Finding a Greater Purpose in your running when you can’t chase down PR’s 10/8/12

This weekend I had a great experience in running that once again cemented my absolute love for the sport in my heart.  We’ve all had those times in our running career, whether it be recovering from an injury or for some a serious health condition or something as wonderful as carrying within you a new life.  While we know that we need this time to run slower and just build or maintain fitness and not push, for those of us that are extremely competitive this type of training can become so monotonous and take so much more mental energy.

 So how do you get through these times?  Well, for one thing, I went ahead and still developed a training plan for myself.  My pregnancy also coincided with a return from an injury so I did a gradual build up in miles just as I would have done if it was just the injury.  I’ve read that some pregnant women just go day by day and run however they feel on that day.  If I’m honest with myself I know that if I left it up to “how I was feeling” I’d probably run 3-4 miles each time I ran.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m usually a 50 + miles a week kind of runner so for me, that would be very light and it wouldn’t prepare me very well for running post partum.  Its not any type of uncomfort I have really during runs that would make me want to run so few miles but more so the boredom of just going out every day and running miles.  To me, I LIKE the challenge of a workout.  I like pushing myself and hitting new goals.  Variety is the spice of life and I like it very spicy!

 Another thing that I did was put races on my calendar.  Not with the intent of actually “racing” but I looked more for runs that were outside my normal routine, runs that were more “fun run” inspired and again something that would be different than the every day.  I think this can be important even when recovering from an injury.  If you’re like me you don’t want to pay money, or have your name listed next to a time that you’re not proud of.  However if you wait until you’re back in peak shape to sign up for your first race you could be setting yourself up for failure.  Racing in and of itself takes practice and you may put so much pressure on yourself to run a certain time even if its your first race in months and then you get out there and realize you forgot how to race.  So signing up for and “running” a few races before you’re race ready is a good way to get back into the habit and the routine before all the pressure.  You may even surprise yourself and run a better time than you had expected leading to a huge confidence boost!

 This weekend I was able to help a friend with her running.  I originally looked at the Eight and Eat Pancake run as just a fun run.  Something for me to get excited to go and do with a few friends and enjoy eating pancakes together afterwards.  My friend Carol has decided to really focus on running this year and improving her times, specifically for her half marathon in November.  She’s been asking all sorts of great questions and I’ve been trying to help wherever I can.  When she decided she wanted to really run the eight miles hard and that I could pace her, I was really excited.  Its been a while since I’ve been able to really help someone with running, and for me its one of the most rewarding experiences.  She showed up in a short sleeve shirt and Capri length tights, which for her was amazing in and of itself.  In our group she’s often teased for being an over dresser and it was particularly cold on Saturday morning.  I had on long sleeves and tights and a headband and gloves. 

 From the minute we started she was working hard.  I could tell by the way she was breathing and the lack of conversation (which is also unusual for Carol).  I tried to do a lot of the talking, making sure to tell her we were on pace and when to back off.  The first 4 miles was mostly in the wind and it wasn’t a flat or easy course.  There were some nice rolling hills and some turns mixed in there making it more of a challenge.  She stayed right on pace and didn’t show signs of giving up.  Once we turned around and started heading back I had a good feeling she had this one in the bag.  With the wind at our backs we were suddenly in the 7:16 per mile range (we had been running between 7:44-7:52 the first 4) so I cautioned us to slow down a little bit and save the energy for a strong kick.  By the time we got to mile 6 I could tell she was getting pretty tired.  Her breathing was more labored and she started to fall behind me a bit.  Our pace had started to slow down to 8 minutes.  She told me that she needed me beside her so I listened and kept trying to give her little things to focus on (that fire hydrant up ahead, the turn a little further, etc).  It seemed to work because with a mile and a half to go we were back on pace.  The last mile I challenged her to give it everything she had and broke it down into quarters.  She was so strong and determined and I watched her sprint all the way to the finish line and run all 8 miles at a 7:41 average pace.  She was so happy.  And it made me happy.  She did all the work and she was the one that pushed from start to finish but I really enjoyed being a part of it. 

 She thanked me for all my help that day, but she helped me as well.  She brought a greater purpose to my running and reminded me of what it feels like to push hard and go after old records.  I’ve got another 5 months of “easy” type running ahead of me and it was a nice reminder that I will be able to push like Carol again.  I will have races where I’m out of breath and have to employ mental tricks just to get myself across that finish line.  Until that time, I’ll be happy doing what I can to help others get to that place.  My plan is to pace Carol through her half in November.  I say “plan” because I just don’t know what all could happen between now and then.  With my current weight gain, I could possibly be another 4 or 5 pounds heavier and my belly could be much bigger and I just don’t know yet what that will do to my running. 

 I really hope to be able to pace Carol—it was such a treat!  I got through 12 miles total that morning, though not continuously.  I did have my left calf tighten up, and I wasn’t sure if it was just from the cold.  It was still pretty sore the next day but today its feeling much looser.

 I was going to run my usual 8 miles at 5 am this morning but when I looked at the forecast last night and saw that it was supposed to be 35…and 55 later in the day, I didn’t have to think twice.  So I’m planning on running 8 immediately after work.  I haven’t run this late in the day in months so we’ll see how it goes.


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