Monday, March 26, 2012

Anatomy of a Bad Run

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a phenomenon both familiar to runners, and equally elusive. The Good Run. The event that occurs so infrequently it always takes the runner by surprise, but that is so transcendental, it led me to compose an entire blog post in my head. Today, I write about its evil counterpart. Its sinister twin. The Bad Run. Turns out, it also led me to compose an entire blog post in my head. But one with a decidedly different tone. See, I am training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Running a distance race has always been a goal of mine. After a few fits and starts over these last 2 years, it seems that I will finally accomplish this goal on May 6, 2012. Just six short weeks from now. Training requires a great deal of time and commitment, and lots and lots of runs. Plenty of time to experience both The Good Run and The Bad Run. Truth be told, there is really nothing in between. You runners will understand. Yesterday I experienced the latter, and here, for your reading pleasure, is what I wrote in my head.

9 AM. Alarm rings. Exhausted. 6 miles today. It might as well be 600. It seems equally insurmountable. I consider turning off my alarm and falling like a stone back into the deep sleep out of which I was just yanked. I very nearly do just that. Until I hear The Voice. And it says: No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

So I do. Begrudgingly. I find running clothes. Fill my water bottle. Get my iPod. and I'm out the door. I resent every single step to the park. I see other runners on their way back from the park, having already finished their long runs of the day. Jealousy burns. With each block I conjure up excuses to put the run off, just a little while longer. I should get a manicure first. I need a haircut. I need breakfast. Maybe it would be better with coffee. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

So I make it to the park. Down the 72nd street hill I go. To my familiar starting line. The first mile is uphill. Ugh. iPod on. Timer starts. Off I go. I feel like I weigh 400 pounds. I am fighting for every step. For every breath. What is that twinge in my leg? Is it shin splints? A stress fracture? Achilles Tendonitis? Maybe I should stop. It would be better not to aggravate such dire injuries. Better take the week off and start again next Sunday. Yes, I should definitely stop. I'm stopping. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

Mile 2. I really hate this song. Why would I put such a stupid song on my running playlist? How can I be expected to keep running when such hateful music is blasting in my ears? Will this song ever be over? This is the longest 3 minutes of my life. My iPod is inaccessible right now, or I would just skip this one. Obviously I should stop for a second to change the song. I would feel much better. That's what I'll do. Stop. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

Mile 3. 102nd Street Transverse. Harlem Hill looms in the distance. Mount Everest, as far as I'm concerned.  Seriously, am I really only at 102nd street? I've definitely been running for at least an hour. Check the timer. It's only been 20 minutes. The transverse beckons me. Urges me to hang a right. To take the cut-off that will turn 6 miles into 5. And really, whats the difference between 5 and 6? I'll just get up tomorrow morning and run the extra mile. Yes, I should definitely take the transverse. Save Mount Everest for a better run. A Good Run. That's what I'll do. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

Mile 4. I made it up Harlem Hill. Barely. Luckily that's it for the big hills. The rest of this run will be easier. What's that up ahead? Crap. I forgot about the Lasker Pool hill. Up I go. Burning calfs. Burning lungs. A girl passes me on the hill. Happily bouncing her way up this monstrosity. Barely sweating. Smiling even. I hate her instantly. Passionately. Is that a headache coming on? Maybe it's heatstroke. Or dehydration. That's definitely it. I'm dehydrated. I should stop. Walk the rest of the way. At least walk up this insufferable hill. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

Mile 5. Central Park Boathouse. Get stuck behind some tourists meandering their way through the park. Get  angry. Don't they understand I'm at war here? Get out of my way. 72nd Street Transverse up ahead. The landmark that signals the end of my weekday runs. It looms invitingly in the distance. Practically begging me pay it a visit. Last chance to turn 6 miles into 5. This time I'm doing it for sure. My feet are killing me. My legs feel like lead. I can't go one more mile. I start to make the right turn. And there it is again. The Voice. No. Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

So I bid the transverse a sad farewell. I keep heading straight. Around the bottom of the park. 

Mile 6. Columbus Circle.  Last half mile is all uphill. How could I have planned a route where the last half mile is all uphill? What could I possibly have been thinking? Seriously, I can't run another step. Everything hurts. Maybe this running thing isn't for me. Who needs long distance races anyway? I hate exercising. I hate running. I. Hate. Running. I'm dropping out of the race. I'm never doing this again. I'm....

Finished. 6 miles. 

That wasn't really so bad.

Six weeks until May 6th. Get moving.

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