The Ugly Side to Running
When it comes to running, I hate this quote: "Getting out of bed is the hardest part."
I hate it because it's not true. Getting out of best isn't the hardest part. Running is the hardest part—and I don't think people talk about that enough.
I think social media and the online world is partially/mainly to blame. The Internet provides an outlet to share the magical parts of training: squeezing in six miles while the sun rises and before a full day of work; a Sunday morning long run followed by brunch with friends; or the casual half-marathon run at a “comfortable pace” that’s simply a training run for an upcoming 26.2.
I’ve totally been there. I wrote feverishly about my first time training for a marathon — proud of the 50 mile weeks, the 6:30 mile repeats, and the 22-mile long runs ending before 10 am.
The tricky thing about social media is it's a curated look into someone's life. Just scroll though someone's Instagram feed or FB profile. Of course FOMO is a thing these days. And in the lens of a runner, when you see everyone around you with screen grabs of their Garmin, a beautiful sunset on an evening run, or a shiny new medal at a local 5K race, you can't help but think: why isn't it that easy for me?
But nobody is really collecting those moments when running absolutely and truly sucks. More often than not I go for a five mile run after work and feel pretty terrible. And my immediate reaction is one of self-blame: “Why are you tired? All you did was sit all day in front of a computer and then go for a 40 minute run! Are you not a runner?"
It's stupid thinking, and I'm probably not the only one to do it.
The other night I went for a 16 mile run as part of my training cycle.
It's now my fourth "long run" (anything 13+ miles) in the past four weeks. I was running down the westside highway, and was near the Intrepid Museum when I just ... really started to hurt. I was at mile 10.
It's scary when you're at mile 10 of a 16 mile run and feel like you're already doomed. And you think: I need to run 16 more, and faster, when I actually run this marathon.
My left knee and foot felt off, which automatically made me think "stress fracture waiting to happen" — something I'm really paranoid about. The bottoms of my feet felt like they were getting stabbed, and my stomach was twisting in knots. I was thirsty, I was hungry, and my multiple water fountain stops and delicious margarita-flavored energy chews only offered temporary relief.
The weight of the week—work stress, life stress, not-getting-enough-sleep stress—exposed itself ... front and center.
There's not much solace once you finish a long run either. My skin was uncomfortably sticky from the salt (many runners literally get grains of salt on their skin). I chafe a lot under my arms, so they were burning. Foam rolling is the most masochistic thing EVER, too—running a roller under my IT band felt like someone taking a shovel and digging out under my muscles.
I desperately needed dinner, but my appetite is always weird after runs. I couldn't stomach much food. Then the only real relief—sleep—is a clusterfuck. (Post-workout insomnia is a thing, and I have it.)
Long story short: I wasn't only beat. I felt defeated. I want to feel strong on a long run all the way through, and I don't think I ever really have. No matter how comfortable a pace, how well I fuel, or how nice the weather, I always feel super weak for the final miles, questioning my ability to really be an endurance athlete.
Maybe it's just me, but training changes how I feel and function every single day, and I honestly don't know how people hop from one training cycle to another. No matter how well I try to approach it, I'm still never sleeping enough, still always sore, still always always always tired, and always eating (though I don't mind that part #tacos<3).
Of course there has to be a balance of the bad and good, a reason behind why you're doing it, and a deep deep deeeep love and appreciation for everything the sport throws at you, which is a lot. I just wanted to write about the bad because it's usually hidden behind the strong runs and fast tempos. Perhaps this is also a cathartic exercise to expose the pain of it all and then wipe the slate clean: allowing myself to take it all in and once again find the magic in the miles.