Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Secret to Running Happy

Let me start off by saying that I saw this shirt in the store over the weekend and really want it!

Brooks EZ T III Run Happy
And I love this shirt so much because it's been my running goal this year (although now I'm thinking of a tank top option). I digress...

I've talked about finding what I call "My Melanie Pace" during my Chicago Spring Half Marathon Recap. Briefly, Melanie from See Mommy Race found her happy running pace, a comfortable running pace for her that allows her to run and finish the race happy!  What a novel idea Melanie! So I've implemented finding my "Melanie Pace" and running happy this year.

I'm not sure if my friends are tired of hearing me talk about "running happy" or not. For me, it wasn't an easy task to accomplish. It took a lot of running soul searching. I had to take a step back from speed. I had to take a step back from wanting to PR everything all the time.

I had several injuries right before and during my marathons last year that really made them tough. Hurting my back right before my 20 mile training run (which then didn't happen), to all the strange foot pain on had during my marathon, which I never had before, brought me to tears several times during my Fox Valley Marathon.  Although, I didn't let it stop me and did end up accomplishing 3 marathons/ultras within a 6-week span.

This year, as my spring half marathons were racking up and as the training for my fall marathon was approaching, I needed to regroup. I was not feeling happy and sometimes even miserable with my half marathons and full marathons in late 2013. Everything was mentally and physically hard. I wasn't enjoying running anymore. As winter came, I couldn't keep up the same pace as my friends that I always ran with. It got extremely frustrating. I was pushing and pushing and continually discouraged. I didn't want to run anymore. And I didn't want to run with my friends. Not because I didn't like them, but because I was tired of getting frustrated. I kept trying and in my mind, kept failing.

My spring marathons approached and my goal at first was simply to get through them. I wanted to run them well and feel strong, not necessarily fast, just feel good while running.  Then the Spring Lakefront Ultra came and a bunch of my friends ran it. The one that stuck out at me...Melanie!  It was her first ultra and she just came and she just ran. Sure she walked at times, and I ran a bit of it with her (the last 8 or so miles maybe). I was amazed at the good spirits she was in even after 25+ miles! She just kept plugging away at the miles. Maybe it wasn't speedy compared to some, but it was consistent and she was happy. I think I even questioned her about it. How are you able to do this? How are you so happy right now?  And it was because she ran a lot of her long runs alone and whatever pace she felt comfortable with. She wasn't trying to keep up with anyone. She was just getting the miles done. No pressure and no stress! 

And that's when it clicked.  I wanted to be like Melanie! I wanted to run happy. I didn't want to hate running and I didn't want to feel frustrated. It used to be my happy place, the place I went to de-stress. I wanted that again. And that's why I formed my "Melanie Pace" goal. 

Now I had to learn to accomplish this goal. 

I had already been working on running strong, not as in pace, but as in feeling. Now I needed to learn to be happy.  I wasn't quite sure how to do this and it's still a work in progress for me.

I also talked to my friend Kim from Ohio when she was in town for the Michelob Ultra half marathon. She ran her first marathon in May. And she did great. I asked her what her secret was. I'm not sure she had a secret but she did tell me she ran a lot of long runs alone. She didn't worry about pace. She just ticked off the miles. And she got a sub 4:30 at her marathon!  My ultimate marathon goal!

So how do I go about achieving this goal?  How do I run happy?

First, I started by not trying to run a certain pace. I brought the pace back a bit. If my friends wanted to run faster, that's ok. That didn't mean I had to. I needed to run whatever pace was going to allow me to feel better.

Next, I tried to find the good in the run. Whatever run I was in at the time. When I ran the Chicago Spring Half, I looked to the gorgeous weather and the beautiful skyline to keep me happy. A few weeks ago, when I accidentally got stuck running alone in a downpour and thunderstorm, these thoughts were running through my head: "I think it's hailing. At least it's not golf ball size hail!"... "At least I wore my visor today."...  "Running in the rain isn't so bad. It's pretty refreshing."

