Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting Started and Getting Better

Now that I find myself essentially starting over again with mileage after  having taken a month off to let everything reset itself, I can't help but think of when I first started down this running road.  
I remember vividly training for weeks just to be able to run one mile.  I remember running that mile without one stop and how proud I felt.  I have no idea what time the trainer called out when I finished, I just knew I'd finally run one mile without stopping (**in full disclosure, this was not the very first mile I ever ran.  Of course, I ran many miles growing up as a child.  I also ran several times in college.  But, this was the first time I had run a mile as an adult and this was the first mile that started my long run journey). 
I remember the first time I attempted to run a three mile loop.  I say attempted because I ended up run-walking about halfway in.  I knew then that I would practice that loop until I owned it.  And own it I eventually did.  Of course, by "owned it", you realize, I just mean that I managed to drag my body gasping and gulping and sweating and dying one full time around that loop without stopping and, oddly, it felt good.  I even remember the day I decided I was ready to run that dang loop twice and how that twice actually came easier than expected.  I remember my first 10k, my first half marathon, and my first marathon. 
This long run has been one long journey that started the day I decided to tackle the idea of one short (yet, oh so long) mile.
Recently, I've had several friends tell me that they have decided to take up running.  They've told me how they've strapped on their shoes and set off on their running journey.  I am so excited for them.  I know they are destined for their own long run lessons and I can't wait to hear all of their struggles and successes along the way.  These friends have asked me advise on how to improve their distance and speed.  A few things on that:
1. There are a million online articles about how to increase your mileage.  One overwhelming theory is the 10% rule.  It says you can safely increase your weekly mileage by 10% every week.  A convenient theory, but not always applicable, in my opinion.  The most important thing  I would say  is to listen to your body (not your mind, that thing will quit on you early if you let it).  If you are having pains or feeling overly fatigued, take it down a notch, let your body rule.  There is no giant rush to increase your distance or speed.  This is a long run and there is nothing wrong with taking your time along the way. 
2.  Now that I am a more experience runner and know that I am capable of some pretty high mileage, I feel safe increasing my runs by one or two miles at a time.  But, that's only because I am confident that I can do so without causing injury and because I have tackled those miles before, so my brain and my body know what to expect.  Here is what I did when I first started training for those early miles:  I ran one more minute each time.  When I was little, my coach would say, "anyone can do anything for one minute."  My mantra became, "I can do anything for just one minute."  So what if that meant each run wasn't getting me significantly farther?  Like I said, there really is no rush to run farther.  But, before I knew it, those "just one more" minutes were adding up and I was actually running.  When you start, one minute will feel like an eternity.  Trust me, it's still just 60 seconds.  It's just 60 excruciating seconds.  But, eventually, the seconds start flying by and you'll feel comfortable pushing it to two minutes and then three and so on.
3.  Don't get frustrated.  It's supposed to be hard.  It never gets easy.  But, you can never give up.  Sure, three miles is really hard for you now.  It might even be impossible for you now.  But it won't always be.  You will get where you're going.  But it won't be easy.  My miles are still really hard for me years after I mastered that first mile.  I have good runs, but I've never had an "easy" run.  Running is hard.  Period.  But, that's why we do it.  We don't run because we are really good at it and it came really easy.  We run because we aren't so great at it, but we want to get better.  We run because we take pride in doing hard things.  Hard things are where it's at.  Hard things are where change happens.  Out of the hard things, we find out who we really are.  We learn what we are capable of.  The joy in running comes from pushing it that one extra minute, especially when you don't think you can. 

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