Thoughts About Running

I’m not exactly athletic. Anybody who knew me growing up knows that I stayed far away from most anything athletic. I liked hockey, bike riding and rollerskating, though I never played anything more than pond hockey. I did actually play intramural broomball in college, but that’s the beginning and end of my team sports experience.

My high school history teacher, who also happened to coach the cross country team, once told my parents I’d make a good runner. Maybe I should have listened.

I ran a 5K on Saturday and with the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday, running has been on my mind.

Personal Best 5K
I hate it when people constantly brag about their running achievements, so I try to keep mine to a minimum. But I did manage a personal best in the 5K on Saturday with 28:13. Most of the summer I’ve been doing longer runs (5-7 miles) and I’m not well adjusted to the relatively short distance of a 5K. But I did pretty well on Saturday, running hard early, not dying in the middle, and pouring on a ridiculous sprint I didn’t know I had in me at the end. It’s not a particularly fast time for a 5K, but the low-9 minute miles is a lot faster than I normally run.

Marathon
The funny thing about running is how much work it takes to get better. This is probably obvious to most people, but my complete lack of athletic experience gives me nothing to base improvement on. I have no idea how hard athletes work. Now that I’m running, I have an idea.

The problem with running is that there’s such a chasm between milestone achievements. If you don’t run at all, a 5K sounds daunting. Who wants to get up on a Saturday and run three miles? A few years ago, that’s the camp I was in. But now a 5K is too short. All that effort for 28 minutes of running? I’d rather run twice that far.

Of course getting to twice that far has taken about six months. This spring I actually read a book on marathons and thought maybe someday I’ll run a marathon. I wasn’t incredibly serious about it, but I did think it was conceivable. I checked out upcoming marathons and mapped out the training schedule to see if I could do it. If I followed the training schedule this book laid out, I would have been ready to run the Twin Cities Marathon with a week to spare.

That’s hilarious. Simply building from three miles to seven miles has taken me six months. Getting to 26 miles feels like an impossibility. I realized how crazy I was being when I noticed a 13-minute per mile minimum pace for the Twin Cities Marathon. At the time I was averaging a 12-minute mile on my longer runs. But I frequently started at over 13 minutes, and sometimes even 14 minutes for that first mile.

These days I’m running in the high 10-minute range, so improvement does happen. But it comes slowly. (For comparison’s sake, the winning marathon runners yesterday were in the 5-minutes per mile range. That’s freaky. A friend of mine ran in the 8-minutes per mile range.)

In the end, I have an incredible appreciation for people who run. It’s seriously hard work and requires tremendous dedication of body and spirit. It’s one thing to keep your body going, but it’s another thing to keep your spirit motivated when your body hates you. The time commitment alone is staggering. Serious marathon trainers run at least three times a week and those longer runs take time (it takes me an hour to run six miles). Simply finding the time to run (and get cleaned up afterward) is intense.

Sometimes I hate running. It hurts and my body is tired and I don’t want to crawl out of bed. But some days I crave it. I itch to get out and move my body. I’ve learned that sometimes stopping is the worst thing you can do and even when you think you’re completely spent and can’t go any farther, you can.

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