Friday, 15 February 2013

When the going gets tough...

Coach Joe English, whose blog I follow, has been musing lately about how everyone, not just beginners, struggles and hurts at various points during their training and how even elite athletes (including Coach Joe himself!) sometimes don't get it right during a run or a race.  As one of my unhelpful beliefs is that Proper Runners never hurt or want to give up and walk, this was hugely encouraging. 

Anyway, Coach Joe's most recent posting included the line, “Every workout should have a purpose.”  Given the struggle that was today's run, I initially didn't think that it had a purpose at all aside from being able to say that I did it but now that I've had a chance to reflect, I think that I did learn something.

I was supposed to run 6 miles yesterday (with 4 of those miles being at tempo pace).  However, I was SO TIRED once I got back home from my Shetland adventure that it made sense to put the run off until today.  Which would have been fine except that I woke up with a killer migraine at 2am - the kind that comes with nausea, intestinal distress, blurred vision, and an inability to speak coherently.  Run with a migraine???  Perish the thought.

But as I sat (very still) on the sofa, and as the pain killers started to kick in, I thought that I'd give it a go, just to see what happened.  I fully expected to walk to the top of the lane and then come back home again, and I would have been fine with that, but the cold air helped to clear my head and I decided to carry on.

This was probably the toughest run I've done in weeks and weeks.  I gave up on the idea of any sort of tempo run after running the second mile at 10min/mile pace and then needing to stop as I really really felt like I was going to be sick.  I wasn't, but it was an unpleasant couple of minutes nonetheless.  I walked a lot during mile 3 (into an unexpected headwind and then uphill) and mile 4 (still windy and still up a hill); I told myself that I was doing fartleks, but really I was just walking. 

The start of mile 4 saw me back at The Rural Retreat and I was SO TEMPTED either to quit right there or at least to nip inside to use the loo.  However, by this point my stubbornness had kicked in and I kept on with my pretend fartleks.  And then something odd happened.  I started to feel better.  By about 4.5 miles, my calves started to feel more relaxed, my hamstrings stopped burning, and my breathing settled down.  My head still hurt but it was bearable.  My bowels realised that they weren't being pandered to and stopped grumbling.  My fartleks stopped being pretend ones.  The last mile was just a little bit off tempo pace and felt fine.  I would have been happy to continue on.

I'm in with a chance then!
So, what did I learn?  I learned that I don't have to feel at my physical best in order to run.  I learned that I can walk when I need to and that it doesn't mean that I've failed when I do so.  I learned that, at least sometimes, I might be able to run through my physical discomfort and that I won't always know what I can run through until I try.  I learned that I can tell myself 'I'm going to stop now' all that I want to, but ultimately I don't have to listen.  And I learned that even when a run is pretty much shite, it still can be a worthwhile thing to do.


  1. A wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing this. And for the link to the Coach Joe blog - there's some stuff in there I can really identify with as well. :-)

  2. You're welcome! It was a perversely satisfying run (once I stopped, anyway), although I'm not looking forward to tomorrow's 17 miles if I still feel like this...Consider Coach Joe payment for Lazy Girl Running!

  3. Well done you. It's seriously impressive to run when recovering from a migraine. You should be well proud of yourself. x