Heading Into Week 10: The First Run I Truly Hated

On Sunday, everyone celebrated the unseasonably hot weather. “How delightful,” they said. And I joined their pleasant chorus. Naively. Until I ran in 82 degree heat for the first time in my training for the Pittsburgh half marathon. And proceeded to hate every single step.

Me, tortured, with my dad on our training run. (Please note: Tums Hat = Cool Kid)

Me, tortured, with my dad on our 80 degree training run. (Please note: Tums Hat = Cool Kid)

Before we get to my endless laments about warm weather running, wheezing and a picture of my dad’s new puppy (!!!!), let’s review the past week and the week to come as the half marathon races ever closer (pun intended).

Planned Schedule
Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: Boot Camp
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Boot Camp
Saturday: 1-2 miles
Sunday: 11 mile run with my dad

Actual Schedule
Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: Boot Camp
Thursday: Sick
Friday: Sick again
Saturday: Sick again
Sunday: 9 miles

Not only did I get another sinus infection (that’s my third illness this training season for those of you keeping count), which halted my weekly training, I couldn’t even run the full 11 miles on Sunday. It was the first time I actually experienced the feeling that I could not put one more foot in front of the other.

Here's a picture from my delightful and manageable 3-mile run through Bloomfield Cemetery. They even have lakes there!

Here’s a picture from my delightful and manageable 3-mile run through Bloomfield Cemetery. They even have little ponds there!

Next Week’s Schedule

Monday: Day of Rest
Tuesday: Boot Camp
Wednesday: Boot Camp
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: 3 miles
Saturday: Day of Rest
Sunday: 12 mile run with my dad

Hopefully, this week I will be more successful at the putting one foot in front of the other thing (otherwise known as running). I will be traveling Thursday-Saturday to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, which I hope will lend itself to some beautiful and picturesque runs around the lake! (Crosses fingers for blog photo ops)

Topic of the Week: How to Cope With Your Worst Ever Run

I say, without any exaggeration, that my 80-degree 9-mile run this past Sunday with my dad was the worst run of my life. Each mile was a struggle. Every step I chanted in my mind a mixture of encouragement and expletives. And as a girl tracking my training, I think it’s just as important to talk about the challenges as it is to talk about the successes.

Does my smile look forced to you?

Does my smile look a little bit forced to you?

The cards were stacked against me from the start: I had only been on antibiotics for my sinus infection for 3 days, so I was still mildly wheezing/coughing and my body was already slightly fatigued (not to mention I attended a wedding the night before). We ran in the middle of the afternoon (my fault: I just didn’t know what sun felt like until this run). And we were supposed to run 11 miles (our farthest yet).

From the first steps, I felt off and wheezy. The first hill killed my lungs and it took a while for my breathing to get back under control. I felt weak already.

The sun beat down on us, with no shade to be found, through every aching step. Around mile 4, I had my first ever doubts about the half marathon. What if I can’t do it? What if all those people are cheering and my family and friends are there to support me and I am resigned to walking and panting and nearly vomiting? What if I fail my first half marathon?

I know now that those thoughts were heat-induced irrationalities, but in that moment, I felt like I wanted to cry. Like I hadn’t trained enough (even though I ran 10 miles just two weeks ago). Like I wasn’t strong enough. It was a horribly scary and vulnerable feeling. But I do believe, cliche as it may be, that it is only when we reach our limits that we grow. (Or in my case, that we find the strength to push to 9 miles when you want to stop after 3.)

I now pause this post for a picture of my dad's adorable puppy Mabel, placing her small head into an old running shoe (of which she is approximately the same size).

I now pause this post for a picture of my dad’s adorable puppy Mabel placing her small head into an old running shoe (of which she is approximately the same size).

Thank goodness for my dad. Through all of this he kept encouraging me and telling me that to really be prepared for the race, I had to do a cold long run and a hot long run. And given the fact that it was my first ever long run in weather above 55 degrees, 9 miles was an amazing success even though it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Even with his encouragement, by about mile 6, I knew I couldn’t reach the 11-mile goal. I kept asking to slow the pace (we were running nearly 13-minute miles at this point, almost 2 minutes slower than our typical pace). I felt nauseous, my ankles hurt, my breath was ragged and my body begged to stop with every step. I panicked thinking how this would not even be halfway on race day.

I perked up at mile 7, but when mile 8 came around, I hit a wall. I internally cursed any other person on the path who was an obstacle to the finish — be it kids on bikes, friendly dogs or darling families. They were all the enemy to me completing the run (And yes, for the record, I do now recognize that I was a crazed woman).

I had to stop at mile 9. And my shaky, lightheaded, gelatinous body thanked me, while my racing heart tried to get itself under control. While I mentally punished myself, it was the right thing to do given the fact that I combatted shakiness for the rest of the day.

So here is my advice to all those considering training: When you have one run that kills you, that you really hate, that you truly loathe, it’s okay. It doesn’t make you weak. It means you’re working hard. It just means you’ll appreciate the next run you do. And you should listen to your body when it tells you to stop.

Other lessons learned: Heat running is the worst. The. Worst. And I really need to work on my mental game while running. I tried to stay optimistic while I ran, but it was a real struggle.

To any veteran runners out there: What do you do on your worst running days? How do you stay positive on the go?

Thanks for checking in with the blog and keep running (even when it challenges you).

Your partner in training,
Jessie

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3 thoughts on “Heading Into Week 10: The First Run I Truly Hated

  1. I can’t speak for running, but I know in training for a fight, there is always at least one day, often more like 3-4 days that sound exactly like your run. Nothing goes right, your timing is off, everything in your body HURTS. At lot of times, I am cutting weight, so the calorie and water reduction just adds to it. The important part to remember is that if you can do that on your worst day, think about what you can do on your best.
    Cheers!
    Bill

  2. Too funny! I had similar thoughts to everyone being “the enemy” yesterday. I was on the South Side around 11 AM and got so mad at everyone having brunch and drinks!

    As far as staying positive, I try to think of my family and how proud they will be of me when I finish. I also give myself “pep talks” during a run, “You are strong. You can finish this.” I’ll just keep repeating it in my head until I believe it!

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