training for nothing

Yesterday I went out for a simple five mile run. I ended up shocking myself, running a time that made me double… no triple-check the distance. I felt like I was running fast, but not that fast. Turns out, unless google maps is completely clueless, or I unknowingly ran through some sort of teleportation device… I actually did it.

I’ve spent the better part of a year training for nothing. Nothing, other than the fact that I just want to keep enjoying running as long as I possibly can. It’s been over a year since my last race and that was a 5k through downtown Greenville for which I was ill-prepared. I don’t like to do athletic things if I’m not going to do them well so I’ve held back on signing up for races since then. A few weeks ago, after a conversation with some other folks who run road and trail races around town, I realized that I’d probably enjoy my 5-6 day a week runs more if I had a goal. It’d be more fun if I thought I had a chance of competing at some point. I miss competition and the days of adults racing each other down 100m of a track are few and far between. So I signed up for a Thanksgiving Day 8k. I also challenged my brother to the race.  I made a goal, and not one I could easily drop.

I’d classify myself as “pretty tough”, but the mentality of someone who focused on sprinting is very different from that of a distance runner. I’ll admit sprinters are lazy. If you’re fast, you’re fast. You can’t fake it. You can train really hard, but you have to have that base. It’s science. Distance runners are often people who’ve made themselves into that. Trying to move from the lazy “I can do this with little effort because I’m fast” mentality to the toughness it takes to push yourself through several miles is not easy. Seriously, it’s a bitch. So my mind has been my hurdle. It goes back and forth between yelling “you are not made for this”, and “suck it up, a few miles won’t kill you.” I try to listen to the latter and ignore the former. When I’m lucky, it works. Unfortunately, I am not a consistent runner. I almost expect to follow a very good run with a horrible, miserable one. But that’s the sport, I guess. That’s what builds the toughness. That’s why there are booths at Cross Country meets selling t-shirts that say things like “my sport is your sports punishment.” Running sucks, but runners love it.

I spent a couple of hours after my run yesterday trying to figure out where I’d miscalculated. I played around with my watch to see if its stopwatch setting was working properly. I googled the distance several times. I even wondered if I’d cut through a familiar neighborhood while I was zoning out. I doubted myself for hours, before I realized that I’d really just done something cool. My body hates me this morning as I type this, and I think that’s what has finally made me confident that it did what I’m surprised it did. It felt fast. It didn’t feel that fast… and I’m glad it didn’t. I’m proud that nearly a year of training for nothing has unexpectedly paid off.

There are a few other factors that must have played into what I’ll still consider a freak running accident until it happens again. First, it was a very flat run. I went from point A – to point B – and back to point A on a road that has very little change in elevation. Second, the weather was as perfect as weather can be for a run like that. It was sunny and 70 degrees with almost no wind. Finally, I turned off my music for once. I don’t like silence. I don’t like empty spaces that aren’t filled with music or conversation, but I also don’t like carrying or wearing my iPhone. It’s a distraction. So I gave it up for a five mile run that turned out to be my best run of the last several years. I guess I can probably learn to like silence… or at least the sounds of passing cars.

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