Thursday, January 26, 2023

I'm running a half marathon

It's happening.
The last time I ran a half marathon was 2019, but it feels kind of like a fever dream now. I tend to forget that I ran it, even though at the time it was so important to me. I think when I ran that last half, I was trying to prove something (it was post-CECS recovery), but my heart wasn’t really in it. I remember being excited and hopeful – emotional – but I also remember being intensely unhappy during parts of the race. I wanted it to be over. I had a hard time finding the joy and beauty in the struggle.

Afterward, I reckoned with the truth that I had put a lot of pressure on myself for that race, and I made the decision to step back and not do any big races for awhile.

That was February 2019. The next year, the race organizers moved the race to January (because of football? I think?) and the appeal of that particular race has always been that it falls on my birthday weekend. So, I ran it as a “virtual” 5k and opted to run the Gasparilla 15k in February instead, and then the pandemic hit and races were put on hold.

In the meantime, we moved (in case you somehow missed that detail) and it took me awhile to get into a routine where running more than three miles at a time felt doable. Part of it was the hills, but looking back I realize that the adjustment period of being in a new state, in a new climate, with a new job and so many ups and downs…I just didn’t have the focus or motivation to put myself through rigorous, consistent training.

And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Casually breaking my decades-old 10k PR.
But last year I revived my tradition of running a birthday race and it was everything I wanted it to be. I decided right away to run it again the next year, but it took about six months for me to decide to upgrade from the 10k to the half. I told Sarah (my running buddy), and she happily signed up, too.

Training has been spotty. I quickly realized I'd forgotten how to be disciplined and 2022 wasn’t exactly an uneventful year, so I've been lukewarm about my commitment to training since it began.

I didn’t start consistently including long runs in my training until December, which is sort of ludicrous. But with no time goal in mind, who cares? I have this vague idea that I just want to get out there and celebrate my birthday with a medal, and I’m cool with giving a mediocre performance.

I was really proud of this afternoon, solo 8 mile run.
I’ve had weeks where I skipped nearly every workout on my schedule, but I’ve also had weeks where I nailed each one and felt invincible when the week drew to a close.

At the end of the day, I know I’ll get to the finish line. (Unless it snows, in which case I may DNS.)

Unlike in 2019, which was also a comeback race, this one feels less momentous and more like a cozy homecoming. In short, the pressure is low.

So, what has training looked like?

It’s included more strength training than I’ve done in the past, way more morning runs, and way more hills. I originally was doing heavy weights twice a week, but in early December decided it was leaving me too fatigued and backed off to light weights once a week. Despite a broken (or badly sprained) toe in December and a bout of the not-really-the-flu, the miles ramped up and training got better.

My training buddy weighs as much as my light weights.
But January is a long, dark month, and I’ve been struggling. As I write this, on a Thursday, I’ve skipped every workout I had planned for this week. Sarah and I have our last long run scheduled for Sunday – 11 miles – and now I’m in this place where I wonder if a full week of "intense rest" will be good for my legs, or if forcing myself to run tonight might be the better way to go.

The thing is, right this minute I am so sick of training and can’t wait for the race to be over, but I’ve actually felt pretty great leading up to this moment. I am trying not to get bogged down in how I feel now vs. how I’ve been feeling. Just because I’m over it now doesn’t mean this hasn’t been an enjoyable and revitalizing experience.

The view toward the end of a 7-miler.
Running 7, 8, 9 miles again after so long has reawakened something in my mind that’s been dormant since February 2019. I’m remembering that my body can do this, that I enjoy the long miles, that there’s a reason I’ve loved half marathons in the past. What I think I’m struggling to embrace is that to get to a place where I feel invigorated by the work, I need to first put in the work, consistently, and I need to remain dedicated even when I’m tired and burned out.

Isn't that always the way?

Noxgear's new lamp really makes my morning runs easier!
I know having a new puppy and Matt’s looming academy schedule have added to the stress of all this, but the bottom line is that I can only control what I can control, and that means buckling down and giving these last two weeks before race day everything I can, so that when I toe the start line on February 12 I feel confident, excited, and ready to welcome 37.


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