(I'm behind on my running posts, having been distracted lately by writing my novel. So, this is from a run three weeks ago, written on the day before I left for Italy.)
A five mile run. Something about the neatness of the number five makes it seem significant to me. Then I translate it to a messy 8.05 kilometers and that all goes out the window, but I like to think that the distance is important. Today I ran a five mile run around the local track. I’m not going to lie or even dress it up a bit, it was slow and it was ugly. I’m doubting a lot of my choices right now.
For starters, there is the decision to run on the track. I don’t know what possessed me, but I think the reasoning went something like this: it is a pre-measured course, it is flat, and it is a relatively soft surface. Oh - and it was outside, as opposed to the least loved treadmill. Still, it was damned boring. This particular track happens to be surrounded by grass and pastureland, but it isn’t exactly scenic, especially after the 10th lap. A five mile run is roughly 20 times around the ridiculous oval of boredom and switching directions halfway did nothing to relieve my poor brain from the tedium.
Then I made another stupid decision. I decided to run without my headphones and music. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big deal. When I first started running, the ipod didn’t even exist yet, and I ran without music most of the time. I had just finished reading this article on the pros and cons of running with music and felt like I would be doing myself a favor by listening to my footfalls and breathing. It wasn't good idea, as it turned out. Coupled with endless trips around the oval, the rhythmic clap, clap, clap of my feet and sound of my ragged breathing only grated on my nerves. I think I started chanting the lap number at lap 15 just to give my mind something else to do. That article I’d read - it also stated how music can lesson your perceived effort and improve your positive thoughts. I should have weighed those pros higher for this run.
The next issue wasn’t so much a decision I made as bad luck. The black clouds were pretty ominous as I stepped out onto the track, so I suppose I could have chosen to go back to the gym and run on the treadmill, but five miles is a long time on the dreadmill at my current speed. I hoped the clouds would just blow over. They didn’t. So, the one thing that did break up the monotony of my run was the intermittent downpours of cold rain and gusts of chill wind. Thankfully I did bring my windproof/waterproof running jacket. It wasn’t so cold that my hands turned blue, and my running generated body heat kept me fairly comfortable. It just wasn’t helpful to my state of mind.
The thing is, five miles (or 8.05 kms) is the longest I’ve run since I was originally sidelined by plantar fasciitis in 2004. As I started running my endless loops, it hit me that most of my long runs scheduled for the next four months would be a new long distance record for me. Well, a new distance since I started running again some 20 months ago. You would think this would be an exhilarating idea, but it was not. I felt a little intimidated. I started to feel doubt creep in about this whole crazy running idea. It was a struggle to keep trudging along and some evil little voice kept telling me to just stop and go get a hot coffee. Why the hell was I out running in this cold and wet wind around a stupid oval like a half drowned rat in a wheel? Ordinarily, my first mile of any run is where I struggle to get my head in the game, but this whole trip was a disaster.
This is when I started to doubt my biggest choice of all: to run the Great North Run Half Marathon. My pathetically slow five miler wasn’t even half the distance of my race, and I was losing my mind. I know that becoming a runner is about building mental fortitude as much as leg and cardio strength, but today I felt like I was failing on all fronts.
So, despite feeling no pain during my run and completing each mind-numbing lap, this run was miserable. Until the end. Once I finished that last lap and began my cool down walk, I felt on top of the world. Heck yeah, I just ran five miles. I checked my sportband to confirm: five - sixteen minute miles. Oh my god. I added two minutes per mile to my slowest run yet. Cue ego deflation. Then I got home, and as I bent down to untie my shoelaces, I noticed how puffy my left shin seemed. Crap.