Writing and running in Austin, TX.
Now that fall marathon season has wrapped up, runners everywhere are contemplating what to do with all that free team we once spent training. For many of us, the answer seems to be: Not running.
As you know, I’ve pointed fingers at a number of potential culprits for my decidedly lackluster November. First, there was the combination of new city and the generally-held German belief that street signs are a bad idea. (I’m generally sympathetic to this. Our major cities aren’t still full of bunkers and ruins from the worst war in modern history. However, it seriously hampers my ability to map a new route by memorizing street names.)
Then there was the darkness. Thanks to a decidedly more northern geographic situation, it’s dark when we leave for work and dark when we head home. Anyone who’s truly afraid of the dark would have to hang up their running shoes between November and, ohhh…I’ll guess late March.
Finally, and most famously, there’s the snow. Which is topped with ice. With a light dusting of more snow. Running through it leaves my leg muscles screaming from the effort. Attempting to generate forward motion by pushing off a surface that alternately gives beneath you and offers the traction of freshly-waxed marble just isn’t something you can train for in Texas. (Do they wax marble? I don’t actually know, but if they do, I can’t imagine it makes for good running.)
I have to admit though, my aversion to running was worse than these obstacles could readily explain. I began to ignore my running magazines and running Web sites. When December 1st (the official start of Spring Marathon Training) came and went without Rogue posting my new program, I put off emailing to ask what the deal was. Never mind that they had already debited my $250 program fee – as long as there WAS no program, I wasn’t actually slacking.
But really, I was slacking. And judging from a recent Mark Bittman blog post at runnersworld.com, I wasn’t the only one:
“I don’t know why moderation is so difficult for me (and others, of course). I don’t know why I can’t run 5 miles, three times a week, to “stay in shape”. All I know is that I cannot; three times five for me is far more difficult than running five times three, but even that’s difficult if it isn’t followed by the equivalent of five times four, and so on.”
And yet even knowing I wasn’t alone in these feelings couldn’t assuage the general ickiness brought on by not running. I had always thought running would be my touchstone through these 9 months living abroad, my connection to something that is a part of me regardless of geographical location. And I’m finidng that, despite the beauty of this place and the amazing experience of living in a new culture, I NEED that touchstone. Because the language is HARD. And the culture is different. And I don’t have all the comforts of friends and family and home.
But, I have my legs. So slowly, slowly, slooowly, I began to pull myself out of the running doldrums.
My original plan for running in Germany had been to move my long runs to Sundays, when everything’s closed and you can’t really do anything anyway. But now I’ve realized how much I enjoy the rythm a Saturday-morning run gives the weekend. Do something active first thing, then feel free to party Saturday night and sleep until 10 am Sunday morning. It’s a downright luxury! (Somehow, getting up early Saturday morning so you can cram the grocery store, the post office, the drug store, and anything else you want to get done that weekend into a 6-hour window doesn’t quite give the same feelings of peace and contentment.)
So yes, last Saturday, I went for a run — in more appropriate winter running attire:
|First Ever Run Wearing Long Underwear|
And then on Sunday, I went for a run again! And then on Tuesday…
I HAS A PLAN!!!
Out of nowhere, and only 6 days late, my training plan showed up on the Rogue Web site!
Of course, week 1 of marathon training for a race that’s 6 months off isn’t anything spectacular — 3 mile run, 2-4 mile run, 3 mile run, rest, 6 mile run, 3 mile run — but something about having it there before me, in writing (and not my own writing), suddenly brought back all the motivation that’s been missing thus far. I guess it’s the good-kid syndrome, but put an assignment in front of me and I’ll do it, compulsively. I might procrastinate until I’m on the bus on the way to school, but I can’t leave a to-do box unchecked!
Unless I drew the box.
I’ve wondered to myself whether it made sense to shell out the cash for an “online” training program, when I could have gotten something similar from a book or even on the internet for free. Let’s face it, I’m not a big phone person, there’s no way I’m going to call my coach in Austin and ask for tips on detailed components of my training regime. Nope, I’m just going to follow the plan, like the Web site tells me to. But unlike a book, that Web site will update every week. If I miss a run, it will be painfully clear, because that run will disappear from the page when it scrolls to the next week. And at some point, that coach back in Austin is going to ask me for some numbers. “Did you do your 2-mile time trial? How did it go?”
I hope this doesn’t say something bad about me (I prefer to think of it as “human nature”) but to really make myself get out there and work, I need more than a distant goal race, or a distant goal jeans’ size, or a desire to buy out the outlet store at the local Lindt Chocolate Factory guilt-free. I need someone to tell me what to do.
And I’m only okay with admitting that because Mark Bittman — he who writes for The New York Times, he who is a respected chef and food critic, he who has penned numerous books, including a massive tome ambitiously titled How to Cook Everything — is in the exact same boat.
He, too, went 5 days without running before he had to fess up to himself and ask for help from an RW staffer. And when he got a program…
“It seems that’s all it took: Someone telling me something. Pathetic, from the perspective of my will, but I did get out there for “speedwork lite” this morning…Felt great actually.”
And guess what? I’ve done every run on my training schedule this week, and that felt great too! Sure, it’s still slow-going, trudging through massive snow drifts in the dark. But I’ve made a compromise with myself: There’s no need to time my runs until the snow goes away.
Maybe that’s “running in denial”, but honestly, there’s no way I can keep up a reasonable pace while trying to trudge through 6 inches of snow. So why depress myself? I’m still getting out there right? Compared to last month, this is a VAST improvement.
Although I have to admit, after a month more or less off, my legs are killing me.