Why do we run? This question comes up so many times, both from non-runners wondering why us runner folk are so gosh-darned crazy, and from other runners who have a genuine curiosity about their compatriots' motivations and backstories. I started running to literally run away from my problems (more on that perhaps later this week), but continued running because it was a new and exciting challenge. Running continues to present new challenges every week, and I've been relishing (and dreading) some of the unique challenges that marathon training has presented.
This week's Tuesdays on the Run wants to know what is currently the most challenging aspect of running. With about a month to go before my first marathon, it's pretty easy to say the greatest challenge I've been facing is the mental aspect of tackling long runs. After Sunday's 17-and-change, plus the successful Beat the Bridge dress rehearsal (18 miles) a couple weeks ago, I'm generally feeling much more confident that I will actually finish in a lengthy race, but I still haven't done that crucial 20-miler that most people will say is a staple of marathon training.
Psychologically, I know I can do it when I'm thinking about when and where. It's mid-run that my faith and confidence wavers a bit - usually. I am very happy to report that my solo 17 run on Sunday gave me quite a boost, since I ran all but about 45 seconds of the entire route, and was actually considering adding extra mileage to make that outing my first 20-miler, but there were many moments of doubt along the way.
In fact, I have been noticing on many of my runs lately that the start of my second mile (only my second!) seems to be the most difficult point for me mentally. It's early enough in the run that I have a loooooong way to go, but I'm already a mile in and starting to settle in, so it's just a little too early to turn back and give up. The thought runs through my head: OMG WHY am I out here again doing this? It's going to take forever! Some days, it really does take a long time. It's not a quick outing to cover double-digit mileage on foot, especially if you're not all that fast. By mile four or five I'm usually settling fully into a groove, and the demons are quelled for another hour or so before rearing their ugly heads around mile 11. This isn't even a half marathon yet, and you're going to do TWICE that?! Are you crazy??
In point of fact: I AM crazy. It's definitely pushing the limits of sanity to decide you're going to do a marathon, and to train for it fully. But I'll tell you what else I am because of this decision: I'm in crazy good shape, I feel crazy good about myself and my accomplishments, and I'm making some crazy good friendships. All of that is MY kind of crazy! I'll gladly take that over the madness of living a sedentary life without goals and without pushing myself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Challenges breathe life into my lungs. They keep me moving forever forward. When this challenge ends, I'll find another. Heck, I already know what my next running challenge will be - next year I'm planning to start focusing on speedwork, aiming for PRs at 5k (stretch goal to be under 24 minutes) and half marathon (stretch for a sub-2-hour) distances. So bring on the next one - I'm ready!
Don't forget to visit the Tuesdays on the Run Linkup! I know it's (late) Wednesday already, this post didn't get posted when I planned, but there's still plenty of time to check out other bloggers' challenges and share your own! Thanks to hosts MCM Mama Runs, My No Guilt Life, and Marcia's Healthy Slice!