The Hardest Part of Running
When people hear about my hobby of ultrarunning, they ask a lot of questions.
- How long does that take?
- How do you do it? I don’t even like driving that far. (Pro tip: no one does)
- Do you sleep? Do you eat?
- What do you think about?
Everyone focuses on the difficulty of race day. Don’t get me wrong, race day is hard (see How I didn’t run 100 miles). But none of the question focus on the true difficulty of running so much.
The hardest part isn’t on race day. It isn’t even on the trail. The most difficult part of ultrarunning for me is getting to the trailhead. They should be asking, “How do you motivate yourself to run so much?”
Sometimes, I use group runs to get myself to the trailhead. Sometimes, I tell friends I’m going to run some rediculous thing to peer pressure myself into doing it. And sometimes, I dress for a run out of habit and try to convince myself to drive to the trailhead.
But it doesn’t always work. My strava account is full of weeks of <20mi where I just couldn’t get myself out the door. This past weekend, I ran 3.3 miles total from Friday to Sunday. That is appallingly low, since I generally do 30-50 miles per weekend. But due to some off-camera sadness, I just couldn’t talk myself into it.
Once I skip a run, the guilt sets in. Now I’ve failed myself. I know that being out on trail is what I love, but something stops me from even getting there. I fight every day against this laziness to not let it win. Most days I win. Sometimes, we compromise. Sometimes… It overtakes me, and I cannot stop the spiral of defeat welling within me.
My therapist tells me to be nicer to myself. Perhaps that would stop the spiral from taking a hold of me. Honestly, a single day’s run skipped is no big deal. But skipping days and days of running will send me into a depression, which will cause more runs to be skipped. And yet, I can’t seem to break the cycle with thoughts alone.
The only way to break the cycle is to actually get out and run. To feel the agility of trail, the speed of pavement, the heavy breathing of uphill, the exhileration of downhill, the beauty of the forest, the discovery of adventure.
Sometimes, I just have to force myself because I know its good for me.
From Christmas to New Year’s Eve, I challenged myself to run 100 miles in 7 days. A lot of runners run 100 miles per week normally. This is not me. I have never had a training week over 75 miles… ever. And, when I’m tired, I average 11 minute miles. So 100 miles would take at least 1,000 minutes, or 16+ hours. Add in that I can’t really just run flat because I’m a mountain lover and you’ve got 20+ hours of running to get this done.
It was hard to motivate to get out the door every day. But I was able to get it done. Being off work helped, but to get out and run 3 hours every day was really hard. I ran a lot of “junk” miles on my usual 10K loop around the house. I also went on two really fun long runs up in the Boulder skyline trails.
This challenge hit me exactly where I weak, motivation to just get out. This is how I continue to challenge myself to be better. I got it done, and it feels good.