My long-time training nemisis has always been the long run.
Well, and long tempos. And repeats longer than 1600m. And strength training and remembering to stretch…
But mostly, the weekend long run.
There’s just something about the early Saturday wake up, quietly sitting around with my coffee and toast, wrestling with compression socks and asking myself “should I try to pee again?” ten times. It’s a routine that instead of stability and comfort over time, provokes a sense of panic and dread. Like I know what’s coming, and don’t even give the run a chance to be anything but painful. There’s a line where “expect the worst” goes from a precautionary defense mechanism to a paralyzing fear tactic, and it’s about three city blocks from where my pre-long run ritual is.
HEADCASE. WE’RE WORKING ON IT.
Last week I tried to outsmart my stupid head game and ran my eight miler at night. It was just enough change that it didn’t feel like a “long run” – probably because it wasn’t very long – but it’s not very sustainable or the easiest on the stomach. Plus, races are in the morning so hello I better be able to run in the AM hours. Valiant effort, though.
So this week, driving out to the 10 mile Back Bay loop where I’ve done probably 50 long runs over the last few years, I started feeling those same feelings of ‘ughhhhghhrhhhrhrhgh what if it sucks or I get sick or hurt did I drink enough water oh shit my ipod is dead… is it over yet?’
And I gave myself a big fat fucking smack in the face.
“Nobody’s making you do this! You’re doing it because you want to! What would you rather be doing for this 90 minutes? Sitting at home, watching tv, feeling bad about not running? That sounds awful. It’ll be great. Just get out there.”
I tied my shoes and started going before the pep talk could get a rebuttal from the other shoulder demon. It was a beautiful day, my legs felt pretty good, and everyone else on the path seemed so happy! I’ve never had more runner nods reciprocated or walkers yell, “looking good!” at my back as I ran past them.
(twice. that happened twice. either had a big spring in my step or underwear hanging out of my shorts)
A few miles in when the initial wow-factor of, “hey I’m out here long running, and actually enjoying it!” started fading, I thought back to the yoga class I went to the night before. It was my first time on the mat it a LONG time, so when the instructor told us to “be gentle” and “work with what you have TODAY,” I took extra meaning to it. Not comparing to others, my past self, or what I “should” do, just focusing on what my body needed at that time.
At the beginning of every class, your first order of business is typically to “set your intention” for the practice. What you hope to gain or accomplish. Your next goal is to “be present” throughout, not letting your mind drift away from your mat. And lastly, you’re to “appreciate the time you’re giving to your practice.” The time that you’re carving out of your day for yoga is a gift you’re giving your body, and your body thanks you for it.
I realized on my run that all that hippie sanskrit Ommmm’y talk (which I not-so-secretly love, in a very anti-granola way) is applicable to so many things other than tree pose and vinyasa flows.
I was out here, putting the time in for my run – why not make the most of it instead of wishing it away, or cursing it? If I focused on what my goal for the run was (get stronger, acclimate to long-duration efforts) then the miles and pain seemed more worthwhile. I’d be proud and thankful afterwards for the time I dedicated to it now.
“Intention, present. appreciate. Intention, present, appreciate…”
And I’ll be damned, it worked. I had a great fucking run. High five, Buddha.
Yoga is not for everyone, but the concepts of intention and being present can (and should!) be applied to many parts of our lives. Long runs, work projects, relationships, a really really delicious dessert… focus and give it all the effort it deserves!