Choosing to Believe

It might go without saying that training for a marathon is hard. But for me, it’s hard in ways that I never expected. The mental effort that goes into training is almost as draining as the physical effort: trying to balance work, home, and months of training (working in long runs, tempo runs, recovery runs, cross training, meals, rest) and takes more out of me than I imagined. As I’ve gotten older, it’s only been harder. But this is one of the things I love about the marathon – it’s a challenge like no other distance. I’ll never be someone who can run multiple marathons in a year, but every year or two I start feeling the need to push myself harder and target a marathon.

I’ve recently hired a running coach, who has stepped up my training to a new level. After slacking most of last year, and more recently after weeks of slow, low-mileage runs, allowing my body a chance to recover, I’ve been given clearance to build up mileage and start mixing in some speed work. I ran a mid-week Fartlek that was pure joy. I felt strong, I hit all of my paces, and enjoyed the entire workout. I was pushing myself, really working hard on the fast intervals, but that was the fun of it.

Yesterday’s long run was a very different experience. I’ve always taken my long runs slow and easy. This week my coach added in a 4-mile segment at a faster pace than I’ve been running. Not a lot faster (15-45 seconds/mile), but I expected it to be enough to notice and make me work for it. No problem, right? I wish.

As sometimes happens, I started my run on dead legs. I ran two miles as a warmup, looking for my groove, but it wasn’t there. At the start of the third mile a peppy song came on my iPod, I started the paced four-miles and hoped for the best. Only half a mile in and I was struggling. I was in my goal range, but just barely and I didn’t see how I could maintain the pace.

I thought about bailing and trying the run again the next day. I thought about splitting the four miles up into smaller segments and spreading them throughout my run (even though I was told to run them together). I thought about revising my goal pace. All of this because my body was trying to tell me I couldn’t do it. It was harder than it should have been (that much is true – most other days the pace wouldn’t have been such a stretch), and I didn’t believe that I could tough it out.

Finally, I had an insight. Belief that I could do this shouldn’t be a feeling. Feelings are transitory – they come and go and can’t be relied on. Instead, it had to be a choice – I would stubbornly choose to believe that I could do it, even when I didn’t feel as if I could. It was OK if I wasn’t at the fast end of my goal window, but I was going to run all four miles within the prescribed range.

I made the choice to believe in myself and my ability to dig-deep when I have to, ignored the excuses that were still swirling around in my head, and got it done. After, I enjoyed how good it felt to have done it (slower than I wanted, but still where I needed to be), and how good it felt to take it nice and easy for my last few miles.

This entry was posted in Life in General, Marathon, Running, training and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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