Sunday, April 3, 2011

How bad do you want it?

I'm officially declaring my intent to run a half marathon.  I have run 5k's before, but nothing longer than that.  I'm not the kind of person who has any desire to run anything as long as a full marathon (I think it's a long way to drive 26.2 miles--why on earth would I want to run that far?).  I have, however, off and on, over the years, thought it would be quite an accomplishment for me to complete a half marathon.  Thirteen miles is MORE than ambitious enough for me!  As much as I thought about it, though, it was always something to do in the future... something I'd get around to doing "someday".

Well, I decided at the beginning of this year that I was going to finally go for it.  I wasn't getting any younger and I knew it would be a lot harder to procrastinate if I picked a race and officially set the goal.  I chose the Helvetia Half Marathon in June, found a training schedule online and started working on increasing my mileage.  It made sense to me to run some shorter races, getting incrementally longer (ie- 5k, 10k, etc), working up to the half.  Besides giving me shorter goals to work for, I figured it would force me outside and off my treadmill.  However, I found that there were very few races available in the winter-- for precisely the same reason I preferred to run on my treadmill.  Since the first 5k wasn't available until April, and I hate going out in the wet and cold, I just trained on my treadmill, which I found much easier than running outdoors.

Unfortunately, between fighting illness off and on all winter and the lack of motivation due to the races being so far away, my training lagged.  I have increased my mileage and run outdoors occasionally, when weather permitted, but my progress has been a lot slower than I had hoped for.  Still, I did not give up.  I found training schedules that assured me that there was still plenty of time to train for a half marathon.  I also started reading books and blogs about marathon running and was getting lots of motivation and encouragement.  One common theme I kept coming across was the "mind over matter" theory.  The whole idea of "you can push your body harder than than you think" and "you have to know why you want to run a marathon" (apparently to lose weight is generally not considered motivating enough).

With all of this motivation under my belt, I headed outside yesterday to run.  It was a beautiful dry day, a little chilly, but sunny.  I had my ipod and decided I'd fuel my run with some Tim McGraw.  He has a song called "How bad do you want it?"  The chorus goes a little something like this:

Can you feel it?
Can you taste it?
Can you hear it knocking at your door?
How bad do you want it?
How bad do you need it?
Are you eating, sleeping, dreaming
With that one thing on your mind?
How bad do you want it?
How bad do you need it?
Cause if you want it all
You've got to lay it all out on the line

As I listened to the song, it got me thinking about what one of the running blogs was saying about knowing why you want to run a marathon or half-marathon.  What's my motivation?  Well, I think my reasons for running are better left for another blog, but suffice it to say that I want to prove that you're never too old to accomplish any fitness goal if you put your mind to it.  Again, the "mind over body" theory.  I had left the house with this theory in mind.  I can WILL myself to run farther than my body thinks it can.  In order to stick to my training schedule, I would have to run over 4 miles.  I mapped my run online and was totally ready to do it.

I started out fine, but considering I had been sick all week and hadn't run since the previous Saturday, I figured I'd have to cut myself some slack and do some walking breaks.  I was okay with that.  Every running expert will tell you that it's actually better to take walking breaks if you need it, to not only prevent injury, but it also helps you make faster progress in your endurance over the long run.  I was feeling pretty good about my run/walk, willing myself to keep going... or so I thought.  All of a sudden my body decided to speak up and tell my mind to shut up.  It yelled pretty loudly, "Oh yeah, lady? You think you can just WILL yourself to be a marathoner?  Think again!"

Very subtly, at first, my left hip started aching.  I'd walk it off and stop to stretch occasionally and then run a little farther.  As far from home as I was, I decided I'd better change the course and start heading home, cutting off what turned out to be about a mile of the predetermined route.  Still, for awhile, I was able to continue running, sprinkled with walks and stretches.  Unfortunately that only got me so far before my hip was hurting so much that I couldn't even walk without pain.  So much for "mind over body".  My body was giving out on me and no matter how much I willed it, it wasn't having any more!  It was reminding me, quite loudly, that I am no spring chicken, and that I don't bounce back from being sedentary for a week like I used to.  Still, considering everything, I still managed to run/walk a total of 3 miles before I was forced to walk the last half mile home.  I was pretty proud of that and didn't even mind too much that I was starting to feel a little like an old lady with arthritis.

I would have even arrived back home, with my dignity intact, hip pain and all... if only I could have made it ALL the way home.  I was SO close!  But that darn hip was hurting more and more and I still had about 1/3 of a mile left to go, uphill, to get back to my house.  Man... talk about feeling old.  It was just shy of feeling like the old lady in the commercial who says, "I've fallen and I can't get up".  I had to use my "Life Alert" cell phone and call my husband to come pick me up!  By that time I was limping and I was seriously concerned that if I tried to make it the rest of the way home, I might end up causing myself greater injury.  It just wasn't worth my "athletic" pride.

My hubby was on his way out to pick up our oldest son, anyway, so I didn't have to wait too long before his silver sedan came pulling up.  Thank goodness my husband is not the type to judge or criticize!  He just said hi and I thanked him for being my "knight in shining car" and that was the end of the discussion... at least between the two of us.  For me, it was just the beginning of a long discussion in my own mind about what direction I want to go with my fitness goals.

It was loud and clear to me that my body has limitations.  It doesn't mean I'm giving up my goal of running a half marathon.  I just may need to readjust the goal a little.  I may need to find another race that's a little farther out and give myself a little more time to train.   I may need to just focus on attaining the smaller goals first and work my way up.  I've already registered for a 5k that's in 2 weeks.  At this point, I feel like it will be a huge accomplishment just to run that without stopping and do it in less than a hour!

This experience has been a good reminder that the mind is a powerful tool and we can mentally motivate ourselves to get outside or get on the treadmill, but we still have to be mindful of our bodies' abilities and limitations and go at a pace that doesn't kill us off in 'one fell swoop'!


Siouxsie said...

Good luck!!

Tonnie said...

I think you are amazing! I also think that it's ok to run something smaller than a half, if you want to do just a 5k or 10k. There is no shame in working up to things, but I am behind you in whatever you decide. I might be able to come with you, if you need company. I can put the girls in the stroller...let me know.

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