When I first started running, a good 7 years ago, it was something that I am not even sure you could actually call running. I would look at the treadmills from the elliptical and think "I wish I could be like those people." For some reason to me, using the elliptical or the bike was not as strong or fit as RUNNING on the treadmill. I could do the elliptical for over an hour, stopping due to boredom or a life beyond exercising, but I just didn't think I could run.
I like a challenge, though. My first race was a half marathon, no training and a long run of only 6 miles under my sneakers! I hopped on the treadmill and set it to 5 miles per hour. This is probably the slowest a person can run without calling it walking! I would walk for 5 minutes then up the speed to 5mph and run for 5 minutes. I gradually increased this so that I was just running. At some point the speed went up, as well. With in the next year I was running for an hour at 6.0 to 6.5mph after having done kickboxing or spinning or pilates or weight lifting (this is called unhealthy exercise obsession).
Fast forward to now. I have run some 5ks, around 4 half marathons, and one marathon. All of which I did not appropriately train for and all of which I could have done better in. My first half marathon was my best time, around 2:19 and some seconds. That was with a knee injury acting up around mile 4 and no traditional running training. What could I do if I focused and trained?
On Monday, I was doing a quick run before a pilates class. I had about 30 minutes. I ran the first 10 minutes or so at about 6.2 mph or a little above a 10 minute pace. I wasn't breathing heavy, my legs didn't hurt, I simply was not challenging myself. I've always had this self-conscious thing where I don't want people to hear me breathing heavy. I don't care if sweat is flinging off my pony tail all over the place, but I always associate heavy breathing, in myself only, to be a sign that I am not fit enough to be doing what I am doing. I decided I would up the speed. I reset the treadmill to create my own speed intervals. I thought back to my friend's run the other day where she pushed herself to maintain 7.1mph for a full 6 miles all the while huffing and puffing. I need to focus on where I want to go and not on what others around me are judging by my gate, my breathing rate, or my perspiration level. I set up three different speed levels. Each interval lasted for 2 minutes which is set by the treadmill and can't be changed. The first interval was 6.2 mph, followed by a 7.5 mph, and a quick recovery at 5 or 5.5 mph (I can't remember at this point). If I want the Boston marathon to be a shoe-in I want to be able to run 26.2 miles consistently at 7.5 mph. To just qualify by a nose I would have to consistently run each mile for 26.2 miles at 7.15mph. While I was running my two minute intervals at 7.5mph I thought to myself, "Oh good Lord! I will never qualify for Boston! I can't do this for 3 hours and 40 minutes!" This kind of self-destruction then interrupts my breathing and makes it even more difficult to continue. I then thought back to when I first started running and, even more motivational, to when I first started adding more speed. On those days when I would run at 6.5mph for an hour I would finish the last few minutes faster. I would do 20 seconds of increasing speed from 7.0 up to 9.0 mph and then go back down to my original speed decreasing by 0.5mph every 20 seconds. I thought to myself as I was running, I could really only do less than a minute of higher speeds. Sometimes I would go from 6.5mph to 7.0 for 30 seconds and 7.5 for 30 seconds then back down to 7.0mph and back to 6.5 mph all for 30 seconds just before the cooldown. When I did my intervals on Monday, the two minutes was not killing me. I could have done them longer. When I realized this I was able to get over the thought that I will never make it to Boston.
This is something I do a lot in life. I think something will not work out and I allow the negative thoughts to basically make it so. Whether it is in my personal endeavors or my personal relationships if I fear failure or ending I basically stop trying so it eventually does fail or end. Part of my training to qualify for the Boston marathon is retraining my mind to not constantly beat myself up or think I cannot achieve something. I finished that run thinking that if I increase the time I am running the faster speed minute by minute, just as I did when I first started running, I will eventually be as comfortable at that speed as I am at the ever-so leisurely pace of the 10 minute mile.
Next feat: Abandoning the treadmill to run in the cold, but I can't promise I will overcome that this winter!