Following my- so far successful- efforts to rewire my brain to a new daily routine, I have also been trying to rewire- or more accurately (and to continue the computer analogy)- ‘reboot’ my love of running.
In truth, I never fell out of love, but this summer my love evolved : by way of a desire to speed up and to improve my strength and endurance I went from a simple joy of being outdoors- exploring my environment and being just myself, my feet and the sheer exhilarating slog of it, to an all encompassing burning passion to improve with every step. It was still love, but this one burned…
I improved, that much is true: I pushed my pace further than I ever expected and I could actually see my goal of a 1.5 hour half marathon shimmering on the horizon of my potential.
That this vision began to fade was a combination of factors:
A) I got a job, and finding enough time and energy for a 12 miler, plus stretch-out, then making it through a shift without falling asleep under the counter….well, when competing for my attention with the ease and simplicity of a 40 minute YouTube work-out, my running sessions became few and far between.
B) My knees were up to their old tricks and beginning once again to plague my runs with painful twinges. On top of this my hips were becoming stiff and causing me daily pain, despite my best stretching efforts.
C) My phone broke down. It sounds so sadly trivial, but it turns out that 12 miles with no music and only the sound of your own laboured breathing is rather demoralizing. Maybe it would be beneficial to deal with it and learn to connect fully with the efforts of my body but…it just really put me off the long runs I had begun to enjoy.
And lastly, and most critically, D) I psyched myself out so had that I became overwhelmingly anxious even thinking about going for a run- with my enthusiasm already waning I began worrying about how devastated I would be if I didn’t beat my previous performance. My regular pattern of running had lost it’s ability to keep my mind calm and my self-evaluations positive, and what was worse- it had actually become the source of increasing anxiety.
In September I tried to recover the dream with an easy, no-pressure jog. 3 minutes down the road my competitive instinct took over and I shattered my pace PB. By the evening of that day it felt like my hip had taken the beating of it’s life right along with it. I felt like all my efforts to prevent injuries had been wasted in 25 short and over-confident minutes. That was my last run before this week.
So, once again, I’m taking it slow…and short…and its weird. It goes against everything my brain is telling me: that I’m not going at a respectable pace, that I’ll come in at over an 8 minute mile and feel bad about myself, that if I don’t feel like I’m about to keel over, then I’m not pushing hard enough to be getting any benefit or make an improvement. But right now, its not about the performance, its about love, for running and for my body. So I’m fighting the urge to push, letting my hips and knees build back up slowly. In the meantime, I might even rediscover the mind-soothing power of running that I first fell in love with.