Every so often, I do a run workout that is truly HUMBLING. It reminds me how running performance can vary day to day and how much life effects this silly sport.…
One day, I can head out the door on an ‘easy run’ and come back 30 minutes later barely having broken a sweat with a pace of 5:30/km. During these runs, I feel like I am flying along the path, gathering up speed by the kilometre. In my mind, I look like a gazelle moving with grace and ease. Endorphins rise and I end my run feeling incredibly strong and confident as a runner.
Other days, I can head out on that very same route and feel like I’m slogging my way through the entire thing. I look down at my watch and see my pace a full minute slower and wonder how on earth my legs are moving so slowly and yet I feel so tired.
I’ve had a streak of really strong runs lately that have really boosted my confidence. I was nailing my speed workouts, and increasing distance in my long runs while keeping a steady pace. Each week I was feeling stronger and stronger. Then, my coach put in a speed workout that pretty much pulled the ground out from underneath me.
20 min warm up
3km @ 5:00/km (4 min easy)
2km @ 4:50/km (3 min easy)
2 x 1km @ 4:30-4:40/km (2.5 min easy)
When I first saw this on the schedule, my immediate response was, 'You expect me to run a full km at 4:30 pace, let alone at the end of the workout? You've got to be fucking kidding me'. This was probably my first mistake. I went into this workout doubting any ability to succeed. But either way I headed out the door, down to the waterfront trail. If I was going to be attempting these long and fast intervals, I sure as hell was going to be doing it on flat ground.
The first 3km interval went alright, and I managed to maintain somewhere near my goal pace for the most part, but man did it take it out of me. I went into my first rest period doubting my ability to complete the next three intervals, but I was also stubborn and sure as hell wasn't going to quit.
Interval 2 didn’t go as well… I made it 3/4 of the way through my 2km goal and then gave up feeling frustrated and demoralized that I had ‘failed’. From there the workout continued to unravel. I managed to complete the last quarter of that interval, and then one more km somewhere faster than normal but nowhere near my intended speed. I resigned to the fact that I did ‘most’ of the workout and started the up hill run home.
Man was that run humbling.
After the fact, my coach told me that he had put this workout in really as a test to see where my limits were (because I had been crushing all my speed workouts lately). It was intended as a way to see what I was capable of and push me justttt to the limit. To find your limit, sometimes you have to go a bit too far and risk potential failure. I totally get that.
But then I remind myself, this is all part of the game. One of the things I love most about running, is how it constantly brings me into a state of self-awareness. One of the skills developed as a runner is the ability to recognize how you are feeling in the moment and learning how to respond accordingly. As I dive deeper and deeper into this sport, I recognize how much awareness of the body in the present moment it requires. Running is truly a form of Mindfulness in Motion.
Sometimes these humbling runs bring me down. I try not to let them and remind myself that every run can’t be at maximal performance; that just isn’t human. So instead I choose to learn.
Reflecting on this run, I now think back to what I could have done differently. Perhaps I could have recognized my fatiguing body a bit earlier and slowed down to a pace that I could have maintained for the entirety of the interval. Rather than attaching myself to the idea of how fast I should be running, instead I could have just grown more awareness of how I was feeling and ADJUSTED earlier.
Responding to how my body is feeling in the present moment vs. how I think my body ‘should’ feel is all part of this process of running by feel. It requires a deep awareness of how the body is feeling in the present moment. It’s a fascinating investigation into the inner workings of these incredible machine’s that we are housed in.
But more than anything, these humbling runs remind me how far I have come from my first 10 km race 7 years ago and additionally how much potential there still is for me to grow. And THAT is what excites me and keeps me lacing up each day, shuffling my way through these humbling runs.