If you are an avid runner, you begin to realize how much your mood affects your running. How hard it can be to keep going when your brain says no. How to shut off that little voice telling you that you can’t do it, and find the voice that says ‘you can’. How a long day at the office can either invigorate you to push hard through your interval training, or can make you feel like giving up. The fact that a fight with your partner can lead to you putting on your running shoes and going for a 15km run, in the cold and rain, just to listen to some music, pound the pavement and forget the world. Or, how it can make you want to curl up in a ball and potentially interrupt your rhythm, making it difficult to imagine even going for a 5km jog.
Tonight, I had one of the most amazing runs I have done in a while. Not because I ran extremely fast. Nor was it because it was a beautiful warm day and I was out enjoying the sunshine. In fact, it was a cold wintery night and I had just had an incredibly boring tedious day at the office. The run was amazing for another reason – because for the first time in quite a while, I felt like I was winning. From the second I started running right through till the end, I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything, and I would do anything. It was the same feeling I experienced when I went for my first run. And the feeling I held onto all through 2013 when I ran five half marathons and my first full marathon. I went from high to high, race to race, constantly filled with euphoria about how amazing life was. So tonight, it was an amazing and inspiring experience to have those same feelings and to once again remember why I started running in the first place.
And the odd thing is, I hadn’t thought I was missing this feeling. I hadn’t been feeling the same level of euphoria when I ran, but I thought that was just because I was over the honeymoon period and was getting into a tough year of training, of working on my running technique and my running form, working on strengthening the right muscles and doing a lot of metabolic, high intensity interval training. But tonight’s run made me realize, my shift in focus wasn’t the reason for the loss of euphoria. Rather, I realized that I had become scared to run.
I have been scared to run fast and scared to run long distances. Not because I am a newbie who has never run 5km in one go, I completed a total of 1000km in 2013 alone. My fear of running stemmed from my fear of injury, a fear based on the numerous injuries and setbacks I suffered in 2014. Knee pain, IT Band pain, TFL pain, tight glute med, tight calves, gosh you name it, I suffered through it. Overuse. Over training. My ITB and TFL pain kicked in at kilometer 29 of the Sydney Marathon and crushed my goal of a 3:45 marathon – a time that I was actually on track for. After that marathon, and after all the pain I suffered through that year, I decided to get serious and take some time off to actually focus on my running form and strengthening the right muscles to make sure that all my muscles and joints worked in harmony and that I wouldn’t be prevented from reaching my goals in the future.
Unfortunately, this has meant I tiptoed around my running, stopping whenever I had any inkling of pain or strain, and stopped running distances. I have focused on interval work and strength work, and to be honest I haven’t felt pain in my IT Band, TFL or glute med since the beginning of the year, but the fear of an injury and my preventative steps I took led to a fear of running itself. Which, for a runner, is a scary thing to even admit to. It’s hard. There is this quote by Dean Karnazes, an amazing ultramarathoner, that features in numerous inspirational instagrams: “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up”. I love this saying and have always strived to live by it – never give up, in running or any other part of my life. But I was beginning to give up…to give into this fear, and struggling to find a way out of it.
Tonight, however, I found a way. I powered through, determined that I could do it and shut out the part of my brain that said ‘stop it’s too hard’. That was why tonight’s run was so epic. Past sessions, I have chosen to give up when I know I could have (and should have) continued…should have continued by aiming for consistently faster interval times which I know I should be able to achieve, and by actually aiming to run a set distance on the weekend and not back out of it. Tonight though, I gave it my all and I felt like I gave it my all. We ran from Clyde Quay Wharf (the HealthFit gym), along Oriental Parade, up Maida Vale Road, then all the way up through Roseneath to Mt Victoria – a 222m elevation gain in total according to my Garmin.
Our group split into two, the boys in front and the girls in the back. From the start of the run, I was up ahead with Greig, and decided I wanted to keep up with the boys. What’s more, I realized that I could keep up with the boys. And that I would keep up with them. And I did. We would run a portion and then jog back down to meet the girls, then run back up again. It was tough, physically and mentally, and at several points I considered using my inhaler to give my lungs more room to breathe, but again, I felt I could do it and I would do it, and that I needed to do it by myself, to prove that I could.
Once we reached the top, it was exhilarating to know that I was mentally strong enough to not give up, to run the entire way, not stop, and to keep up with the boys. If I’m going to beat them, I need to run with them. Show them what I’m made of. The run down the other side into Newtown was a great recovery, though once we got to the bottom realized we had intervals to complete on our way back to town. Generally, this is where many people would give up – say that their legs are tired and they can’t or won’t do it. But we went for it, and I truly went for it. I don’t think I felt tired at all the entire way back, because I was just so focused on winning. On doing it. And because I attacked the running session with a positive mindset instead of a negative one, at no point did I think ‘this is too hard’ or ‘I can’t do it’. It was always positive.
We did sprints back of 20 seconds, 40 seconds and 60 seconds, with a 60 second recovery jog in between each, then repeated the 20,40,60. The funny thing was that the 60 second sprints seemed easier than the 20, because you relaxed into it, but ran just as fast. And my fastest pace back into town was 3:14 min/km, a pace that two years ago I never could have or would have imagined. And my average pace the entire session was 5:26, again a speed that given the incline, the back and forths and the recovery jogs in between our intervals, I was incredibly pleased with. Just shows how the power of positivity and good thoughts can lead to great results. And how incredibly important it is to build mental strength and mental endurance, because at the end of the day your body can do anything you train it to do, it is up to you to decide how you train it, what you train it for and how far you are willing to go to reach your goals.