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Those who survive inevitably thrive: Learning to embrace the pain.

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It all seems so easy when you’re planning out your goals for your next big race: complete all of your planned runs, crush your workouts, nail your splits and presto manifesto you’re on your way to a marathon PR!!! You’re focused! You’re committed! You’re ready to take on the world!!! You’re a LEAN, MEAN RUNNING MACHINE!!!! YESSSSSS!

But then you’re out there alone on the road and things start to unravel. Your legs hurt. You’re out of breath. You’re so far past your comfort zone that you just want to wave the white flag and lay down…  in the middle of the road…. in the fetal position… and start rocking yourself to sleep. Or something like that.

One bad run won’t lose me a PR. I’ll tackle that goal next time. It’s not that important. It just hurts too much. I can’t physically run any faster. I can’t hold on anymore. I just want to stop. No one would know if I pulled back a little. No one else REALLY cares if I don’t hit my splits.

You start to fight with yourself. You tell yourself all sorts of things to remind yourself that it’s okay to slow down and give up. In your mind you’re not really giving up; it will only be this one time and then you’ll be back on track. You will be able to get back on track, won’t you? Or is this just the beginning of making excuses? Of actively choosing to give up before you see yourself fail (or succeed)? Of choosing comfort over chaos?

So what do you do? Do you pull back into the safety of your comfort zone or do you lean into the darkness, the hurt and the unknown? I know what you want to say- you want to say that you will lean into the hurt. You believe when push comes to shove you will embrace the pain, dig deep and endure. From the safety of your comfort zone (your bedroom, your office, your morning commute on the T- where ever you may be reading this) I bet you would say that you would lean into the hurt. But would you really? Can you remember the last run that chewed you up and spit you out? Was it a track workout? A long run? A tempo run? A race? Take a moment right now and think back to how badly your body felt. Do you remember how your mind turned against you? How it started to cave mid-run? How your body started to beg for mercy, for comfort and safety all at once? Ahh isn’t running wonderful and horrible all at the same time :)? Tell me how did you handle the hurt?

***

I can tell you what I’ve been doing lately: giving up. I’m not proud of it. In fact I don’t really want to be admitting this right now, but it’s time to come clean. It’s been a subtle, barely conscious decision during my runs, but IT has taken up residence in the back of my brain. IT has left me giving 80% instead of 100%, from cutting corners on my training plan (running too fast on easy days/ too easy on hard days), from backing down mid-tempo because I’m sick of the pain, and from giving my all to properly fuel, hydrate and recover from my runs. IT is comprised of so many things: fear, frustration, anger, sadness and emptiness all rolled into one. IT is seriously impacting my training for the Boston marathon.

I have endured so many changes over the past 3 months that I don’t even know where to begin when my feet hit the pavement. What are my goals? What do I crave, want and need from my run? Most of the time I feel like it’s just good enough to be out there on the road. Because in a way it is, isn’t it? And yet, I still want more. I crave feeling strong Boston, feeling HAPPY at Boston and hey- I’m seriously salivating over a course PR (sub 3:23).

I want it all badly.

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In my opinion it’s time to kick IT to the curb.

Strength and fear don’t happily coexist in the run-game. If you want to run strong then you need to push through the pain, the fear of failure and give it all you’ve got. Maybe you will fail. Maybe you will thrive.

Maybe failure is part of thriving. Maybe you need to fail several time in order to get stronger. In fact, what if within your biggest weakness on the road rests your biggest opportunity for improvement?

 

***

On Monday morning I attempted a challenging track workout. The workout was a 30 minute warm up followed by 10×400 (1 lap around the track) @ a 6:23 pace or faster with a 90 second recovery jog, followed by a 20 minute cool down. The goal was to start out at a 6:23 for the first few intervals then descend the pace to a 6 min or ideally sub six minute pace.

As per usual I started the workout full of focus and fury. I was going to hit 95’s (6:23 pace) for the first five 400’s and then drop the pace down into the 80’s (sub 6’s) for the final five repeats. Ha! Well in my mind that was what was going to happen. Too bad I have trouble pacing myself and started off too fast.

Repeat #1- 90 seconds, 6 min pace. Whoops too fast. My bad. You got this, Kass. Focus. Stay focused.

Repeat #2- 92 sec, 6:07 pace. Better, but you need to pull back more if you’re going to survive this workout. Stay focused.

#3-  93 sec, 6:12 pace. Even better, pull back more. This hurts. How the hell am I going to do seven more of these!! Doesn’t matter- just focus on the repeat you’re on.

#4- 94 sec, 6:15. OMG, This sucks. I suck. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Running is stupid. Stupid running. 

#5- 95 sec, 6:23 pace.  SPOT ON. But I still have to do five more. Five. One and a quarter miles of speed work. Ugh. How am you going to do this??  Shit. You can just stop Kass, you don’t have to do this.. 

 

I could feel the doubt seeping in to my mind. Will I be able to descend the pace? I won’t. I can’t. I never can. I”m just bad at speedwork; it’s my weakness. The short stuff is just so incredibly hard. Why am I even doing this?  No one cares if I do this or not. I have no one to share my runs with and no one to tell when I get back from a tough workout. Why am I voluntarily putting myself through hell when I’m already there?

I decided to take a short 1 minute break after the fifth 400 to grab some water and reboot the mind. I’m not sure where it came from but suddenly I got incredibly angry with myself and started talking to myself (pretty typical actually). Why am I doing this? Because I love to run. I love to push my body. I know I have more to give!!! Kass- YOU HAVE MORE TO GIVE. Who cares if you don’t hit your splits?- YOU!! YOU CARE! So get your ass out there and HOLD ON to 95’s.

Maybe you can’t descend the pace but you can hold on for dear life.

Maybe you won’t hit your splits but you CAN give your all. 

Maybe you have to fail in order to thrive.

So I did. I gave myself a kick in the butt and got out there. I pushed as hard and fast as my legs would take me and I REFUSED to let up. My final repeats were 93, 95, 95, 93 and 94 seconds. Did I descend? Not really. Did I give up?  Not this time- and I’m damn proud of myself!!!

 

I know I’m going to make progress from here on out in training. How do I know this?

I’m ready to fail.

Those who survive failure inevitably thrive.

 

Up next: Bring on the 800’s and *hopefully* a pacer :)!

 

Never Stop Running,

Kass/The Lone Runner

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