Warning: I talk about paces relative to my own ability in this post, so if that is difficult for you, please move on! Thanks!
If you asked me how marathon training is going, I’m not sure what I would tell you. On one hand, I’m always happy to be running. On the other hand, I’m not exactly running how I would love to be running. There’s a difference. After having a mysterious injury earlier this year, I knew coming back after taking time off would be hard. But man – it’s rough. Especially because I do have a lingering aching pain in my groin, which makes me nervous. (I will continue to say that forever and ever.) I’ve pondered only running every other day, but that’s hard with my ever changing work schedule. I don’t plan to run more than four days per week, not even tempting myself with a short easy run on days that I work. That’s a lot of stress. And I’m trying to keep all my runs on the easier side.
It’s amazing how your perception of “easy” can change.
Not too long ago, I could cruise along at a well-sub-8 pace and feel great about it. One friend called me the “7:40 Queen” because I’d always run right around there without even looking at my watch. It was the pace that naturally came to me. I’m sure people will argue that I should run slower. That I needed to run slower. But thinking about running makes it less fun, so I liked to just go – and just going was at 7:40 pace.
My last long, long run before getting injured was 18 miles, which I ran at 7:48 pace, and I felt awesome. I know I should run slower for long runs, but see above. (I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW.) My point is that it wasn’t hard. For my runs lately, I’ve been telling myself to hold around 8:30 pace to keep it easy and not to put extra pressure on my groin. It is mentally really, really difficult for me to see those numbers on my watch. (Someone is going to hate me for writing about that, but speed is relative, and 8:30 is slow for me. Okay? Okay.) But I try to hold back and keep that 8:30 pace.
Sometimes, 8:30 is a little bit of a struggle in itself. It’s always taken me a few miles to warm up, so a run of three-four miles is really hard for me – it’s just getting good, and the run is over! Those runs tend to be closer to a slower pace because I’m not warmed up yet. Once I get a few miles under my belt, my old legs tend to take over a bit, and the pace pushes closer to eight minutes. I get a little reminder of the old days. If I try to push it a little, it feels much more of a struggle, so I try to hold off. But it’s so, so hard. Dropping a 6:40 mile at the R-U-N 5k a few weeks ago felt amazing – who doesn’t want to fly? I know I’m not really ready to do that, and I wonder if perhaps the flare up a couple weeks ago could be attributed to running fast. (Who knows, not me.)
I realize that perhaps the slower pace could be totally due to the heat of the summer – it’s been in the 80’s and 90’s for a couple months now, not to mention the addition of humidity! So maybe I should go easy on myself, not to mention the pace. I’m just trying to not get injured here.
And to be slightly dramatic, I wonder if maybe I’m a little past my prime. My marathon PR is from 2011, although I ran quite close to it in 2013. I’ve been battling injury for most of the years since. I’ve been running for almost 18 years (…yikes), so I certainly have plenty of miles under my belt. Maybe it’s time to train better. Or smarter. Both? But sometimes I do wonder what I have left in me. Or what a really strong, injury-free training cycle could bring. The dream is still there.
My runs so far this week have been…
Monday – Four miles at 8:24 pace. It was hot, I’d worked the past three days, and I’d walked about six miles prior to running. Oops?
Wednesday – Seven miles at 8:12 pace. The last two miles made me think my distance years would need to come to an end.
Thursday – Seven miles at 7:59 – I started the run at almost 8:40 pace for the first mile, and I really struggled with that mentally. I wondered if it would get easier. Then all of a sudden 8 minute miles were clicking off and I loved running again.
I kind of hate that my love for running is tied to the time on my watch. I do love to run, but I also love to chase goals, and it’s hard to see reaching those goals when every day runs don’t feel as easy as they used to. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s coming back from injury, maybe it’s trying to keep injury at bay. I’m not sure.
Have you struggled with setbacks in training? How do you fit them into your long-term plan? How’s your summer training going?