I reached running enlightenment twice this week.
For me, enlightenment comes when I no longer make the decision to keep going; in fact, I stop thinking altogether and the default setting is just keep running. It doesn’t happen often, because most of time I don’t get to the point where I’m too exhausted to think and every fibre of my being is purely focused on managing the discomfort and pain coursing through my body. If you’ve ever been there you implicitly understand how incredibly powerful it makes you feel, and if you haven’t then you probably think I’m crazy for considering this a condition worth striving for.
On Wednesday nights I run intervals at Sir Winston Churchill park with a group of runners. It usually consists of some combination of 400m to 1600m intervals at 10k pace or faster, adding up to about 5km, but this week was particularly difficult (my paces in brackets, 2 minute rest between intervals).
2km at 10k pace (4:30/km)
800m at 5k pace (4:18/km)
400m all out (<4:00/km)
2km at 10k pace (4:30/km)
I took it a little easy on the first 2k interval because I have a bad habit of going out hard and lagging in the middle, and I'm trying to break this, so my pace was 4:35. The 800m interval seemed short by comparison, so I took it around 4:15 pace, and followed that up with a blazing 400m at 3:35 pace (which is crazy fast even for me). I was really nervous going into the last interval because my legs were shot (duh, that's what happens when you go too hard in the middle of intervals) and I didn't even feel like jogging 2km, let alone sprinting it.
I took off at a (relatively) easy pace for the first 400m,then glanced down at my watch and realized I was running well under 4:30 pace. Crap. Way to blow the pace, Kim. I eased up a little, but kept the pressure on because I had a buddy about 10 feet behind me, and I’d been chasing him all session. It was about 800m into the interval when the discomfort became too much for me to handle consciously, and in the absence of a decision to slow down or stop my legs just kept going. Another one and a half laps of the park, holding a pace of 4:26 right until the end; I don’t know how I did it, but I finished the interval I didn’t think I could start. Enlightenment number one.
My second round with enlightenment this week came from a much simpler process: it was my longest long run by 5km, building on my 25km run last Sunday. Last week things got rough around 19.5km, and I had to muscle through the last 5.5km; this week I lasted until 24km before it got tough, but the last three kilometres were an exercise in pure determination. I have never run so far on the verge of tears, praying for it to be over so the pain will stop; and in those three kilometres I stopped thinking about anything other than running. Stopping wasn’t an option, quitting wasn’t an option because there are no options when you can’t think; it was no longer physical, and the only thing left was just keep running.
I finished the 30km run knowing that in breaking those barriers to what I thought was possible, I gained just as much mental strength as I did physical strength this morning.
That’s running enlightenment, and it’s a good feeling.
Coming up this week:
Not quite a full recovery week as I’m running 33km next Sunday, but I’m taking it easy the rest of the week with some slower recovery runs and no interval work (which usually takes me 1-2 days to fully recover from).
My goals this week are:
- Go to bed before 10pm at least 5 nights this week. As my training load increases, I’m realizing that even a consistent 9 hours doesn’t cut it, and especially on a recovery week, sleep is just as important as training.
- Focus on nutrition. This past week I ate a lot more sweets than usual and my body needs a reset (read: quinoa and veggies instead of chocolate and muffins).
- Use my roller every day (I’ve noticed a big difference since I started rolling and I’m trying to make this a habit).