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Reflections on Four Years of Running

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Four years ago this month, I ran my first race, a 5K "fun run." I signed up for that race strictly as motivation for my weight loss exercise plan. It never occurred to me that I would (almost instantly) love it so much or that those 3.1 miles would change my life so completely.

One month later, I had discovered Jeff Galloway and was training for a marathon.

My evolution as a runner has been interesting. My goal for that first marathon was just to finish. I ran with a Galloway group and almost always at a comfortable pace. That was absolutely the right strategy, although the long runs were still challenging because they were SO long. My goal for the first marathon was to finish in 5 hours, which I did (4:59). I trained for 6 months and ran 26 miles in training before the race. But even so, while the first 20 miles of the race felt good, the last 6 were challenging. With the naiveté of a beginning runner, I figured that with more training, those last 6 miles would get easier AND I would get a lot faster in races.

Not quite. You sort of have to choose between those two -- "get easier" (yes, if you run at training pace); "a lot faster" (only if you can maintain your peak pace by dealing with a lot of discomfort). Training doesn't make marathon peak runs easy; it just makes them possible.

Now, discomfort is NOT pain (always, always slow down or stop if you feel pain). And it is not exhaustion that makes your form deteriorate (that's when most runners get injured) or prevents you from recovering before the next run. But it does mean that the run isn't "easy" and quite frankly not really fun at the time.

Once I realized the truth of this (after about marathon #4), I wasn't sure if I really wanted to embrace that level of discomfort. Plus I had issues with my feet that had to be addressed first. It took me at least a year after marathon #4 to re-embrace my goal to qualify for Boston. All I can say is that, for some strange reason, discomfort doesn't feel quite as uncomfortable as it used to. That is definitely a "brain" thing. It takes time. I'm glad I haven't rushed the process.

I have set small goals along the way. The first one was just to run a marathon without slowing down in the last 6 miles (at whatever pace I had to choose to make that possible). Next was to speed up in the last 3 miles (which meant going slow enough in the beginning to have gas at the end). After that, extending (gradually) the number of miles I could sustain at race pace. (I still haven't quite made it all the way to 26.2). These goals have made it possible to feel a sense of accomplishment, even though I haven't reached that BQ pinnacle yet.

I guess my point is that there are lots of ways to make running interesting and lots of different kinds of goals that allow you a sense of accomplishment. That, in the end, is what makes it fun for me. It really is about the journey.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MIRAGE727
    Congratulations and thank you for starting to run four years ago, Catherine!
    There is no doubt in my mind that you rock your training! You emphasize the importance of training well in your actions. I've benefited from your sharing and I'm not training for Marathons...yet! I haven't closed the door on that challenge despite my doctor's hesitance to support. it.
    You inspire me to train right! You also set an outstanding example in leadership. I try to emulate that effort. Thank you for all that you've shared! Well done on all your achievements and the best of everything in your future goals!

    1556 days ago
  • OWL_20
    I really like this blog. For me, I have learned so much about myself via running it's not even funny. You've done a wonderful job of getting fit and keeping there! An inspiration!
    1556 days ago
    Great blog, Catherine. Thanks so much for sharing this part of your story and all your expertise.
    1556 days ago
    I heard a woman being interviewed by a local tv crew on national running day. She said she ran 70 miles a week. Note this event was sponsored by the Chevron Houston Marathon. The interviewer said that the marathon must be easy for her. She said no - it is a marathon.

    I think your body over time becomes stronger if you keep training and though it is never easy to run a marathon it becomes easier. At least I hope so. Ar least that is my experience with the half.

    Great job with the Galloway group and trying to make sure everyone stays healthy.
    1557 days ago
    great blog, Catherine! -- and great running career! and your insistence on enjoying it (even the discomfort) is a special inspiration.
    1558 days ago
    Congrats to your 4 years of running and thanks for sharing!
    Your blogs are constant inspiration to me.

    I'm not sure if I will ever run a marathon or even a half,
    but fell in run with running at first sight too.

    1558 days ago
    Congratulations! Some great observations, thank you for sharing. Keep it up!
    1558 days ago
    Congratulations! You have come really far. And I love reading your blogs, you are so serious and precise, such a great planner and reflector. And, I love your involvement in the Jeff Galloway group. You do an awesome job!
    1558 days ago
    You are so amazing and inspiring.
    1558 days ago
    Fascinating summary of four years' experiences! Thanks for dragging me along the way by talking me into trying Galloway. It's taken me three years to get to the point where I enjoy running. Not exactly instantly! emoticon
    It makes me feel better to hear you say those last six miles are hard no matter what.

    1558 days ago
    Excellent blog!!
    I know you will BQ.
    1558 days ago
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