What makes a bad run a bad run? I’m sure every runner can agree on what a bad run is overall, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that everyone defines a bad run differently. One person’s bad run may be someone else’s mediocre run, or possibly even good run. I know that for me, a bad run definitely has a recognizable set of characteristics, and many of them were, unfortunately, rearing their ugly heads during the run I had today.
The past few weekends have been pretty difficult for me. I’m going through a pretty stressful time, and even though I don’t like my job, not having the structure of the workday can be really difficult for me. For the past several weeks, the only thing I’ve actually done on the weekends is go running. I can’t remember the last time I did anything remotely social. I’m fortunate in that I get a lot of social interaction at work and I live with my fiancé so I’m not completely alone. The weekends, though, I’ve basically been staying in and only going outside when I decide it’s time to run. I didn’t think of this weekend as being exceptional in any way. Well, I guess I am a bit more depressed than I have been. But I didn’t really think that the running would be all that difficult. Yesterday I did 6.5 miles, and today I planned on doing 10-11. This would be the final long run on my schedule before the marathon.
For whatever reason, I started thinking negatively the second I began running. As I’ve mentioned, I’m really struggling with my body image and unhealthy eating habits lately. Today, in my capri tights and the shirt I’ve worn for almost every long run for the past sixteen weeks, I felt like a sausage trying to burst out of its casing. Or at least I felt like that’s what I looked like. My pace was uneven, and by the second mile I wanted to just give in. “What difference does it make if I hit even my minimum mileage this week? I haven’t for the past few weeks, and I’ve probably already blown it for the marathon,” I found myself thinking as I ran up a hill I’d done a million times before without a problem. I stopped for a few minutes and tried to give myself a pep talk. I reminded myself I could do this, that I would have to work to keep the negative thoughts at bay, but that it was within the realm of possibility. As I stood by the side of the road in the super crowded park, I thought I might start crying. Instead, I started my watch back up and got moving again. The negative thinking started right back up immediately. “I know I won’t even be able to finish this marathon. Why do I even bother? It’s like a joke, doing this. I am not going to get faster, and this will never get any easier. I don’t know why I waste so much time putting myself through this.”
By the time I hit four miles, I was really pushing just to keep going and having the hardest time quieting my negative attitude. I really didn’t want to give up, because I felt like in giving up I would be letting the thinking that was just trying to tear me down win. But after three more miles, I felt like I could no longer take it. I’d had enough of weaving in between walkers and bikers who were barely paying attention to what they were doing or where they were going. I ended up running behind a girl who looked like she was going in slow motion but was still ahead of me (and who had passed me to get there). I felt defeated and deflated. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep fighting for another three miles. So I just stopped, walked to the subway, and went home.
So what was so bad about this? It’s not that I didn’t hit my mileage goal, although I do wish I had. It’s that I kept myself from doing it by basically thinking my way out of it. I became my own worst enemy during this run, and when I tried instead to be my own best friend, I came up short. It’s not that I was undertrained or physically unprepared for this run, it’s just that everything negative going on in my head got totally out of control and ultimately, I felt overwhelmed by it, to the point where I felt there was nothing I could do. Obviously in addition to continuing to work on my strength, stamina, and speed as a runner, I’m going to have to work on my attitude.
This run has got me pretty bummed. I know enough to be able recognize that the bad runs make the good runs even better, but sometimes that can be very cold comfort. More than anything, I hope that by the time next Sunday rolls around, I can be a little bit more successful on concentrating on positive, rather than negative, thoughts.