So I've been running again. Not a lot, but I've been dropping in to half marathons every chance I can get. I hate not having a goal - something to work toward. Last year at this time I'd just competed in the North Americans - something I loved. This year as much as I wanted to compete again on the master national stage, I couldn't afford to. As so many of you know it costs an arm and a leg to compete on the national stage - any stage really.
So instead I've been running.
I've learned a couple of things about myself though in the recent weeks. I can do so much more than I thought capable. I can rise to the occasion. I can pull it out. And I can achieve new goals.
Let's break it down. Running for me has for the most part always been enjoyable, but when I first started running it seemed so much easier. I could run for miles with no pain. My legs wouldn't hurt. My feet would feel fresh. I wouldn't have much need for recovery afterward. I felt strong. And I ran a lot. Those were the days I dropped in to every race I could - starting with 5ks and eventually working myself up to half marathons and even full marathons. As the years have gone by, it's gotten harder. My legs are often tired. I need adequate recovery. I don't always feel strong. If anything I feel questionable. And since I choose to hit the gym first thing in the mornings, my running is sketchy. I run outdoors maybe once a week - if that. When I travel I run a lot more often - but not at home. I kind of started to think that maybe my running days were behind me. But over the last month I've learned that I still have legs that love to run. Still. And though it doesn't feel like it used to, I am still capable, and I shouldn't write myself off so quickly.
I can rise to the occasion. Like I said, I haven't been running that often. I still do cardio - daily. I feel that as long as my conditioning is up to par, I should be able to drop in on any half marathon. It's like riding a bike. You know it feels like. you know what to expect. You can pull it out when needed. You can rise to the occasion. That has been me for the last several half marathons. Since I haven't been training (running) nearly as much as I used to I have to depend on that muscle memory. I have to depend on what I know about racing. I know it's going to start off easy. I'm going to feel good at first. I also know that that initial feeling wears off and it starts to get hard. I know that toward the end my footing will be less steady, there's more chance for injury, my hip will start to ache if I don't focus on form, and my legs will be dead. I know this. It happens almost every time. But I also know that mile by mile I am closer to the finish and I can pull it out every time. I remind myself throughout each race, "3 down, 9 to go - halfway there - only 6 to go - the hard parts over - only 3 mile left - I can do anything for 20 minutes - I can push hard this last mile" I really do talk to myself during each race. It's always the same conversation, and with each step I am closer. Closing in on the finish.
And here's the big one. I can achieve new goals. This is a huge paradigm shift for me. And I'm still shifting because it still seems hard to believe. I am almost 47, and I am running just as fast if not faster than I ever have. Ever. For the last 6 years I have believed that my fastest years were behind me. I ran a 1:38 half back in 2011. I haven't even come close since then. And then something happened. 2 weeks ago I ran a 1:37 and yesterday I ran a 1:39. What? What changed during these last two races was me. I pushed myself harder than I have in forever. I labored. I felt each step. I felt the pounding. I felt the rhythym as I ran. I had to focus on getting air deep in to my lungs. I had to really focus. I could feel my heartbeat in my throat. At times it was so hard because I was running so much harder than what is normal for ME. When I ran Nebo a couple of weeks ago I knew I was running hard but I didn't dare look at my watch. I didn't want to be pushed by my watch or let down if I started to let up. But the last 2 miles of that race I did look and that's when I realized a new PR was within reach. I was floored. When I did finish - only beating my previous PR by a minute - I realized I could still do hard things. I could still set hard goals. I could still achieve new running goals than I'd previously given up on.
Yesterday was equally as challenging. It was hard.
And I can't say that I'll push myself that hard every time. It's not exactly fun when my legs feel dead and my chest is burning. But it is fun when I conquer the overwhelming voice inside of me that wants me to give up. THAT is fun. But it's not easy.
I have set a personal goal to hit a 1:35 half marathon time, and while that's not a big goal for some, it's a huge goal for me. A month ago I would have thought no way. I hadn't even considered a number that low since that half in 2011, but I now see it. It's within reach. And I know I can do it. I can do hard things. I can rise to the occasion. I can pull it out, and I can set and hit to new goals.