RUN SMART, ALWAYS.
That is the one thing I have taken away from the past three runs with my new killer Kelly Clarkson/Maren Morris playlist.
There's nothing quite like that first run with a brand spanking new playlist full of songs you've never ever listened to. Especially, when those songs are super empowering/badass! So, with that in mind, I set off to run as fast as humanly possible on Tuesday morning. And, that's exactly what I did! My first 3 miles were in the 9:20s!!! THAT NEVER HAPPENS WITH ALL THOSE DARN HILLS DURING THOSE MILES. I had my normal slow mile 5, then hopped right back to it with a 9:12 final .63 miles. I was on top of the world happy. I had the best time just loosing myself in the music and pushing the pace just enough to make it difficult but maintainable at the same time.
Obviously, I knew subconsciously that I couldn't expect to have a super duper stellar run on Wednesday after Tuesday's speedy performance + high volume leg workout, so I went in planning to get in my first long run of the week, 7ish miles ran at like 9:40-45 pace. Even when I stepped outside at 5:20 yesterday morning and felt just how sticky/humid it was out, I still had all the confidence in the world in myself and my running abilities. I reminded myself that all I had to do was go out nice and easy, find a pace I could actually hold for the full 7 miles.
Anyone who tells you you're not a "real runner" because you have to stop on occasion to walk/catch your breath, is a fucking liar.
It' true. But, even though I know this and have heard it said at least half a million times in magazines and on social media by some of my biggest role models in the running community, I still found myself struggling to mentally allow myself to take that needed break yesterday. I just kept telling myself, "YOU DON'T NEED TO STOP," "STOPPING = GIVING UP," and every other negative thing you can imagine saying to yourself when you're struggling but don't want to admit it or show it. I had taken off fairly fast, not quite as fast as Tuesday's run, but still decently fast considering the weather conditions and how sore my legs were.
I was getting to the end of 11th street, getting ready to turn to run past Heartland (agricultural company), when I knew I could not run for much longer without stopping for a minute or two break. I was having a lot of trouble breathing normally, and while it obviously could have been anxiety related (we're not even gonna talk about how many days out we are from race day), it was definitely weather induced in my opinion. In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn't safe or smart to keep running in that condition. I knew all I needed was just a brief pause to get my shit together, but still, I didn't want to let myself.
Eventually, around the 3.8 mile mark of what turned out to be a 5.62 mile run, I had to make the call to stop...no matter how much it pissed me off and messed with me mentally. I didn't realize just how much I needed that break until I was standing there trying to catch my breath and breath normally. Oh, and of course freaking the freak out because WHAT IF SOMEONE SAW ME? HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO EXPLAIN WHY I NEEDED A BREAK WHEN "REAL RUNNERS DON'T TAKE BREAKS?!"
So, I guess by now you're probably wondering when (or if) we'll even get into what running smart means?!
I'm sure somewhere out there there is a super specific/technical definition by a professional on what the term means, but I'm just going to go with what it means to me personally. Of course, it's going to mean something different for every runner depending on their ability, routine, etc. For me, right now, it means running with pepper spray and being hyper aware of my surroundings. Being cognizant of any hip/pelvic pain, and being willing to either ease up on speed or cut runs short if the pain becomes a problem. Pacing and running with good form to the best of my ability (which sometimes is literally just going through the motions and dragging one foot in front of the other). And, in the lovely heat/humidity filled summer, taking those breaks, having gels on hand.
It's a lot to take in, this whole concept of running smart. Basically, the way I see it, it's doing everything you can to ensure you're able to run safely for years and years to come. It's about chasing goals/PRs while also being aware of your limits and the fact that you are not indestructable. It's knowing that you have to run the way that works for you, and only you. Don't be that person who thinks I can't take that break or I have to speed up/run with perfect form any time I see someone I know because I NEED them to think I have this whole running thing figured out. No, no one in the history of ever has running down to a T.
Running smart, means being perfectly okay and proud of the slow as Hell long runs.
On today's 7.15 miler, I literally only had one full mile that was fastish, and that was the first one. Oh, and that last .15 miles because I just wanted to be done and inside the air conditioned gym ASAP. Sure, I could have burst into tears when I finally hit the finish line, saw my final time and my miles splits. In fact, at the beginning of this whole half marathon training thing, I was that person. Beating myself up for not hitting PRS every single run. Devastated any time I had to run less than 6 miles at a crack. I was so caught up in chasing that runner's high, that I forgot about running smart. Forgot about how much run (and beneficial) the average, and absolute shit show runs are. They make you stronger, smarter, better,
Besides, any time you tell someone that you ran 7 miles (or more) the last thing they're going to ask is how many walk/stop breaks did you take, what was your final time, and what were you're mile splits? They're going to be too busy being super impressed/shocked by the fact that anyone is crazy enough to run that far without something chasing them or some big ass prize at the finish!