I initially titled this “Being Thankful For The Bad Runs” but that just didn’t sound right. I’ve had the runs in a bad way before (eating from a street cart in India wasn’t a great idea) and I definitely am not thankful for those experiences…….
Everyone who has done any amount of running has had those workouts where it seems to fall apart- your legs feel dead, or your stomach goes off, or you can barely summon the energy to keep placing one foot in front of the other. Yesterday I had one of those runs- it wasn’t really so bad in a physical way, but more mental. We’d had a busy day- I knew ahead of time that we’d be out all day, so I brought my running gear with me, and the plan was that when we finally were heading home, I’d have my wife drop my off when we were 26km away, and I’d run from there.
My plan was to get on to trails for the 1st half of the run, and then come out on the road to finish it off. All seemed to be going well for the first 2 or 3 km of trails, then it starting going badly. The last time I had been on these particular trails was in the winter, and while there were a few spots where it wasn’t exactly easy to figure out where the trail was going, at least it wasn’t all grown over with brush. Yesterday, all the trails I tried to go down eventually disappeared into chest high brush. I kept backtracking and trying another trail, but with no luck. I knew that if I could make it a few more kilometers to the west I could hook up onto some trails that were clear (I ran on them a few weeks ago) so I started bushwhacking- straight through the brush, thorn bushes, poison ivy, climbing over fences, being eaten by deer flies…… At some point in there I was thinking to myself “screw this- as soon as I get to a clear spot I’m heading straight home- I don’t care about getting my miles in.” After a while I managed to find the trails I was looking for, picked up the pace, and carried on. I debated taking the short way out and just heading for home, but managed to get my attitude adjusted and decided to finish the run as I had planned it.
Those types of runs aren’t fun. We’ve all had them, and nobody enjoys them, but when they’re done, I’m always glad they happened. It’s great to have all your training runs go well, but the easy runs don’t do much to prepare you for those times in a race when you feel like giving up. When you’re in the midst of a bad run, and you dig deep to carry on rather than give up, that builds mental strength, which is what you really need when you’re 35km into a marathon and all you want to is curl up on the side of the road and make the hurting stop.
Most of us are coming into the higher mileage part of our training for fall marathons, so we’re right at the point where things will be getting pretty tough. If you have one of these tough runs, embrace it! Just think of it as a deposit in the pain & suffering bank that you’ll be able to draw on come race day. It’s one thing to have a body ready to race, but getting your mind ready through some suffering is what can really make a difference.