Everyone has that awful, no good, very bad run and if you’re lucky, it doesn’t happen on race day.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that if all your runs are fantastic, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. But what do you do when every run seems to suck? I’m not talking about the typical weather related sucktastic run, or the one where you stayed out too late and didn’t fuel properly, or even the post-race get back into the swing of things runs that we all run through. I’m talking about each day, lacing up because it’s what we do, and it doesn’t get easier, it doesn’t feel better, and you’re counting down the minutes and miles ’til you’ve reached the “STOP!” point. What then?
Once I felt that first “click” in my mind where I no longer felt injured, like each run was another “test” run, I thought my speed and endurance would be back in the blink of an eye. Newsflash – it wasn’t. When I was laying on my couch researching everything possible about the lower half of my body and running again, I kept reading posts about how your fitness comes back quicker than you’d expect after injury and some time off won’t render you totally void of all that hard work you once put in. Yeah, well you’re all liars. There. I said it.
I’ve been steadily running since September/October hovering at a sad 12-18 miles per week and it still doesn’t feel any easier. Each time I run longer than 6 miles, I do a little victory dance. Running for an hour is a struggle for me. It’s my limit before things start to certainly feel tough. This does not bode well for the Buffalo Half Marathon in a few shorts week, I’ll tell ya that.
I feel like coming back from a 5 year hiatus was not this challenging. That could be a complete lie for all I know, I remember a few 5k’s in the 25:00+ range that really sucked the wind out of me. That second half marathon after a two month break was not at all difficult in comparison, though. I just assumed that because I did some fitness classes during my injury I’d have some type of fitness to hang onto once I started running again. Not so much.
Honestly, the final straw that made me look back and change something was an “easy” run on Monday night. My last run was a short 2.5 mile Saturday morning run, which followed an easy 5 mile run on Friday. I thought I’d feel fresh and ready to go, but I felt sluggish, lead-like, and lethargic. At 3.5 miles, I stopped to stretch my hips. Lately they’ve felt really tight in runs longer than 6 miles, not this early! It took another half mile before I felt a little more normal. I was about to think about how good I felt when everything went down hill. My hips tightened up again, my feet were scraping against the pavement, I felt too tired to drive my knees forward, and I just wanted to be home. Unfortunately for me, I had another 4 miles until I got home.
The rest of the way home I thought about the funk I’ve been in. I was nauseated for the 2nd half of that run. It took everything in me to not hurl all over Buffalo. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a crappy run due to my legs (which didn’t help) but more because of my lack of food in the prior 36 hours. Terribly fueling and hydrating aside, finishing that run provoked many ideas.
So, how do you get out of that funk?
- My training log has been totally sporadic but in comparison to my past 18 months, this is about as consistent as I’ve ever been. My hope is a morning running routine will get my legs used to running on certain days (which hasn’t been the case recently).
- I think part of the problem might be that I actually need to up my frequency! My legs are starting to feel rusty with days off, not fresh and perky like they did a couple months ago. I’ve maintained an ultra conservative base building and half marathon training plan, but it’s time to push the envelope. My legs can handle 2-3 days of running in a row without feeling injured, so why am I still hovering at 3-4 days per week instead of 4-5?
- Maybe I should pick up the tunes again. I haven’t listened to music since finishing Serial in January. It’s mostly due to wanting to stay aware of my surroundings (I most often run solo in the city) but with the extended hours of daylight, my surroundings aren’t pitch black anymore. I haven’t charged my iPod or changed the music since the 2013 Buffalo Half Marathon if that gives any indication of the injury status I’ve had. Without something to concentrate on, I’m listening to every ache, cramp, and breath while listening to each thought that pops into my head.
What do you do when every run feels impossible, awful, and never-ending?