The Good, The Bad and The Road

As we all know by now I am training for Chicago Marathon. I’m following a great plan created using the SmartCoach feature on Runner’s World. What I like about this plan is that there are only 3 running workouts per week. The other 4 days are technical “rest” days. I aim to only take 2 days a week completely off.  On the remaining 2 days I try to take yoga.  If it is a very light week of running or I feel great I’ll do an easy 3 or 4 mile run in addition to the pan and yoga. This plan is not all-consuming, it’s manageable. I’m not tired all the time and can still manage to have a life beyond work and marathon training. It’s a win if you ask me.

Thursdays are speed workouts. I do not like speed workouts. I think they are hard, mentally challenging and painful.  A typical speed workout for me looks something like this:

1.5 miles warm up, 5 miles at 7:53 pace, 1.5 miles cool down.  8 miles total.


1 mile warm up, 3 x 1600m at 7:15 pace with 800m jogs for rest, then 1 mile cool down. 6 miles total.

I don’t mind track workouts. Mentally they are easy, you can count the laps in a mile. Lap 1 you settle in, Lap 2 you maintain…”hey your almost half way done with this mile”, Lap 3 you keep pushing…”you have less than a half mile left”, Lap 4 you push it out as hard as you can…”it’s you last lap…GO!”.  Then you jog a bit, relax, rest, recover and do it again. The 6 miles is over in less than an hour and your done. Easy.

Tempo runs. They aren’t like track workouts. You don’t get to stop and recover.  And you can’t count to 4 and have it be over. Back in June when we first started doing this workouts I would get all stressed out.  I’d spend my day at work worrying and getting anxious. When the time to run finally came I’d do just great on the warm up. I’d start the tempo part of the workout and tell myself, “just relax” or “this is easy, you can do it”.  But without fail I’d be breathing so hard and heavy at 2 miles. I’d try to slow the pace but that never helped. I’d always freak out and say, “Oh no, I can’t breathe!”.  I’d then stop and slow down a bit, recover and start back up.  And so it went, for 5 miles.

So on Thursday, Michael and I headed out for our tempo run.  Neither of us were looking forward to it and both feeling pretty sore from the extra miles we have been running thanks to monster month. We did our warm up, stopped to stretch and then got going on the tempo.  This time I went into it telling myself that it was just a run, 5 miles at 7:53.  It’s the same as every other run, just a little quicker.  About a mile in I started to freak out but managed to calm myself down and remind myself, it’s just a 5 mile run.  Guess what?! That mentality worked!  I flew through the 5 miles at 7:45 pace! I felt great and felt like I could keep going if I had to! Success!

I started writing this post yesterday, before we did our 16 mile long run. Since then the message of this post has changed.  Michael and I woke up this morning at 5:30 when the alarm went off. We ate our oatmeal, got ready and headed out the door.  The first mile went by, and then mile 2, we kept running and I looked at my Garmin and saw it only said 2.85 miles. Seriously? It seemed like the mile was taking forever. We finally hit mile 3 and I announced we only had 13 more to go. We kept running and went up the backside of Heartbreak Hill in Boston and we started to hit the reservoir and I checked my Garmin again. 4.05 miles. I immediately freaked out, how was that even possible?! We had been running for what felt like was FOREVER. At mile 9 we stopped and regrouped.  We game planned the rest of the 7 miles we had left and kept running. Each mile got harder and harder.  My plantar fasciitis was killing me! Finally we hit mile 13 and were close to home. I was able to relax a bit and it ticked by, mile 14 flew by thanks to the distractions of a Heart Walk going on.  I managed to push through mile 15, every step hurt thanks to my feet and I was starting to get a stomach ache.  Finally the Garmin clicked to 16.00 miles. I was done.  And relieved we ran at pace for the whole 16 miles. It was hard, it hurt but we did it.

Running is a funny sport. It can make you feel awesome one day and humble you the next.  I keep re-learning this lesson, just like I did this week.  Enjoy your victories when you get them and celebrate them but don’t ever forget that the road can beat you. Don’t let a bad workout keep you from getting out there to run again, there will always be a good workout in the future to pump you up.  But don’t let the PR’s or the great workouts get to your head.  The road will remind you that, we can’t always be winners when it comes to numbers.  The one thing we can always take from the road is a sense of accomplishment. Whether your run is good, bad, rainy, sunny, warm or cold be proud of yourself for getting out there and being friends with the road.  It’s not always easy.  But that’s the joy of running isn’t it?

Enjoy your weekends everyone! Good Luck to all those who are racing or running this weekend!


2 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad and The Road

  1. Chrissy (The New Me) says:

    I’m the same way – love track workouts, hate tempo runs. And I know it’s mental, but that doesn’t always help. I’m new to speed workouts – I used to do them once in a while, but now I try and do them once a week. I’m definitely noticing a difference, so clearly the pain and discomfort is worth it. 🙂


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