Running is a funny thing. I almost never LOVE it while I’m doing it, but before and after, it’s my favorite thing ever. When I’m at work, or driving, or with friends, I think about running, and can’t wait to get out there. When I see other people running, I wish I was too.
2 weeks ago, my running felt as easy as it ever has. I’ve never been one of those runners who can effortlessly fly down the road; for me, every step is work. That being said, some runs feel easier than others, and it’s not about the speed, it’s about how it feels. Sometimes, my legs feel lighter, my arms feel smoother, my lungs feel fuller, and my head feels clearer. On those runs, running is as close to effortless as I will ever get. On the flip side, some runs feel like my legs and feet are weighed down with lead, my lungs can’t get enough air, and my head is full of negative thoughts. Most runs are somewhere in the middle.
More broadly, my runs tend to go in cycles. I will have weeks where running feels good, my paces are decent, and my legs/lungs/head feel good. I also have cycles, days or weeks, where my runs all feel like poo, for lack of a better term. I do have more good feeling runs than bad feeling runs, but there tend to be cycles. I feel like having upswinging cycles and down-swinging cycles is natural, just like most everything in life, the stock markets, win or lose streaks in sports, etc.
I had a half marathon last weekend that was half amazing, followed by half frustrating and disappointing. I’m not talking about the time on the clock; I’m talking about how I felt, mentally and physically. The first half, I was running on the high that I’ve been riding for a few weeks – running felt good, and as easy as it ever has.
Halfway through the half marathon, when I walked for the first time, it was like a switch was flipped, mentally. I think walking was the right choice, I got dizzy, and when I pushed through last October when that happened, the dizziness continued, and got worse, and I had to walk or I am pretty sure I would have passed out. This time, it was not that bad, but I didn’t want it to get that bad, so I walked.
But when I walked, it was like a switch was flipped, and I felt defeated. Frustrated. I blew it. It was over. Why even bother. I know that seems extreme, but in my mind, at that time, that’s what my thought process was. I walked until the dizziness subsided, then when I started running again, my legs and feet were lead, my mind was jumbled, and my lungs couldn’t get settled down. It was uncomfortable, and my mind convinced my body to stop and walk, time and time again, until I finally covered the remainder of the 13.1 miles. (I’m not trying to downplay the fact that I completed my 8th half marathon, and that I am proud of finishing, but I’m trying to lay out my feelings related to how running cycles up and down, and this is my example, today.)
In the days since that half marathon, I’ve been in a funk, a rut, a “down cycle.” I haven’t wanted to run, but I have. I know it’s part of the cycle. I feel better when I run, but mentally, getting out there is the hardest part during the low part of the cycle. I’m digging my way out, each run is healing and cleansing and forgiving. And I think this is a natural part of running. The first couple times I would hit a rut, I didn’t understand why, because I love running. But now, I understand, not every run is going to be good. Not every week or month of runs will feel good, or bad, it’s all in flux, and it’s a cycle.
I may have a great up cycle where running feels amazing for 2 or 3 months, and the down cycle may only last a week, but it’s still cyclical. I also believe that understanding that it is normal is a huge part of getting out of the rut and into an upward swing. I’ve had a heart to heart with myself and with those close to me, about my feelings from the half marathon, and how it’s affected me. There are some things I’m going to work on, to try to do differently during my next half marathons, and to improve on.
In the most general sense, I’m going to try to get out of my own head about all of it. It’s not about how other people do, or what they do, or how they do it, when I run, it’s for me, and about me. There is no competition aside from with myself. Sometimes I need a solo run, sometimes I need a run with friends. Sometimes I need a run to clear my thoughts, and sometimes I need a run to catch up with friends. Sometimes I need an easy, slow, fun run, and sometimes I want to lay it all out on the road, emptying the tank. And running is there, for all of it.
Running doesn’t judge, it’s there, waiting for me to lace up my shoes and get back at it, and that, right there, is why I love running. It is always there. Always.