The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Run

Guest Blogger Courtney Alev

On Friday, I was primed to have The Most Awesomest Run Ever.

I had the day off because it was my birthday on Saturday (belated gifts appreciated!) and I hadn’t done a long run in a while… since the Big Sur Marathon, to be exact. I’ve been a little achy-and-painy and so I’ve been doing more biking and cross training to give my joints some recovery time. But I plan on completing the 26.2 miles at the SF Marathon, which is rapidly approaching, so I figured I would set out for a nice long, slow run. Ten miles minimum, thirteen miles would be nice, option to go fifteen-sixteen, no problem. I put on my cutest running outfit, filled my Camelbak (not a lot of water in the Presidio, after all!) and headed out for what was sure to be an easy long run of epic proportions.

All was going well until mile 0.4. Yes, the first four-tenths of a mile was great. Then I got a cramp. A really bad one in my side. Ow! Breathing got harder. I vowed to fight through the cramp and show it who was boss. Didn’t it know I was going on an Amazing Run today?

I made it to mile 2.05. There I crawled onto the side of the road and died. Okay, not really – but I did not feel 100%. My cramp was nothing serious physically, but it was DEFINITELY cramping my long run style. I vowed to keep trying and headed out of Golden Gate Park towards the Presidio. At mile 2.4 I was hit with a gust so hard that it blew my hat right off – which had previously been firmly anchored to my ponytail. Running into the wind was so intense that I couldn’t even hear the catchy Glee tunes in my headphones.

I made it to mile 3. I stopped. Texted a friend to complain about my failures. Put my hat back on for the third time. Headed into the Presidio. At least I would be running downhill! I made it halfway down the street before getting so tired (yes, when I was running DOWNHILL) that I had to take  rest on a rock by the roadside for a good five minutes before attempting to run back up the third-of-a-mile hill I’d just run down. Heading back the other direction was just as windy. How am I constantly running into a strong headwind, no matter what direction I am running in?

By the time I hit mile 5, I was done. The five miles had taken me much longer than an hour with the fifteen stops that I’d made. I felt clumsy, out of shape, and left wondering how the hell I’d ever run five miles straight without stopping, much less five full marathons! Who was I? How was I failing like this? I began questioning everything that I know about myself and my abilities.

I call this the Marathoner’s Lesson in Humility. The occasional run where Nothing Really Goes Wrong, But Yet Everything Does. The type of run where OMG Just Try to Make It Half a Mile Without Stopping becomes the goal, versus “run a quick and easy 10 miles, no problem.”

Basically, my run sucked. And I threw in the towel and quit. I waited for the bus to take me home. And then my anger built. I needed an inspiring run, and yet everything seemed to go wrong. Was it my sleep schedule? Not logging enough midweek miles? Poor nutrition? Too many happy hour cocktails?

You can do everything right, and you’ll still have runs that go poorly. For every few runs that make me feel like I’m on the top of the world, another one will come around that tests my resolve and shatters my confidence. And sometimes, on the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. But as I get more mature in both my real life and my running career, I realize more and more how many aspects there are to running. It may be a physical act, but it requires a degree of mental and emotional strength – many would argue that these are even more important than the ability to put one leg in front of the other. Bad runs happen to all of us – and as they pop up, I am trying to use the opportunity to reflect on potential causes. Is there is something going on in my life that is affecting how I feel today? Am I stressed? Am I upset? Am I holding tension that I should not be? Am I taking care of myself properly with rest and nutrition? Where are the holes in the connection between my mind and my body?

If something comes up, I need to do the best I can to fix it and restore balance. If everything is fine and I’m just having an off day – I shrug and let it go. And resolve to wake up fresh and try again tomorrow. We learn something from every run we take on, and usually that lesson is the importance of perseverance – and other times, we learn about letting go and trying again. Accepting that not every day will be perfect – but we’re much better off than we would have been had we never tried at all.

How do you recover from a “bad run”?

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