Love For the Run

On this morning’s long run I was overwhelmed with an intense sense of gratitude. Gratitude for my health, my sport, my people, and my life in general.

I had twenty miles on the schedule today, my last long run before Boston, and although I know I’m capable there’s always some anxiety about running farther than you have in months. Initially, I was bummed and weary because I’d be flying solo today and the idea of being on the roads alone for over two and a half hours felt daunting. Fortunately, I quickly reframed my thinking. I realized today’s run was my first solo long run since my ‘official’ (I use that term very loosely) Boston training kicked off. I’ve been lucky enough to have company for every single long run I’ve embarked on over the past ten(ish) weeks. I’ve had a badass lady gang by my side for the most relaxed eighteen miler I’ve ever experienced, as well as the worst twelve miler of my life (which included two miles of run-walking just to make it back to my car), and for everything in between. I’ve made many new friends on those runs and deepened friendships that were still pretty new a few months ago. Running alone this morning allowed me to appreciate how privileged I am to be surrounded by the ridiculously supportive running community that I have.

 

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In constant awe of the cherry blossoms literring my run with petals

 

This morning’s running offered me a unique opportunity to reflect on the training I’ve completed over the past few months and truly appreciate how far I’ve come since being sidelined for three months with an injury. A year ago I was doing the same thing, running twenty miles in preparation for Marathon Monday but it was a completely different experience. A year ago, I ran every run fast, it didn’t matter how short or long the run was, in my mind, I had to hit a certain pace or I wasn’t working hard enough. This constant need to meet the expectation I set for myself led to overtraining. I vividly remember the pain I felt in my hamstring during those last couple of long runs leading up to Patriot’s Day in 2016. I told myself it was nothing because if I was injured I wouldn’t be able to manage twenty miles. But despite successful (albeit painful) training runs, I was injured. Today I learned what twenty miles on a training run should really feel like and it feels pretty damn good. 

A year ago I may have been training harder but now I’m training smarter and my body is saying “thank you”.

This time last year I had no interest in fueling or hydrating during my long runs. I let myself believe that if I could survive a twenty mile training run with no water and no fuel, that meant I was pretty badass. Now I think it meant I was pretty stupid. Thankfully, I took a nutrition class in the fall and learning the science behind what’s happening to my body during a long run motivated me to take hydration and fuel seriously. To my surprise, I made it to mile twenty today without spasming calves or an intense craving for gallons of fruit punch.

It’s amazing what happens when you give your body what it needs.

Finally, I felt gratitude for the strength I felt in my legs and my lungs. I was intensely appreciative of the ability my legs have to carry me around my city for 20 miles. I never once thought about how many calories I was burning and whether or not my stomach looked flat in the new tank top I was wearing. I was thankful for the Lane 9 Project and the fierce women I’m working with who have encouraged me to be stronger and more appreciative of my body everyday.

Today I felt more appreciation for my sport than I’ve felt in a long time. I finished my run proud, exhausted, strong, and smiling. I was overcome with self-love as I took those last few steps and I cannot think of anything better to gain from marathon training.

A Lesson in Recovery

Again and again, I’ve fallen victim to the trap of training too hard and recovering too little. As a result, I’ve succumbed to multiple injuries over the years. I’ve experienced the consequences of neglecting rest and recovery, but until today, I hadn’t truly experienced the benefits from prioritizing it. 

A couple of weeks ago, my long run was a 16-miler. It was nothing to write home about, but it went well. I came home, stretched, had a bagel and chocolate milk, then hopped in the shower. Up until that point, I’d done the right things, after that, I threw recovery out the window. I headed out of town for the night with nothing but a pair of heeled booties, I didn’t eat again until dinner, and I greatly neglected my hydration. The next day I was tired and sore. That morning, I headed out for my easy run, that wasn’t all that easy and later, some unseasonably warm weather and a Monday off led to a few too many glasses of sangria. On Monday, I repeated Sunday’s mistake and ran even harder. By the time the week’s first real workout rolled around on Tuesday, my body felt like garbage.

I felt like crap the whole week; heavy legs and aching joints. When I got to Saturday’s long run of 12.5 miles, far less than the week before, my body was begging for a break, but I pressed on and ran what turned out to be 12 of the most miserable miles of my life. The run was so rough by mile 9 that I walk-ran the last three miles, something I’ve never had to do. At that point, I began to recall the past week and pinpoint why I felt so bad; it quickly became apparent. I didn’t take care of myself in the hours and days after my long run, and I was paying for it. Right then, I vowed to focus the coming week’s energy on rest and recovery, so I’d be ready for today’s 18-miler.

This past week I’ve hydrated and I’ve eaten. I’ve had no more than one alcoholic drink in a sitting and I’ve foam-rolled daily. I ran Friday morning rather than Friday afternoon to increase recovery time before my morning long run. I made little choices every day in hope of maximizing my recovery and waking up with fresh legs.

I didn’t sleep well last night and I crawled out of bed this morning hesitant, worried about how the run would play out. As I began running towards Meridian Hill, where my running buddies would be waiting,  I immediately noticed that my legs felt fresh. I expected to feel this way until mile 8 or 9, but with each mile, I continued to evade the fatigue. Mile by mile flew by and I continued to feel like I’d just started. Finally, at mile 15 I said by to my running partner and headed towards my car. I feared I’d get tired, running alone the last few miles, but I put in my headphones and focused on relaxing. Those last 3 miles flew by and without realizing, my pace dropping significantly. When I was alerted by my phone I’d reached mile 18, I was actually disappointed. I felt great and I wasn’t ready to be done. Runner’s high. 

Last weekend was one of the worst long runs of my life and today, despite running 6 miles further, was one of the best. The difference between the runs was not fitness, motivation, shoes, or running partners, the difference was recovery. Today I was able to experience, for the first time, the tangible benefits of recovery and now, I’m convinced.  I’ve always had an “I’ll believe when I see it attitude” about recovery. Now, I’ve seen it and boy do I believe it. I wish I had this moment sooner, but from this day forward, my perspective on recovery is changed.