Friday, May 9, 2014

6.2 Miles

Well, I've done it. I've officially completed my spring plan to run 6.2 miles per day. And at this moment, two days after running my first 10k, I have only this to say.

Ouch. Ouch to all of my body right now. But why? I did everything to prepare for this achievement responsibly. I stuck to the 10% rule like glue all spring, but as soon as I first ran 6.2 miles I felt as exhausted and sore as used to when I first started. 3.7 didn't have this problem. 5.5 didn't have this problem. But 6.2 is some sort of threshold I can't seem to cross easily.

I guess that's to be expected, though. Running wouldn't be worth doing if it were easy.

It also probably has something to do with Chicago finally realizing it's not February. Things are hotter, the sun is sunnier, and humidity is humidity...ier. I finished Thursday's run with sweat dripping down to the backs of my knees, looking like I'd just jumped in a pool. I finished this morning's run looking much the same, but that was because of the thunderstorm I ran through. At times during my run, I wished for a bolt of lightning to end my pain.

Cramps everywhere. Difficulty breathing. The muscles in my calves and thighs aching.

As I ran this morning, though, I wondered how much of my toil was mental versus how much was actually physical. After all, I was only running 7/10 of a mile further on Thursday than I was on Wednesday. But since 6.2 was my final distance, I figure some part of my mind must have thought it was about time to shut down all my drive and motivation.

I like to think it was the "Douchebaggia Cortex."

So I experimented. At one point during my run this morning, I asked myself directly: is this only hard because I think it's supposed to be?

I tried to imagine not anticipating difficulty during my run. And you know what? Things became easier, for a while. I think if I could practice keeping that mindset throughout my whole run, things would be easier for me. The problem is that my mind kept circling back to the well-worn path of exhaustion. It kept telling me I was not supposed to be running, because, in some ways, I still feel like an impostor when I run.

There's also the problem of momentum and forward progress. Part of what made running those other distances easier was knowing I was building up to something more. This isn't the hard run, I would think, that comes later. Maybe all that anticipation was what mentally prepared me to find such difficulty with 6.2 miles.

You have to keep your mind on what's next to forget your current struggles, even though that goes against being mindful and yoga and all that. Maybe concentrating on what will happen is actually, ironically, I good way to lose yourself in the moment when you're running and forget what makes it hard.

So I'll keep working on not expecting my runs to be awful, and I'll keep looking forward to what I'll be doing next. I know that, in terms of daily distance, I might be capped out at 6.2, just in terms of the time I can spend running every day. But I want to take a day or two off once a week and then go on a longer run, maybe start with 8 miles, then 10, then 12.

A marathon is still my ultimate goal, though strangely, the farther I run, the farther away 26.2 miles seems. At my pace, that would be just over four hours of running, and right now I'm just over one. Craziness.

Baby steps, I suppose. I'll keep running 6.2 miles per day, and see if my body spontaneously combusts in the meantime.

You never know.

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