Running Against The Brain.

This morning, I woke up at 6:21 a.m., remembered that I was off today, and tried to go back to sleep.

But my brain had other plans. It said, “Amanda, get up and go running.” And suddenly, a deluge of thoughts occurred: How if I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t go later, how it was 75 degrees out and it would only get hotter later, how maybe I could go later? How I haven’t really been training at all, how an interval of 5/1 is not my interval,  the perceived antagonism of my current running coach, how maybe she’s allowed to be antagonistic because she’s well into her seventies and is still fucking running marathons, how I’ve been lazy, how I can’t accomplish my goals if I don’t intend on working toward them. How maybe I was stupid to sign up for this marathon when I’ve never run more than 11 miles. Maybe I should just quit. I could get my Sundays back and sleep. Yes, Amanda, what a great idea… would you like a side of weight gain with that, too? How the heat just kills me; it really does, how I just want to be faster, better, NOW! How I officially have no more big events for the rest of the summer that I know of to prevent me from training. How I have at least 3 and a half months before the marathon and could still do a lot with that, how good I would feel about myself if I went, how disappointed I might make those who have tried to encourage me, how disappointed I’d be in myself

Slowly, I got up and started getting ready. I decided not to take a shower, just to get the running gear on – and yet my inner saboteur was still hard at work. The only thing you can wear right now are those cotton tanks you thought weren’t cotton. Maybe you should get another shirt before you do this. You can’t go in just a sports bra; you’re not thin enough for that. No, it doesn’t matter that you see severely pot-bellied, hairy-chested men running their asses off shirtless. I still can’t find my interval watch: do I really have to use my phone? I hate using my phone for intervals. Maybe I’ll stay and try to find itmaybe you just won’t go, Amanda


Took the phone, got my Amphipod (a really awesome water bottle that fits around your hand with a sleeve to hold whatever you need it to hold), put my keys in its pocket and headed out the door.

I walked in one direction, thinking I might go to the lake path – which previous experiences have told me that I hate – and ended up going that direction anyway. If I was going to do this, I needed a goal and for whatever reason, the lake path was it.

Before I ended my warmup, I made a decision. I think my current training interval (5/1) has caused me so much consternation, too much consternation. I haven’t had much luck with it, and there’s been so much negativity attached to it that I’ve been less likely to actually do it. So I decided to go with 4/2s, knowing it was an interval I could complete without (too much) griping, and knowing that my body would fare better in the heat this way.

In my opinion, running has two mantras that I’ve tried to follow carefully (when I’ve cared enough to put my efforts into running): 1) Push yourself. 2) Listen to your body. At this time, my body doesn’t do well in heat, and it certainly hates 5/1s. So what of pushing yourself? I pushed myself when I chose to walk out the door.

I began running and with it came the mindfuck that always comes from constantly checking your time. What? 10 seconds? I thought for sure it’d be a minute. ONLY A MINUTE-THIRTY DOWN? WHAT THE HELL. and on and on.

For the first few intervals I, of course, felt like I was going to die. I tried to keep my walking pace brisk but steady, but eventually lapsed. I tried to run slower in order to not feel so tired on my walking breaks, but it didn’t happen. Toward the end of the first mile, my leg started aching, allowing the opportunity for my saboteur to show up: You’ve done a mile, you tried.  You can probably go home, now. But I pushed through, knowing that I don’t really feel that great until the second mile, anyway, knowing that my leg – my left, specifically – always wants to give me problems but that it might subside, knowing that in kickboxing I toil away for an hour, no matter how tired I am or want to give up.

The man in the arena… I thought to myself.

I continued my way to the lake path, and immediately sighed. People. So many people. Yet, I had to admit that it wasn’t too bad – a smattering of runners, out there doing what I was doing; more cyclists than anything. I hoped that, if I stayed to my side, they would stay to theirs.

At the 25 minute mark, I turned around and headed home, and started to pick up my pace a little. I looked down at my phone and noticed that, while my average pace was a little over 12 minutes, my current pace was 10:40. I was slightly amazed, both at what it said and how tired I felt, but I pushed myself to keep going for a bit and then slowed back down. My mouth was dry … okay, maybe that was a wee bit too much.

As I got to 42 minutes, I thought to myself, “Only eight more minutes, Amanda. Eight more. Then you can stop.” And so I ran my last complete 4 minute interval, dragging myself, daring myself to keep going, despite the fact that I was so tired, despite the fact that I’d started to think of the marathon – and how I didn’t know how I’d get to 26.2 miles this way. “You can do this. Keep going. You can do this!” I whispered. I briefly contemplated the fact that I was talking to myself, but it seemed to work.

I got to my walking break, and thought that it wouldn’t be so bad if I just started my cool down at that point. And then I reminded myself that, if I were to do that, it’d be no different than my – as of late – poor, half-assed running attempts. I had set out to do 50 minutes. I was going to do 50 minutes. 

At 48 minutes, I begrudgingly started running again, knowing that I was coming up to a stoplight and could have just let the time run out. But I hadn’t done that the entire time, and so pressed “pause” on my phone. The light turned green and I continued, forgetting to resume activity on my phone. “Well,” I thought to myself, “what’s a few extra seconds, compared to the hours and days you sat doing nothing?” I pressed resume and kept going.

(You better believe, though, that I stopped immediately once I reached 50 minutes.)

Overall, I ran 4.1 miles, with an average pace of 12:11. My fastest mile was 11:45. I walked the rest of the way home, thoroughly exhausted. I know that this is not the last time I will fight with myself over physical activity, but I have something to be proud of today.

And it feels really good.

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