When I first started training for a half marathon, a whole year ago now (eep!), I concentrated on distance. I didn't have a Garmin, just a Nike Plus chip for my shoes and a sensor that plugged into my iPod shuffle. I'd go out running and it would tell me my mileage (turns out it was about .1 off per mile, but that's another story).
I'd relish each new distance, reveling in my ability to run a few miles without a walk break. The first time I ran 10 miles, I felt on top of the world.
|Finishing my first half marathon, feeling like a (sweaty) beast.|
How I viewed running turned into a performance test. Runs were classified not on how they felt but on the average pace. The lower the average pace, the better the run.
I became obsessed with being a faster runner, and as I trained for the NYC Half, I tried to hit race pace for every run. Tempos I'd try to run faster than race pace. Because I mistakenly thought that the faster I ran, the faster I'd run the race.
In retrospect, it's no wonder I kept hurting myself -- never seriously, thankfully -- and ended up sick and exhausted come race day. I hit 2:00:00 at the NYC Half, but I felt miserable.
The race felt like a terrible ordeal; my legs were shot from mile 7 and I felt like I was running through mud. I think the entire race is best characterized by my expression in the above finish line photo. Ouch.
Of course, I should have learned from that, but since I had pink eye and had been sick in the week leading up to the race, I figured my training had been fine and rather, it was the illness that led to the race feeling so incredibly hard.
So in the two weeks before I ran the Nike Women's DC Half, here were the long runs I did: an 8 mile tempo run with an average pace roughly 20 seconds below my goal race pace of 9:09, and a 12 mile long run at a pace of roughly 9:15 per mile exactly a week before the race.
Is it any wonder that from mile 3 my legs felt shot at the Nike Women's Half?
I completely reassessed running after that race. I decided my mind and body were exhausted from race training (they were) and that I needed a month-long break from running in preparation for marathon training. While I ran a bit in May, most of it was Garmin-free, and I think I logged a grand total of 12 miles for all of May.
I logged more than double that last week. And it felt awesome. So what has changed for me and running?
Thanks to the amazing Coach Jess (perhaps better known to running blog fans as Fit Chick in the City), I have learned to embrace the "easy run."
|See? I'm easy running and having so much fun!|
The easy run is all about feeling. I'm supposed to run the assigned mileage or time based purely on what feels "easy" that day. Sometimes that's 9:30 miles. A lot more often it's 10:00 miles or higher.
Running isn't hard now. Sure, the last few miles of a long run might feel like a slog, but the average run -- even in high temperatures -- still feels pretty good because I'm keeping my pace easy for myself. I make run dates and chat with friends while logging miles. I concentrate on my surroundings rather than the watch on my wrist.
|Surroundings that look like this ... mountains + moon = happy Jen|
So, easy running is all rainbows and sunshine! Um, no. It's not. Honestly, there have been times when I am embarrassed at my splits. I post the times of each run because I always have, but occasionally I wonder, "what do people think of me? Do they look down on me because I'm not running fast?"
But here's the thing. I've never looked down on anyone because of the pace of their mile. Every time a friend PR's, I don't ask, "what was your time?" I just congratulate them for the fact that they worked hard and set a personal record for themselves. I smile at everyone I see running, regardless of if I'm passing them or they're passing me, because I love that they've discovered what I have -- running is awesome. So why would I judge myself?
When I first started running outside, it wasn't so that I could hit a certain time goal. It was because running outside was amazing. It made me feel strong, I loved how much more I appreciated my surroundings when I ran, and the mental clarity it gave me was incredible. I had no idea how fast I was running and I didn't care. Running itself was the goal.
By telling me to embrace the easy run, Jess has allowed me to break free of the numbers ticking away on my watch and concentrate on the important part -- how running feels. I am so grateful for getting that push from her!
And by the way, I PR'd in my last race (the local 5K in WA), so clearly easy running is not hurting my race paces!
Do you run easy? Do you find yourself attached to the data of your Garmin?