Running, like life, is flawed
Think back to a perfect race, long run or training week you’ve had.
Still thinking? Probably because there is no such thing.
Running, like life, is imperfect. (Side note, if you have figured out the formula for a perfect training buildup and race, please send it to me. Or write a best-selling book and retire.) While my Sunday didn’t go anything like I planned, I was still able to find peace on my long run and rediscover why I love running so much.
Saturday night, I thought I had everything figured out. I had my entire Sunday long run and blog post planned out. I would wake up early and knock out my first long run to cap my first week of fall marathon training. Then I would write about the importance of morning running — it has always seemed to be the key to my training success.
I was giddy after waking up for early morning training runs four times this past week. I needed one more to finish off what I thought was a perfect first week. I would go five-for-five for the first time in who knows how long (I really can’t remember the last time I woke up for morning runs each workout day of a training week).
I was far too cocky.
Instead of rolling out of bed and attacking the long run automatically like I anticipated, an old habit made an unwelcome appearance. I snoozed for a whole hour then let my sleepy brain convince my body I needed several more hours of sleep. I knew deep down that would mean either a skipped long run in my first week of fall training or a difficult blistering run at the end of the day. Still, the consequences couldn’t deter me from making the wrong decision. I slept. And slept.
So tonight, when I set out for a 13-miler a little after 6 p.m., I expected the worst. I forced my planned goal pace out of my head, confident I wouldn’t be able to come close. I steeled myself for what would surely be one of the worst runs I’ve suffered through in months.
Instead, I found serenity.
I ran a variation of the Logjammer Half Marathon, which cuts through the heart of Shreveport and snakes along the Red River. I ran east down Preston to Clyde Fant and then headed to downtown. Five miles into the run, and I was turning north and into the sun, which hung directly in front of me. No shade for the next three miles.
I had already sweated so much that I could feel my toes squishing in my soaked shoes every stride. I had gnats and grass seeds from unmowed sections of trail and roads plastered to my arms and legs. I felt like the sun was pulling me in to devour me.
And in the middle of those grueling miles, all of the anxiety and fear I’ve suppressed in the past few months dissipated from my body. I was struggling to hold my pace, but I settled into the run completely.
That’s when I realized I will never have a perfect race. That’s not an epiphany. Even my two best marathons so far — both PRs coming in the first two months of this year — included missteps and imperfect circumstances. But if I won’t ever execute a perfect race, then why am I trying so hard to be perfect in my training? Each flawed workout teaches me to deal with adversity. Every time I have to fight through tough circumstances, I get a little stronger.
I never hit a runners high today. I didn’t find a state of flow or set a training PR. I didn’t even feel great for a lot of the workout. But I found complete satisfaction in the process today. That’s a feeling that has been missing for far too long.
As I closed in on downtown, I fought the urge to start composing this blog post in my head. I stopped thinking about all of the issues in my daily life. I chose not to stress about the upcoming week or the practicality of my fall running goals. I stopped thinking and ran. And in the discomfort of a really hot long run, I was completely happy. I’m sure anyone who saw me thought I was a lunatic — dripping sweat, delirious and sun sick — as I powered through downtown with a half smile, half grimace.
I can’t explain exactly what happened in my brain while I ran through Shreveport tonight. But I was reminded of why I choose to be a runner. I once thought the more I ran, the closer I would get to perfection. Instead, as miles pile up, the more I recognize my imperfection. And it’s OK. In fact, it’s comforting.
My final two miles were my fastest, falling in with the fast finish prescribed in my training plan. I squeezed all effort I had left on my final mile. Surprisingly, I was able to drop my pace lower than most of the miles I’ve run in the past month, including each mile of my 5K last weekend.
As I turned down my street with less than a tenth of a mile left, my legs were heavy. My fingers and toes were prunes. My heart was on fire.
And I was completely at rest for the first time in months.