The constant beep of my alarm clock, it sounds like an ambulance is driving through my room with its sirens blaring. It is a Sunday morning and I am waking up before sun rises. There is something wrong with this picture. I should be sleeping in on the only day I can do so… I plop out of bed and the first thing I see are my running shoes. Do I dare put them on? For which I know what comes after I do, 45 minutes of aerobic pain. Somehow I end up outside of my apartment, the sun is rising, and I am just waiting for MapMyRun to finish loading. I decide to head to the trails near Torrey Pines State Beach. On the run, my legs are constantly telling me that I should stop. I say “no” as I am gasping for air like a fish out of water. I look at my watch, I am only half way….
That was a brief overview of the experience I had on my very first long run. A long run is a run that occurs at the end of a training week. It is determined by the amount of mileage or minutes ran during the training week. A long run is roughly 20-30% of your weekly total runs. At first, the concept of this type of run made no sense to me. But as I continued my training regimen it made complete sense to me. Every week, I can see working I am putting in during the week payoff. On my long runs I feel myself gaining control of my breathing and perfecting my running form. Some say that it the most important run of the week; especially for runners like me, who are attempting to build an aerobic base.
At the beginning of my training I started off by running a minimum of 15 miles which later became 20, and is currently at 25 miles per week for now. When I first looked at my training schedule I thought “Wow, 15 miles that’s so much to do in six days!” I soon found out that the guy who trains me runs 15 miles in one day, ridiculous! I am currently running 5-6 days out of the week. My runs range from 20 minutes to 45 minutes with an average pace of 8:30 min. per mile. So far my training has been a huge learning experience. I never knew that so much goes into training for a 5k race.
First, I have to keep track of every detail of my runs. This includes distance ran, pace per mile, calories burned, terrain of my run and overall effort. All of which are given to me through the use of my GPS app on my phone, MapMyRun. It logs all of my runs and gives me all of the specific details of my run. There is even a section that I fill out to journal how my runs felt each day. I am learning to understand how all of those aspects of my runs contribute to my training strategies. For example, I learned the hard way that maintaining a certain running effort over various terrain is not same as maintaining the same pace per mile. I have learned that factors like breathing, perspiration, and muscle fatigue are huge indicators of my running effort. And that I should contrast them with my pace per mile to achieve my goals for each run.
Next, the little things count so much! In addition to my runs, I have a strict regimen of stretching, strengthening and conditioning. From my experience in other sports, stretching was looked at as something minor. But, now the amount of stretching I do is the determining factor in whether or not my legs feel like they will fall off 8 hours later. I learned the difference between static and dynamic stretching in terms of how they prepare my body to run more. For as much good information that I have learned over the recent weeks, I have learned a good amount negatives about myself in the process.
When I decided to begin training for a 5k, I never thought that I would have struggled as much as I did physically, and mentally. My lack of experience in running restrained me from pushing myself. It took a while for me to understand the importance of pace and its relationship with my running effort. My previous running experience had only one purpose and that was to push my body to its limits. I ran till I couldn’t anymore. But as I continue to run, and talk to experienced runners they said I have to gradually build my effort over time, and that I didn’t have patience for.
My biggest frustration with this sports is that I continue to have a mental block compared to other sports. I know that I’m capable of picking up another sport like baseball or basketball. Because within a couple hours of practicing certains skills I would be able to master a specific skill. But running is something you can’t master overnight, you just have to do it consistently for long periods of time.
Another reason why my mental strength is being tested is because of my athletically induced asthma. My mind is constantly fighting with my body because it is hard to differentiate between training hard but safe and overexerting myself. I have a hard time controlling my breathing, and when this happens I’m told that I have to relax and focus. In the beginning of my training I was told that I should stop if I feel like I lose control of my breathing, but I don’t like to be told that. I am a strong willed competitor who believes in the “no pain, no gain” motto. I learned that stopping did not mean I was giving up, it meant that I should pay attention to what my body is telling me. So over the weeks I learned to evaluate my breathing throughout my runs to know that I am not pushing myself too far.
One word to describe my experience becoming a runner is humbling. I have enjoyed the experience of training long distance because it has tested me in ways other sports haven’t. There are days where I am running and my several aches and pains get the best of me. But, then there are the days where I feel on top of the world. I will be running on the track and I get that rush of endorphins that make running such a confidence booster. I am looking forward to continuing my journey as a runner.