Saturday’s run was never going to be anything other than a slog. I woke up feeling drained from a particularly intense week at work, exhausted and dehydrated from a late night out (playing board games, ‘cuz I’m bad ass like that) and facing a mini-heat wave. But, I was way behind in mileage for the week, and Saturday was the last chance I had to get a run in, so off I went.
I was right; it was not a fun run. It wasn’t miserable, I wasn’t in pain or anything, but there was no flow to it, and I was just constantly aware that I was running. And I found myself thinking about a Radiolab episode about Diane Van Deren. Diane is an ultra-runner whose running career took off after she had a piece of her brain removed to treat seizures. The surgery cured her seizures, but it also left her with severe short-term memory loss. She has a memory span of mere minutes. This means that, as she’s running for hours and days on end, she doesn’t remember the accumulation of miles that preceded. While debilitating memory loss poses its own problems, it actually gives her an advantage when it comes to the mental games of running.
It’s an interesting question; how tired would I be if I didn’t know how tired I should be. If, in this moment, I didn’t have the weight of the previous miles, and I couldn’t see the miles I still had ahead of me? As I ran, I tried to focus on my body, on how it was feeling for that stride, that moment of impact. I could feel myself being more present in the run, and my mopey-ness would fall away for a bit.
It still wasn’t an easy run. I was tired and dehydrated and hot. My mind would drift away to my watch and the miles, and I would have to re-focus on my body.
In the end, it worked better than I had expected. I was just hoping to get through my run without stopping. But, once I got home, I realized I’d held an 8 minute pace for 5 miles, a full 40 seconds faster than my pace the previous week. Making progress.