Run like hell

Running is Hard

One of the things I’ve needed to remind myself of post-injury is the fact that RUNNING IS HARD. Running HURTS.

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Running HURTS. You will push yourself to the brink and then run a little further.  The funny thing about running is that it is often difficult to distinguish between legitimate pain (i.e. injury) and just the discomfort of pushing ourselves hard. For me I knew immediately when I was truly injured. It felt different than the normal aches and pains of running.

Running CHALLENGES. Once you reach a goal, there’s always another goal not far behind it. At first my goal was to run without walking or stopping. Then it was running a certain distance, then it was running a certain distance within a certain amount of time. Then the goal was racing. The challenges and goals were always evolving.

Running is MENTAL. I will think a million times during a run “I can’t do this” and “I want to stop! I can’t make it to the finish!” but most of the time it’s all in my head. It’s a mental block, something in me telling me I CAN’T when I know I CAN. I often tricked myself when I was running and starting to feel that mental block creeping into my thoughts. I would tell myself “One More Mile” or “Just run to that lamppost down the street and then you can walk” and most of the time by I got to that lamppost I had gotten over that mental block and kept running.

Running can be INCONSISTENT. Sometimes the food I ate the night before makes a difference. Sometimes the snack I eat right before the run can really effect my run. Weather, clothing, moods, everything can effect the performance of a runner. The important thing to remember is that not every run is going to be great. There will be ugly runs, slow runs, fast runs, great runs.

Running is NOT FREE. Sure, in theory it could be a super cheap form of exercise. In reality it’s not. Don’t make the mistake of skimping on the gear. Get fitted for running shoes at a real running store. It makes a huge difference for comfort and injury prevention. I am so serious about this one. Pay the extra money for good shoes. Same with socks. Don’t wear cheapo socks that will give you blisters. I like Smart Wool (available at REI, Nordstroms and online) and have never had blisters when I use those running socks.

Running is WORTH IT. The pain sucks. Sometimes it’s really sucky. When you’re running and tired and your legs are burning and your brain tells you you can’t make it, you wonder if it’s worth it. Is it worth it? Totally. Hood to Coast hurt. It was brutal and a lot of it was miserable. I don’t regret doing it at all. Would I do that particular race again? No. But I am happy I did it!

Running isn’t COMPARABLE. Stop comparing yourself to other runners. One thing my running injury taught me was to stop comparing myself to other runners, other bloggers. There will always be people faster than me, or slower than me. If I run a race, I’m a runner–whether I cross the line first or last.  Just because I’m not running a marathon every weekend or continually training for some race doesn’t mean I’m not a runner. I’m more than a runner. I’m a swimmer, biker, hiker, walker, weight lifter. All of those things make me a stronger runner.

“When all else fails, start running!”

-Dean Karnazes

QUESTION: In what way is running hard for you?

Run Like Hell 5k

Here are a few pictures from my first run, back in October. The Portland’s Run Like Hell 5k. You can sort of see my head in the middle of the crowd. I have on a light blue sweatband. My stats:

Division Rank: 47/122

Gender Rank: 168/518

Overall Rank: 292/746

My first ever race was the Run Like Hell 5k. I had no idea what to expect, or if I could even do it! I tried to research how to train, what to eat before the race, and what to expect afterwards. But really, nothing could prepare me for it like just doing it!

I trained for a few months by simply running. I wanted to build up my confidence and stamina. I started running on the Portland Esplanade at the Waterfront during lunches. The Portland Esplanade is about 3 miles total. I was able to do the 3 miles in about 45 minutes the first time I tried it. I didn’t get discouraged, however, because it was a building process.

The first time I was able to run the entire 3 mile loop without stopping or walking was an exciting day! I kept scanning my body as I ran, thinking: “Do I really need to walk? Or can I keep going?” and “Is my breathing ok?” I told myself that I’d just run a little further; I’d run to that next light post; and then all of a sudden I realized I was almost done! That gave me the extra burst of energy to keep going. And I did it. I felt so proud to run the whole 3 miles without stopping. And I knew that I would be ok for the upcoming 5k.

Then I go the flu. Months of training and working hard on building my stamina was immediately put on hold. I was bed-ridden for a week with the nastiest flu I’ve ever had. It could have been H1N1 but I didn’t go to the doctor to get tested. Either way, I was not exercising. I could barely get myself to the bathroom.

Day 4 of the flu was my 5th day of not exercising. I saw all my training going down the drain. The stress probably didn’t help me heal any faster, either. I tried to ignore the stress of not running because honestly, I had no energy anyways. I wondered how it would effect my run time. I wondered if I would even be able to finish the race!

My boyfriend Michael said the sweetest words anyone has ever said to me….When I was sweating in bed with a fever and headache, he said if I was still sick on Race Day, he would run my race for me! That was the sweetest thing he’s ever said to me! He is NOT a runner, so it was a huge sacrifice for him to offer.

I rested up and started to feel a little better. On October 25, I woke up at 6am to prepare for Race Day! I ate a bowl of cereal and we headed downtown. It was a particularly cold day in Portland, and I was not feeling 100% yet. Once the gun went off and the race started, I focused on running.

This was my first competitive run ever. I had no idea what to expect, honestly. I found myself running too fast and too hard when I first began the race. I read later that this is a common occurrence with newbies. I probably burned out too fast. But I kept going. I had a goal: finish the race! It was distracting seeing so many people pass me. Older people, a woman with both knees wrapped, passed me! The shame! I tried to run faster. What I really should have done was ignore everyone else and just focus on my own body. It’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race and the people around you.

Half way through the 5k, I walked a few seconds while I drank the water they offered runners. I started to jog slowly to get back to the run. The last stretch of the 5k, I was suffering. I just wanted it to be over with. “How much longer?” and “Good lord, this run is killing me!” and “Damn flu!” Then I saw the crowd gathered at the finish line and I raced to the end.

I saw Michael at the finish line, taking my picture. I ran across the finish line and hugged him. I felt shaky and exhausted. I finished the 5k in 31 minutes! We walked down to Pioneer Courthouse Square where the after party was happening. I got some snacks they had for the runners: half a wheat bagel and half a banana. I was sweaty and felt tired and hurt and just wanted to leave. We didn’t stay for the party. When I got home, I showered, laid down on the couch and immediately fell asleep for 2 hours!

The following three days, I was so sore I could barely walk! Of course, days after the fact I read that marathon runners take an ice bath after their runs. Next time I definitely will do that.