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Want to Run a Good Distance Run? Drop Your Ego and Go Shorter (NOT!)

Having a good week in terms of sleep, eating, life-related events, and some nice runs during the week will predicate what will happen when you go long.

By Alix Shutello

For those of you who’ve been with me for the last three years or so you know that I’ll talk about a lot of things – like dribbling chocolate GU all over myself, how I’ve perfected the farmer blow, knee pain, tight hamstrings, and the whole nine yards.  Today I am going to add to it – I know you’ve all been there – the day when you’ve got that long run which turns into a debacle, that you must face head on and admit. It could have been better.

Bart Yasso told me in an interview to move on when a run doesn’t turn out to be the pinnacle of “awesomeness.” Not all runs can live up to that expectation. Ryan Hall, I’ve read, says the same thing. The big guys say it – GET OVER IT. Move on, accept what you’ve done, be glad for the gift of running, and be proud of what you’ve done, even if it’s not your best.

This past Sunday my run was certainly not my best.

Let’s back up to a week ago today (last Thursday). I went to work all day and didn’t eat much. After work I went to a business-related happy hour from 4-6 pm, drank a coke (because I knew I needed to throw in a training run), and then went to the gym. I ran a quick 3 miles at super speed on the treadmill and then went to a friend’s CABI party (late) where I managed to whack my car on a 4 inch oak poll that was holding up a mailbox that I didn’t see in the darkness. Now, completely pissed off, I attended the party, at some cheese spread, and went off to play tennis at 10 PM (I play tennis indoors at my racquet club each year from October to April). By the way, the car is fine but does need some cosmetic surgery. #()#)#*)(%()I@_#(@_(#@+!!!!!!

Renee, my tennis partner, knows how much I like food. She also knows when I haven’t had enough of it (and then tries to take advantage of this). While I played like a superstar on Thursday night it didn’t come without my hunger alarm ringing.  I wanted to gnaw my arm off. I was starving, exhausted, and had spent the last few days cleaning out my sinuses to boot. Not a good sign – a cold was brewing, and my evening of business-related happy hours, exercise and other events I tacked on that evening, was wearing me down.

Friday comes – I’m whipped out but I have client meetings all day. People could tell I wasn’t feeling well. I finish up my work day around 5:45, just in time for me to get the kids. We all get home and while I wanted to crawl into bed I stayed up and watched movies with my boys.

Saturday came and I needed to do 10 miles but my body said absolutely not. I went to my son’s soccer game and after we got home, I crawled into bed and passed out for three hours. When I awoke, we ran some errands and I was sweating – a fever – a respiratory infection. All I could think was, tomorrow I’m running 10 miles despite the fact that my body was saying, um, can you drop the ego and just do 5 miles? NO!

It’s sick, the disease to run, but it’s a good disease, isn’t it? Well, Sunday comes, and off I go – with a new running program loaded on my IPhone. I had eaten some pasta around 9PM the night before but didn’t eat breakfast (wasn’t hungry). Instead, I loaded up on coffee, stuffed a power bar in my pocket and at noon, strapped on my water belt and headed out into a beautiful fall day. Can you see how my behavior is not conducive to good running!

Nothing, I mean nothing, not the beautiful foliage, the awesome beat on my phone/IPod, my decent mood, or the weather was going to help me on Sunday. The run was a mess.

My first mile was great and then after that I just went into sonic melt down. My pace slowed, my right knee hurt, and let’s just say my body wasn’t functioning like it should. And why would it? I mean, I ate poorly during the week, I didn’t sleep well and pushed myself when I was clearly getting a cold.  Between my respiratory issues and other issues I won’t go into, I ended up taking bathroom breaks, walking and worse, my mind was turning negative. There’s only so long that you can say, “Ok girl, keep running! Let’s go! Run run run!”

But yet, I kept moving despite being behind my pace, grumpy, tired, and hurting.  At around 9.5 miles I had about had it. I also made the stupid decision to run 11 miles instead of 10, so I ended up moping along, grousing at my stupid decision. Why didn’t I just postpone my long run when I was sick?

Say it with me, “because we runners don’t do that!”

Right.

When To Turn the Ego to “Off”

Sometimes, instead of pushing the miles, it’s better to curtail your running plan so that you run fewer miles. So, for example, I would have run a faster and less deteriorating 8 miles should I have been smart enough to plan for that.

But my plan was to run 11. My body just didn’t get the message…or did it?

I mean, how fair is it to push your body a distance on a day when it’s not up to it? C’mon, I know the signs and so do you. I was exhausted. My respiratory infection took root in my lungs on Wednesday and I spent my mornings trying to aspirate what had collected there each night.  My eating was erratic and work was stressful. Sometimes, we need to let go of our ego, and change our plans. Further, I didn’t really need to run 11 but I did anyway. Not smart, but my ego got in the way.

Training point for new runners – don’t do this! When you are fatigued, it’s better to not risk injury and run shorter when you are not feeling well. For experienced runners, this is also not a bad idea – but you know your body – and if you need to slow down and take rest breaks (as many long distance athletes do), then do it. And, that is what I did – because in the end, I didn’t want my knee pain to turn in to a problem….and besides, I was already over five miles out. I had no choice but to finish my mileage even if I did walk.

Oh Well, I Did Make the Distance Right?

Look, we all have these days where we push when we shouldn’t. We want to have achievements each time we run.  I am mentally ready for my next race – but is my body? I decided to push it today and I could have hurt myself. By my 9th mile I felt as if I had run 20. My legs were heavy and my mind was weak.  I wanted to walk the 1.5 miles home but instead jogged until I was about a half mile from home and half jogged and walked home. Sure, I covered 11 miles, but at what cost? I could have injured myself today buy didn’t because I slowed my pace and walked when I needed to? I’ve been running for a million years. If I were a novice or beginner runner it would have been wise to just cut my losses….but I’ve been here before. And honestly? My ego wouldn’t have accepted 8 miles. So I slowed down and just honked it home (gracefully if not graciously).

So in the end I am glad I ran the distance but really, it was so difficult….but maybe it was just supposed to be a bad day. I just hope this weekend is better!

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Discussion

One thought on “Want to Run a Good Distance Run? Drop Your Ego and Go Shorter (NOT!)

  1. I have had a very simillar experience, its these runs though that make us tougher (and crazier) in the end. Running is not a choice its a way of life!

    Posted by Pat | November 3, 2010, 5:22 pm

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