If you recall, I started my journey with running just over 2 years ago. I signed up for a 5K and started running. As soon as I completed that first race I decided I wanted to do a half marathon. So I transitioned from training for a 5K to training for a half.
Half training generally takes 12 weeks. I trained for 8 MONTHS. It was hard. Running is hard. But I enjoyed it. I saw improvements every day. I remember when I could first run 4 miles. I remember my first long run outside (8 miles). I remember the feeling of accomplishment seeing my improvements with each week. "I ran to the top of that hill today, without stopping! I couldn't do that last week!" It was a great feeling.
After my first half, as challenging as it was, and believe me, it was brutal for about 80% of it, I knew I wanted to do another. So I kept my base up, worked on my pace, and 7.5 months later I ran another half. I shaved 11 minutes off my time (and also during that time I shaved 5 minutes off my 5K) and once again felt so proud and accomplished. After all, only a year and a half before that I thought anyone who could run one mile was the equivalent of a superhero.
But after that it got sticky.
Running became less enjoyable for me. It became more of a job. "You need to run so you can beat your last PR." "You need to be faster than so and so." "You have done this before, now do it again, but do it BETTER." etc.
I tried changing my training plans from running 5-6 days a week to running 3. I tried breaking up my runs into hill runs, long runs, speed work outs. I tried taking breaks for a few days.
But every run was something I started to dread. Instead of getting easier, it got harder. By this past winter (and spring) I couldn't run a three mile loop without having to stop and catch my breath or rest my legs. And hills? Forget about hills. I couldn't run up HALF of a small hill that a year ago I could run up without a problem.
And the half I did early this spring? It was a disaster (though I finished!).
I think what happened was I was putting too much pressure on myself. At the same time I was subconsciously telling myself "you have already done this, and you shaved off a lot of time. You have nothing to prove any more." That is a bad combination for any runner, or anyone for that matter.
So after talking about my feelings with some other runners, one of them essentially told me, "Shauni, get your shit together. Not all runs will be a PR. You cannot run each race and each run as if you are going to beat your old record. Change your attitude and make it your goal to enjoy the run rather than to race."
Which is exactly what I did. I started running with no goal in mind. For the last month or so I have enjoyed every single long run on the weekends. I tell myself "this is going to be hard, but you can do this. Enjoy it. Just be happy to be outside for the next couple of hours, you have nothing else to do but this." And it really helped. I also tried to keep up with the mentality of a new runner--"you can do this, it is just one more step!" Which also helped. Suddenly I found myself running up hills again. Or not stopping to rest after 2 miles. Last week I ran 12 miles without stopping to walk once. That has literally never happened since I began running longer distances.
I am certainly noticing my pace is not super like it was last spring. And I am frustrated that I likely will not beat my race time from the last time I ran this half. And it stings to know that all of my friends will run a faster half than I do this Sunday. It will be really hard not to push myself at each mile marker when I see the time on the clocks. But I really just want to enjoy myself this Sunday when I run my fourth half marathon. I want to forget about the clocks and the other runners. If I have to walk a little, I have to walk. If I slow down from last year, so be it. I want to be outside, running, and happy. I want to finish the half with a smile on my face, and not just sheer exhaustion. I want to focus on the fact that in 2010 I said I could never run a 5K and that people who run half marathons are crazy.
I want to be proud of the fact that I will have run four half marathons (I am already proud of myself for running three). I have accomplished something that I never thought I could do, regardless of how long it takes me.