Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Six Stages of Running

I have found that when running distances of 10k or longer, that there is a cycle of stages that a runner goes through mentally. It's sort of like sleep or grief. There are stages that you cycle through that may not all last the same amount of time, but they are all there even if other stages are longer. I convinced Matt to run my spring half with me this year, and I am so glad that he gave in. We just finished our first real milestone. Our long run was 7 miles, which is slightly more than half the race distance, so this is always an important run for me when it comes to my half training. As we ran today, I cycled through the stages of running, and I am just glad that Matt is still willing to run with me.

Stage 1: Excitement
Now, as you will find for most of these stages, there is some variation from person to person, and from run to run. Stage one tends to range from contentment to excitement. I was so happy that it was a beautiful 45 degrees with sun and only a few clouds, and Matt decided to take us on a route through the cute little neighborhoods around our borough that I love to look at, so I was pretty happy through the first two miles. We were even keeping a good pace, and Matt had to make me take it down a notch to ensure we would make it through all 7 miles. 

Stage 2: Reflection
In stage two it can be all different kinds of reflection. Sometimes I hone in on my form and breathing. Sometimes I think about life and the things that need to be worked out in my mind. Sometimes I just reflect on the beauty of nature while I run. I had no idea how beautiful nature is until I became a runner. Don't get me wrong, this kid isn't going camping anytime soon, but running gives you a new view at a slower pace to appreciate the world around you, which we rarely stop to do in our hustle and bustle society. My reflection and excitement mixed a little today as I ran. I was talking to the ducks on the pond we passed, and calling, "Here pishy, pishy, pishy!" at creeks as we jogged along. Matt was thoroughly embarrassed, but I was just happy to take it all in.

Stage 3: Annoyance
Ok, so if you have not read posts from when I first started my blog, take time to read this post about what it is like to run with Matt. I let him find our route, and I let him wear the Forerunner, so you can probably guess part of what helped stage 3 kick in. Matt was at the second or third unsure turn we made, when I suddenly became aware of the blisters forming on my feet, and then I almost had a heart attack when I was scared by a dog. We were passing a tall privacy fence when I suddenly heard the loudest bark coming from what I can only assume was the world's largest dog. I seriously jumped higher than I ever have before while simultaneously sprinting faster than I ever have in the opposite direction of the fence. Hello, stage 4!

Stage 4: Hatred
Stage 4 lasted much longer than I had hoped it would last. The only other time I remember stage 4 lasting this long was during the Joplin Memorial Run Half Debacle of 2012, when I really wanted to punch my Anything for 10 Sister, Grace, in the face for getting me in this mess in the first place. I didn't say that during the race, but as we all talked afterward, she told my brother and sister-in-law that she was scared at one point that I was going to hit her, so I am guessing it was clear anyway. Today's stage 4 was similar. We were still making wrong turns, and I started blurting out, "I hate you!" Yes, I convinced Matt to do this, yet I was breathlessly "yelling" at him. It progressed from there to the phrase, "I hate the world, right now," mixed with, "I hate everything." And as stage 4 dragged on, I ended up just saying, "I hate," mixed with whimpering. Yes, it was a rough one today.

Stage 5: Denial
Matt kept saying that denial was surely one of the stages of running, and I kept telling him that it wasn't. I realized later that he was right. (Matt, I don't want to hear any gloating about you always being right. Remember all those wrong turns?) As we were in the last mile of the run, my head kept telling me that I couldn't do it. I couldn't possibly keep going. And I breathlessly told Matt that I couldn't keep going, that I wasn't going to make it. He told me that I could. And I realized that although my brain was in denial about my ability to keep going, that my legs were in fact still moving. Stage 5 could be the hardest of all because it is easy to let stage 5 break you, but just let it go. It's your mind that is in denial and not your body.

Stage 6: Anticipation
Yes, once the run or race is finished, it doesn't necessarily matter how ugly it was, the runner is already anticipating the next race or run. The satisfaction of completing something that you set your mind to has a way of making you want more every time you realize how strong you really are.   Bring on week 6 of training!

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