgia Tech last year — 33:17
Obviously, I’d like to beat that time in my next 5K, which is 10 days away. Today, I did during my workout — 32:11. I am capable. It’s just uncertain whether I have the pacing skills to replicate this result.
And by pacing skills, I just sort of mean dumb luck at this point.
Read here: Tybee Island Run Fest 5K Race Recap
Newbie mistake: Sign up for a race every month (Jan-Apr) when… well, it doesn’t really matter how I finish this sentence.
As a newbie (or returning runner), don’t sign up for a race every month. There is not enough time to recover from the last one and train for the next one without going crazy!
The Recovery of Champions
My brother is still in town, so my recovery included drinking beers on the beach before noon and stuffing my face with seafood. I am now calling it, “The Recovery of Champions”
Despite “The Recovery of Champions,” I was still a little stiff today, but I felt a lot better after my slow and easy recovery run. That’s probably why they call it a recovery run.
Tybee Island Long Run
Running shows you your town. I’ve lived in Savannah a couple of years now, but have never seen Tybee Island like I did today, seven fantastic miles of hard sand running!
I started at the light house on North Beach (which I hadn’t been to before my 5K race), ran past the pier on the south end until large signs warned me I was reaching the end of public beach, and then ran back past the light house and almost saw the edge of the beach that way.
Then, I sat my butt on the beach, drank a couple of cold ones and ate a granola bar.
Messed Up and Swirly
Work was a pain. I got home starving, dehydrated, and had an hour of sunlight left to do my run and no time to do it tomorrow.
I’m training for a 5K/8K double race and I wanted to practice running after a break. Since time was in short supply, I decided to cut to the 30 min break to 20 minutes. 2 miles – 20 min break – 2 miles.
I ran too fast for the first two miles.
After walking a half mile around the lake, I checked my watch. Only 8 minutes had passed.
And, a dark cloud rolled in and grumbled.
20% chance of light rain
I decide to head home anyway and cut the break to 15 minutes.
It starts sprinkling, then raining. Then a torrential down pour, can’t see anything, ankle-deep in water, flash freaking flood.
I reached an intersection and the approaching car slows. Thinking they’re letting me get home sooner, I go ahead. Turns out they were just going to run me over slowly.
Finally, my apartment comes into view and of course, the downpour lessens to “rain”. (Intensity of rain is always directly proportional to distance from home).
As I’m writing this, my phone just alerted: “Warning: Thunderstorm”
I took a hot shower and then attempted a Neapolitan smoothie and didn’t do so great pouring the layers.
Come to think of it, I think this picture kind of sums up my day. Got everything done and it was good, but it was all kind of messed up and… swirly.
The Mean and Scary Treadmill
Today marks a psychological and physiological breakthrough… ok, so mainly psychological.
My treadmill running is much slower than my outside running, even though there is no wind resistance and forward propulsion required. I just don’t feel comfortable on the treadmill. The treadmill adds a completely different component to running — will I trip and die? can I safely keep up this speed?
Besides the fear of dying, the treadmill also requires acknowledgement of any speed variations by pushing those little buttons. Outside, I just naturally slow down if needed and am still rewarded by reaching my destination. Inside, there is no destination, and pushing the ‘slow’ button feels like defeat.
#1 — I’ve decided to work on disconnecting myself from the stories I tell myself every time I push a button. The inner dialogue of “Can I go up .2? What if I go up .2, but then have to come down .4? Should I just stay here? What if I can’t finish my run? What if this run takes me FOREVER cause I’m going 4.8 mph?” is so tiresome, and unnecessary. This is a machine. It is a tool I am using. I tell it to go faster, slower. It doesn’t need to be a minute-by-minute evaluation of my fitness.
#2 — If I don’t push the slow button, then I didn’t really find my limit. Obviously, you don’t have to push the limits every run; but I need to realize I’m not “losing” when I slow down, I’m actually skirting around my running limits, and that’s an exciting place to be.
Now these are “newbie” realizations. I’m not professing anything startling fantastic in the realm of treadmill running, but these are things I didn’t know yesterday. And that’s why I’m here. To learn, to take note, and to improve.