Slowly but surely, even if my body wasn't feeling the best, at least I tried to keep my mind on straight.  It is said that running is 90% mental. It's true. And if you are negative, it's going to make your runs that much longer and that much harder. Running long distance can be hard enough, why add to that with all these negative thoughts.

Marathon training is now among me. I just finished week 3. And I feel pretty good. I've changed my strategy on my long runs and so far, it seems to be working. Granted, I've only run up to 9 miles so far for my long runs for this training cycle, but I'm taking it one step at a time. I'm not trying to keep up with my 10:00 minute pace group anymore. Yes, I love running with them. But last year, I always was one step behind them and always trying to catch up. That's not how my marathon long runs should feel.  So I'm just running. And my goal is to run around 10:15-10:30 for long runs but really, anything is good. I just want to run my miles. I want to run happy and I want to feel good.  So far, it's working. This weekend, I'm running 11 miles. And I'm not sure if there will be anyone there that's my pace as I'm running in a different location for a fun training run with Zooma. It freaks me out slightly. Can I handle the 11 miles alone and still feel good and run happy?  This might be a good test for me.

Do you have any "secrets" to share for running happy?

**I mentioned a training run with Zooma. If you would like to come and keep me company or just run for fun, come on out!  Here is the facebook event page!  It's a 10 mile training run but you can run any distance. And there will be muscle milk to share post run!

And if you still would like to register for the race on August 2nd, you can use my discount code CAMB6 for 10% off registration!  Check out the Zooma website for details!

12 comments:

  1. Lately for me, running pain-free = running happy. Stretching, foam rolling, tennis balling and yoga are my "secrets" to pain-free running.

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    1. Yes Maggie! I've had emo knees due to my tight hamstrings so I've been trying to stretch and foam roll as almost daily as I can but I just hate stretching! But my hamstrings are feeling a bit better as are my emo knees! Glad you are running pain free (mostly)!

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  2. I figured this out about a year ago and it made a huge difference! Not only am i getting faster, but I am running more consistently. Way to find your journey to happy!

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    1. I agree! My goal is to PR my marathon and to do that, I think I just need to run consistantly! Hoping my new strategy helps!

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  3. For me, running negative splits allows me to run an entire race pretty happy!

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    1. I have a hard time running negative splits, especially during a long race. I usually start too fast. Hoping running slower in the beginning will allow me to do this in the future!

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  4. Love this post!! It's so hard to go your own pace when your friends are going faster! I had so many runs that I hated so I knew I had to change it up for myself! And at the 50k, "someone" who I wont name, started with the fast people, asked me if I was going to stay with them for a little while, I said no because I knew I'd be miserable going too fast, then hated it and swore off ultras, and I loved it and only finished 15 minutes behind them!

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    1. Hope you don't mind that I dubbed my happy pace as my Melanie pace! Ha! It's the only thing I could think of at the time! Just came out! And I agree. Running slower and more consistently might ensure me a PR for the marathon! Hoping that you and I can run some miles together at an upcoming future ultra marathon! :)

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  5. Great post! I recently slowed down my pace and even *gasp* started walk/running. I get to run with my dog, it makes me happy and I feel good after. Oh, and it's keeping me injury free. That's what it's all about isn't it!?

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    1. Totally agree Katie! When you are starting to get miserable from your runs and races, what is the point of it anymore! And injury free is definitely good!

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  6. I love this! :) I know we discussed this on Saturday, but I've been thinking about it too, and I couldn't agree more. My goal for Chicago is definitely to run at my happy pace - whatever that is. I just want to enjoy the experience and run based on feeling.

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    1. Thanks Meghan! It's so hard to change your thinking sometimes. I get in a rut and it's hard to get out. So I'm feeling better about things now. My goal is to PR Grand Rapids but I think the only way I'll do that is by running happy and consistent!

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