Wait a minute… I thought running was supposed to reduce your stress.?.?. Well, it has served that purpose for me for years. But while training for my 4th Boston Marathon, something went awry. I knew I was running for a great cause (Breast Cancer Research). I knew I could physically tackle the 26.2 miles because I had previous success doing so. But this time, something was off. Every run felt sluggish. I struggled to get through the simplest of routes. Long runs seemed next to impossible. I was over thinking it. I was in trouble, considering it was only a couple of months into my training. Needless to say, that was a tough season… from start to finish.
I dreaded that Marathon day because I had no idea what my mind would tell my body when it got hard… when I started thinking of all the tough training runs I had… when my calves got tight… when I started anticipated Heart Break Hill. I must say, it was single handedly, the worst run I’ve ever had. I sometimes think a marathon is 60% training and 40% mental. I scored a D on both that year. I completed the run, but I physically felt awful, my time was the slowest ever and I left thinking… “I’m never doing this again!” I was so in my head. I read a Runner’s Blog post entitled, “When Running Breaks Your Heart.” I was like, yes–girl, yes! My heart was broken.
Running and I did not have a good relationship following that experience. In fact, I did not run for a solid 6 months. As much as I kind of wanted to (because it’s what I did nearly everyday for years), my mind and my body told me differently. But eventually, I laced up again with one single goal: Find the joy of running. Once I realized I wasn’t the first novice marathoner to experience this, I had a pretty specific approach to my next wave of runs.
*Leave The Garmin at Home: I had become that person who tracked every mile…compared every run…analyzed where I slowed down and why. And get this… I’m not even that fast or serious of a runner. So, I started leaving the Garmin at home and simply running a comfortable pace and distance.
*Listen to Your Body: Sometimes you’re just not feeling it. And that’s okay. There have been days, I’ve driven to my running location…run about 12 steps…stopped…walked back to my car…and drove home. During the stressful times of running, I would force it. Those runs put me in the front seat of the struggle bus. So, if I wasn’t physically feeling it, I didn’t force it.
*Fight the Mind Game: The flip side of the above is knowing when to fight the mind games. When you physically feel great, but those negative thoughts creep in…you know it’s not your body–it’s your mind. I gained control of when I was going to play along with the game and when I wasn’t.
*Switch It Up: Change up your running locations. Find places that give you something new and beautiful to see. That gives you a different scenery to focus on. Before you know it, the run is over.
My race days aren’t over, but for now I’m no longer running toward the goal of the next race…but rather the goal of finding the joy. And it’s working!