Run, Shelly, Run!

This week has been an incredibly busy week. In addition to having to be in work early several days, having to clean my house so it was presentable to a nine year old, book review (for which I wasn’t ready) and working later almost every night, I knew I was capping the week with an attempt at an eight mile run. It has occurred to me that the Broad Street Run is about a month away and I am still struggling with any real distance and hills. In addition I am agonizingly slow, which means when I go for my longer runs, I need more time than I think I do.

I don’t know why I told my daughter she could have a sleepover this weekend, or any weekend really until this is over. I know the runs right now are going to wear me out, so it pretty much takes me down for the day. Yesterday’s run was, not a complete failure but really only a moderate success.

In the last few weeks I have noticed real progress in my running. My timing is starting to come down, my stamina is rising and some of the pleasure is returning. I am setting and meeting goals around distance. I am waiting to set goals around time. Since coming back has been so hard, the goal for the Broad Street is just to complete it. Hopefully with no walk breaks. (Okay, I lie. I hope my inner superhero comes out and I have a kick ass time)  However, I still struggle with hills in a way I don’t ever remember. Hills have always been hard especially at the end of my runs. However, now they take me out even in the beginning. It is frustrating and becoming a head game for me.

So yesterday I knew the route I had chosen was going to be hard. Originally, I wanted to run around the Art Museum loop, because it is so flat. And it is just over eight miles, so it would be perfect. But, since my daughter had someone sleeping over, I didn’t want to be so far away. Plus, the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. So, I knew it was going to be a neighborhood run. I deliberately planned it with the hills in the beginning so that I would be on flatter ground, or declines towards the middle and end of the run. As much as I could. When you live in a neighborhood with hills, what goes down eventually has to go back up.

It was sooooooooo much colder than it should have been for April. I dressed in layers, brought some orange slices (great idea from a seasoned runner), no water because I didn’t want to carry it, and no phone. Usually, I procrastinate around runs, but this was one of those weeks that I just kept checking things off the list, so I was out the door  before ten. That is a record for me.

There is one hill, between mile two and three that forever gives me problems anymore. Being stubborn, I continue to run it and it continues to frustrate me. This time I went out promising myself that I would allow myself one walk break after this hill. It’s a funny thing about hills, it is almost as though they are living beings. From far away they always seem so much longer and steeper than they appear up close, as though they were given some type of environmental armor against runners or cyclists. But as you approach, they seem to flatten out a little and shorten in distance. From a distance, this hill looks like it goes straight up for a long time. It also cheats because at the top it doesn’t just flatten out, but continues to rise, albeit a less steep incline. But, still as I get closer it does get shorter. I don’t think it takes a long time to get up that hill but it feels like forever. At the top, I feel as though I am going to throw up no matter how much I slow down. I don’t remember this from last year. Yes, it was harder and yes I was tired at the top, but I knew that when I made the next turn, which is really a minute after the steepest part of the hill, I am flattening and then going down. I will recover. This year, I literally feel as though I could take a nap right there at the top. I have even fantasized about curling up for thirty minutes on someone’s lawn. I see myself jumping awake and charging back into my run. Yeah, my head is a freaky place.

Anyway, I did stop at the top and walked for about two minutes and then went back to my run. I told myself that it was okay and I continued down the hill, trying to figure out what mile I would be where, and how much gas I would have left at that point. Before I had gotten to the hill, I actually felt really good. I was super pleased with myself for keeping it slow and for actually enjoying myself. That’s what it is all about anyway. But then The Hill and everything started to unravel. I had to go to Plan B. Plan A was obviously to run the eight miles without any walk breaks. Plan B was to do it with walk breaks. Plan C was just to do eight miles even if I had to crawl. I am happy to report I didn’t go to Plan C. I did have to take another walk break. Which leads to the problem I have with walk breaks and the biggest reason I don’t like to take them. I feel as though it is so much harder to run after the walk break than if I just run through it. Somehow, taking a break makes my legs feel more tired and less willing to keep running. I don’t know why. So the first walk break always feels like the beginning of the end. In less than a mile I was slowing down again and walking. It was after another hill, but this one really isn’t as bad as THE HILL. Ninety more seconds of walking and I was on my way again. Promising myself that I would go at least twenty more minutes before I walked again. At this point I was into it almost an hour, and I realized that I was halfway through. But it also meant that I had almost an hour still to run at the current pace. So I decided to play a head game. I kept telling myself that I was only out to run five miles, one of which was already done. This worked for about about twenty minutes or so, but by then I was down to less than three miles.

I kept telling myself, you can run three more miles right? It’s only three more miles. Less than thirty six minutes. Than two more miles. This is where it got really hard. Mile seven seemed to go on forever. If I felt reinvigorated through miles five and six I definitely wanted another walk break at mile seven. But I was determined to do at least four miles in a row. Keep going!!!!!! It was cold, it had begun to snow and I was pretty sure that I couldn’t possibly be reading my watch right. Still not finished seven miles? I had taken off my gloves earlier, but with the snow my hands were getting really cold. Finally, onto mile eight. It felt as though the temperature had dropped and it was coming down in earnest.  I didn’t want to be a superhero anymore, I wanted a hot bath and tea and somebody to make me a lovely meal. I wanted my bed and a nap.

So there it was, eight miles. In two weeks I am going to try to run nine and then the following week is the Broad Street. Last year I was so excited and nervous about it. This year, I just want to see if I can still do that. But really, I am waiting for it to be finished, and then…. what?

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