Confessions from a middle-of-the-pack half marathoner

Our brand spanking new social media coordinator, Allegra Swanson, also writes for the Canadian Running Magazine. In her blog, she talks about her training one confession at a time.

Below is a reprint from her post on March 3rd earlier this year.

Confession: Sometimes my workouts are inexplicably bad.

I like to think of myself as a tough person– someone who relishes a challenge, who will power through. Someone who can shout “challenge accepted” or “bring it!” Most of the time, I am that person. Occasionally… I’m not.

There’s no formula for when a bad workout will happen. I’ve heard countless runners on a Sunday morning say something to the tune of “Wow, I had some late night beers and little sleep and somehow I just had a great long run.” Sometimes you can have enough sleep, eat and drink right things and perform well.

Allegra-Swanson-Mar.-3

But sometimes, that’s not the case.

I had an evening commitment that meant I had to do my Thursday night workout in the morning. This is never ideal. Waking up early and doing a hard workout alone is a tough pill to swallow. The workout didn’t seem too bad, however. Hills: 5 x 5:00 uphill hard, 1:00 downhill hard, jog back to the start.

I started out with my two kilometre warm up in light snow with fairly clear ground. I felt good. My first hill repeat was hard, but not surprisingly so. My second, however, felt like I was running a hill at the end of a marathon. I’d had the day off before… what was wrong with me? My third repeat was even harder. My legs felt used up after only about 1:30 into the five minutes. The last one was almost a write-off. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that this workout was about effort, not pace and I certainly was going hard. But why did today’s “hard” come so much sooner than usual?

My coach said something in an earlier session that really spoke to me. “You can’t feel good about every workout. If you did, then it would be too easy. You need the hard ones so you can improve.”

The mental game can sometimes be the hardest. If I don’t meet my paces, does that mean I’m not good enough? If I’m struggling through this workout when I shouldn’t be, maybe I’m not meant to run this much mileage. Maybe I should stick to recreational running.

When I was struggling through that last repeat, I thought about stopping. I was alone. Who would know? I would, of course. At that point, it became clear to me that sometimes a workout can be mental just as much as physical. Perhaps when I’m struggling through the last 5K of my goal race, I’ll think about that last hill repeat. I think about all those times I wanted to just walk.

It can be hard when there’s technically no reason for you to run. I’m not a professional athlete, I never will be. I’m not letting anyone down if I decide to stop. In times when I get caught up wondering why I’m doing it, I remember how I feel when I have coffee after a long run on Sunday mornings with my group. I’m part of a group of people who care about my progress and who will commiserate with me when I tell them how I struggled through my workout because they too have those days.

So what can you take away from a workout that just doesn’t work? You roll your shoulders back, take a breath and say “next time.” Was it the 50K I’ve put on my legs in the last week? The six hours of sleep I had the night before? (Or the three beers over dinner…) It’s probably a combination of all those things. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m working harder on my running than ever before and that’s something to be proud of.

You can find all her confessions online at http://runningmagazine.ca/category/confessions-from-a-half-marathoner/

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