It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, or how fast you go, sometimes running hurts.
Since Christmas my focus has been on the long run. Yes, the long run as in thinking long term about my running, but mostly I mean the long run as in the longest run in my week. So far I’ve run 15 miles three times, and 17 miles twice. Before the start of this year I had only ever ran 15 miles twice. I won’t tell you that running those distances for the first time has been easy, but I can say that it hasn’t been as hard as I might have imagined. The first 17 miler, in fact, was close to transcendent.
Not every run can be like that.
This week I shifted my long run forward to avoid some high winds and potential snow at the weekend, putting it back to back with my threshold run. I knew this would be a challenge, but it wasn’t like I was going to head out at a fast pace so I thought I would be okay, and I was, until mile 10. Whereas on my first 17 it was around there that I really slipped into the groove, this time around I slipped into the pain cave. It became a gruelling slog, I kept the pace but I felt heavy, clunky, rigid. To reach 15 miles I had to pass my house to catch an extra 400 metres and I can tell you, this was an ordeal. I was negotiating with myself all the way up the road back home, trying to convince my mind and body to keep on going beyond the front door for just another couple of minutes.
The rest of the day after that run was a bit of a bust. I ate and drank and rolled, but occasionally a run can really linger in the body, leaving you feeling drained. It’s not a feeling I particularly enjoy, and if it was happening frequently I would take it as a sign that I was doing too much but, every now and again, it’s good to know that you really took yourself to the brink and came out the otherside relatively unscathed.
It is also a good moment to reflect on why it happened. On this occasion there were a few factors: the workout the day before, the time between my breakfast and the run being considerably longer than normal, and a new, challenging route. These are things that I can learn from, that make the suffering worthwhile. If I take heed of my own notes on the situation, a similar occasion shouldn’t arise for a good long time, and I can use the experience to become a stronger runner.
Slogging isn’t something to strive for. You don’t need to suffer on every run to become a faster, fitter runner. It is an inevitability though. The more you run, the more likely some unforeseen factor may play into your suffering and induce the Slog. All we can do is mitigate the risks, learn from our own mistakes, and when the Slog arrives, steel yourself, and show it what you got.