Just Run. Those were the last words Brad said to me on the phone before racing the USA 20k Championships on Labor Day. Since the Olympic Trials in February, I’ve struggled with motivation for training and racing. My goals since February have therefore had one focus: get back to loving the sport and competition of running. This is a lot easier than it sounds, but here are the two ways I have been working on getting back to enjoying the sport:
1. Taking a lot of time off. I needed a break from feeling obligated to run every day, so I adopted the practice of running the days I felt like it and not running the days I didn’t. Slowly but surely I’ve gotten back to getting the urge to run every day.
2. Working on being positive. I started monitoring my thoughts about running and making a note about each negative thought that comes across my mind and subsequently letting the negativity go. Every chance I got, I turned a negative thought into a positive one. “Wow, this hill really sucks,” became “this hill is making me stronger.” Slowly but surely my thoughts became more positive with less effort.
This has not been without help. Brad has been extremely patient with me as I’ve returned to consistent training; even now, my training is not as consistent has it been in the past, but the one thing we’re determined to do is not rush the process. Furthermore, I began working with a sports psychologist, who has transformed my mentality not only in the running realm, but in every aspect of my life.
Therefore, last Monday, our one goal was to just run. Not overthink the task at hand and have fun competing. I knew I wasn’t in the best shape, but when the gun went off I had a ton of fun pretending that I was.
I got out in sub 5:30 pace, and fell in a comfortable rhythm with a small pack of women. So comfortable that we were talking to each other about paces and sharing encouraging words. We ran the first few miles averaging around 5:30 pace, and while I was enjoying the race and running with inspiring women, I could not hold that pace. I fell off the pack around mile 5, and from that point on I tackled the race alone. For anyone that has been in “no man’s land,” you know that it can be a dangerous place. It’s easy to lose engagement in the race, so for the next seven miles I focused on staying engaged and most importantly, staying positive. The course was hilly and windy, but overall I did a good job practicing my mental exercises.
My finish was nothing impressive on paper, but how I approached the race was a great step in the right direction. I had a blast racing in a US championship again, getting to run alongside some of the top women in the country. When I could have had every excuse to slow down, I made an honest effort to keep pushing to the finish. My finish was an improvement on my last larger race, Peachtree Road Race, so I know my fitness is coming around. Lastly, the race gave me the last kick of motivation to get back to consistent training.
It’s easy to become impatient and discouraged when trying to make a comeback. Going into the 20k championships, I had visions of me finishing in the top 10 and feeling like I’m 100% back on track. However, that’s rarely how comebacks happen. In reality they’re slow processes that take a lot of work. Thank you so much to all of the crew and volunteers that helped make the Faxon Law New Haven 20k happen. I loved the challenging course, and I can't wait to race it again when I have more consistent training in my legs. Next up is Tufts 10k, and I’m looking forward to seeing the small but notable progress I can make in four weeks!