The Slow Road.
I’ve been injured plenty of times in my relatively short running career and the one consistent thing across every niggle, every strain and pain and snap, is the frustration. I’ve probably never been in as good shape as I had been before I over-did it a month ago and sent myself hurdling backwards, but the curve is still swinging upwards. This time, more than any other time that I’ve been injured though, I’m taking things extremely slow.
I’m starting by building up my mileage up. Speed work is pretty much off the table until I’m comfortable running 40-mile weeks again. The frustration is that the deadline for my half-marathon is looming, and although I am always realistic in my expectations for myself it is so tempting to hurl myself headfirst into speed work to try and catch up to where I was before my injury in an attempt to beat that 90-minute mark.
What I’ve realised though, is that it isn’t really important.
The value of that arbitrary marker is completely determined by own sense of worth. Simply finishing a half-marathon is an achievement, so why put so much pressure on myself?
It is good to have goals as they maintain focus, and encourage commitment, but what’s the point if to reach those goals I have to push myself to a point of genuine discomfort? I don’t mean feeling tired or sore from working hard, I mean if I push myself beyond the limits of my injury and end up side-lining myself again not only will I definitely not reach my goal, but I won’t be able to run at all again for another week, month, whatever and that…
Well it sucks.
I like running. It clears my head. When I’m running I can find that deep focus that I crave. As long as I’m doing that I’m happy. So, I’m keeping things steady. Maybe I’ll run sub-90 minutes, maybe I won’t, the key thing is realising the value, the privilege, in being able to get up and lace my trainers and hit the road, or the treadmill, whenever I want.
It’s a pleasure that I should be doing my upmost to maintain, and I shouldn’t let some arbitrary timer upset that.
It’s All in Your Head.
As I’m giving as much credence to what is going on in my head as much as my body, this article seemed appropriate to share this week.
Trail Running Magazine spoke to three endurance runners to try and get some insight into how mental preparation can help them perform well in races.
I absolutely recommend giving the article a read for yourself as it isn’t too lengthy and features some interesting points, from visualisation to playing mind games (with yourself) but one specific thing that I came away with was this quote from Julie Carter, a veteran fell runner, psychologist, and author.
She says: ‘There is an awful lot you can do to help yourself but my only golden rule is never ever permit negatives.’
Running is hard. Racing, training, preparation, it’s all hard. If it was easy I don’t think so many people would do it. This golden rule is becoming more and more important to me. If you start to think negatively before, during, or even after a run, it can hamper your enjoyment of the sport and your performance as well. Not every run is going to go perfectly, not every race is going to be a PB. These aren’t good reasons to allow negative thoughts to control you.
You have to embrace all of running to get the most out of it, the ups, and the downs too. The good times will come, and if you have to embrace a little bit of mental trickery to get through this hard times then you should absolutely do it – especially if that’s what the pro’s are doing!
Ring O’ Fire.
The runners competing in this week’s race focus will most certainly need to bring some positivity, and hopefully will have plenty of mileage under their belts in preparation.
On the Anglesey coastline only the most adventurous runners will commit to a gruelling ultra-distance course set to a glorious backdrop of the Snowden mountain range.
If you’re adventurous, but not quite 135 miles adventurous, you can always try out the still-absolutely-mad 35 mile, one day, ‘Firelighter’ race.
For more info check out www.ringofire.co.uk