Away from Savannah
Oh Savannah! Making me think I’m a fast runner only to realize that the rest of the world has these things called “hills”. We ran in Kennesaw National Battlefield Park which is home to almost 3,000 acres of hills, dirt, tree roots, and two mountains. I stayed away from the mountains today!
You see the blue graph representing elevation? Previously, I thought that part of the app was broken because it had never shown up before. There was a reason for that.
The run was difficult, but I had to keep telling myself that I don’t normally run on trails and I don’t ever run on hills. I averaged about 12 minutes per mile. Also, I learned that eating natural cashew butter with my oatmeal breakfast is not the same as powdered peanut butter with my oatmeal breakfast. Poor tummy. Eventually I’ll learn to stop eating new things before long runs…
I only tripped once! And as I hit the ground, my phone notified me that I had completed my run of 8 miles. Whatever it takes, right?
The Beaufort Twilight Run is next Saturday and yesterday’s practice left me feeling pretty pumped for it. I ran 2 miles, took a 30 minute break with fuel, and then ran another 3 miles.
I decided not to fuel up for the first run despite being a little hungry and to push myself in the first run. These decisions were trying to make my 2 mile post-run feel like a 5K race post-run. I ran definitively faster than my 5K pace — 8:58 minutes per mile. My legs felt OK, although I was aware of different muscles in my lower legs due to those hills on Saturday. Just like I wanted, I felt pushed and hungry after.
I returned home for some stretching, walking, and my mid-race fuel — coconut water and a Honey Stinger cracker-waffle-thing. My favorite future mother-in-law, a registered dietitian and triathlete, recommended I use these races to practice fueling, but also to keep it simple. The snack helped my hunger and energy levels and I was feeling good after the break.
I got back on my route for my last 3 miles, started off slow, then picked up the pace every half mile. Despite feeling rested after my break, I could definitely tell that my legs would be marked on Amazon Marketplace as “Used – slight wear” and not “Used – like new!”. But, I got into the rhythm about halfway through, and could tell that come race-day with proper fueling and race-adrenaline, I could complete an 8K. I averaged 10:00 pace!
Easier Said than Done
You know those wonderful revelations I had about the treadmill last week? Well, knowing and practicing are two different things. I still felt like I wasn’t going fast enough, that the treadmill couldn’t possibly be correct in distance covered, etc. But there were times that I stopped myself and disconnected from the discouragement. I focused on the present moment, my feet hitting the belt, and just tried “to be”.
And that’s better than nothing. In fact, it’s a good start.
I took a 1 minute walk break at the start of mile 2. And towards the end, I lowered the incline from 1% to 0% and that helped me speed up and ‘feel better’ about my run. Anything to help me feel more positive about my long run on Saturday — I’m getting close to 9 miles, which was a mental stumbling block last year.
This year I may stumble, but I won’t fall.
Check out: The Nine Mile Milestone Run
Today I’m recovering from my long run, and from the Runger Games that I appeared to have partook in yesterday. When I finally said good night to TF, I actually told him, “I’m going to bed before I eat us out of house and home”.
I’ve got a good handle on normal run days and my eating, but the long run days are TOUGH. What makes them tougher, is that I’m usually not home… I’m at the Celtic bar with my family or at a birthday party with Cheetos and cake.
I need to assess and regroup this long run-food thing. I may not be doing anything wrong, but I need to figure that out, cause I’m doing this bad cycle of craving, waiting, giving in, feeling guilty which IS unhealthy. I’ll figure it out. And hopefully, my body will also adjust and learn not to PANIC and go to OH MY GOSH YOU’RE GOING TO DIE IF YOU DON’T EAT ALL THINGS MODE when I run more than 6 miles.
With my race on Saturday, I tapered my miles this week. I ran 2 miles on Monday, 3 miles yesterday, and will run 2 more tomorrow. Work has been super quiet. And I feel like a pent-up border collie. CAN WE GO FOR A RUN?!!!
I feel like this guy.
Who knew in a few short months, I’d be dying to go out on a run… ridiculous.
Race Recap: 5k/8K Double Race
Running Long Distances: The Origin Story
So, I survived my first 3 months of running. What was in store as I kept increasing miles and trying to stay motivated? My first injury, of course. Stay tuned next week for the continuation of my journey.