Life, Running, and Fantastic Paces

I have been running, I promise. Life’s just been crazy and I haven’t been updating. I ran about 3.6 miles on Monday the 19th, Tuesday the 20th, and Thursday the 22nd. I had a short running break for the next few days, then ran about 3.6 miles again on Tuesday the 27th, Wednesday the 28th, Thursday the 29th, and Friday the 30th. I won’t clutter this post with all my running selfies, but I promise, I was out there.

After signing up for a spring half-marathon, I have to confess, my emotions have yo-yo’d an awful lot. I’m not worried about finishing the race – I’m confident that I’ll be able to drag myself across the finish line. But I have this secret hope that I’ll be able to PR, and not just PR, but finish in under three hours. 3:00:00. Crossing that big psychological barrier, and a 13:43 pace.

I have moments, usually after a good run, when I think, “I can do this.” I ran a certain distance with a good pace, and I’ll feel good about that. But I have other moments when I’ll remember how tired I sometimes get after four or six miles, how long 13.1 miles is, and I wonder if I’m out of my mind. I’m filled with the irrational fear that I’m going to fail.

Yesterday, I decided to run 8 miles. It was Halloween, and it was Saturday, so why not? The temperature was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly overcast but the forecast called for the sun to come out. I put on a pair of shorts and a tank top, but for a couple of reasons I decided to wear a jacket as well. The jacket would keep me warm, but also, it had a couple of roomy pockets. I wanted to take four packets of pureed fruit, and paired with my SPIbelt, those pockets would make it a LOT easier to carry. Also, I could shed the jacket and wrap it around my waist if needed.

The first couple of miles were actually pretty tough. My goal was to run, but I was also hoping to hold a pace of about 13:30. My legs seemed to be settling into a pace that was an awful lot slower than I wanted, though – closer to 14:30. That discouragement and fear was hovering right around the edges. “If you can’t manage the first couple of miles, how will you do 8 miles? How will you do 13.1?”

I also became pretty warm, pretty quickly. At the end of that first mile, I shed the jacket and tied it around my waist. I did cool off toward the end of the run, but I left the jacket around my waist for the remainder of the run. Putting it back on was too much of a hassle. 🙂

I kept running. My pace improved a little bit, though not spectacularly. I really, really pushed myself to stay in a good place, mentally. I didn’t allow myself to say I felt tired – in fact, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to use that word until the 7th or 8th mile (and even then I wouldn’t let myself use it). The sun came out, and along with a light breeze, it was really a pretty pleasant day to be running.

 Somewhere around the halfway point, something switched in me. My pace was improving, my run was going pretty well, and my legs and feet felt good – really good, considering I was four miles into the run.

And so I kept pushing. My pace dipped below 13:30… and I felt good. I can’t explain how amazing this felt. I felt strong. It was incredible.

Mile 7 was mostly uphill. It’s given me a lot of trouble before, and I was definitely concerned about it. But it was okay this time! I thought about my pace and my legs. I spent most of the time looking at the ground immediately in front of me, and didn’t let myself look up (and see how far I had left). I didn’t think about the hills that were ahead, forcing myself to focus on where I was right in that moment.

It wasn’t easy, y’all. It’s not easy to control your thoughts, especially when you are physically worn out. I went into mile 8 feeling good… possibly better than I’ve ever felt in the eighth mile. I picked up my pace a bit, just because I could.

I ran 8.37 miles, with an average pace of 13:21. It’s almost like I crossed some kind of psychological barrier – now I have absolute confidence that I can run 8 miles in under 13:30 pace. I know those last 5 miles won’t be easy, but it’s a big step forward. Today I am one happy (and resting!) runner.