When I train for a half marathon I tend to add miles very gradually. Even when I’m coming into training with weeks of regular running under my belt, I like to take it slow. Mostly I do this out of laziness. I mean, I could run an extra mile or two on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but really why push it? That’s time that could be spent cleaning the bathroom or doing anything that’s not running.
Slow methodical starts are just a part of my training ritual. Another important feature is the sliver of doubt that slithers into my psyche. It’s not overwhelming (hence my use of the term ‘sliver’), but it’s there, mostly in the form of the following sentence:
If your legs feel like this after 3 miles, how the hell are you going to run a half marathon?
It’s a strange mental inquiry in the sense that, at this point, I know it’s complete bullshit. I’ve completed four half marathons and run each one a little faster than the one before. #Humblebrag
I know my training schedule works. I know my legs take time to build up the stamina required to run that distance. I know I’ll add miles over the next ten weeks and I’ll be right where I want to be. I know I’ll not only complete the race, but also push for another PR. Yet despite this intellectual awareness, the voice of doubt still creeps into my head.
Seriously. You feel horrible and you’re not even close to running 13.1 miles.
I realize I’m not alone. There is certainly no shortage of running quotes that deal with overcoming obstacles, fears, and doubts. In fact, I’m pretty sure the subject accounts for 99.9% of all running quotes. But I know that as long as I don’t pull anything, I’ll have no problem running my half marathon.
But just so you know, you could TOTALLY pull something.
This doubt of mine is small, really an annoyance more than anything else. However, I realize there are people out there who have legitimate struggles and reasons to be doubtful.
Like my wife, for instance.
A couple of years ago she started having problems with her left hamstring. She stretched it, worked on it, rolled it out, but finally it got to be too much. She had to stop running and, eventually, have a professional take a look. Long story short, sports medicine doctors were utilized, rehabilitation scheduled, and half marathons were temporarily shelved.
There was plenty of frustration as she spent the next 18 months trying to get back to running long distances and competing in races again. And there were plenty of ups and downs.
Getting through shorter intervals to finally run a full 30 minutes? That’s an up.
Hurting her knee, likely because of months of not running? That’s definitely a down.
Has she complained? Yes.
Has there been cursing? F@#k yes.
Has she quit? No.
Despite doubts about her ability to run that far exceed any annoying skepticism that’s swimming around my subconscious, my wife has never given up. She’s persevered. And when she crosses the finish line in May, it’ll probably feel better than the other eight half marathons she’s run combined. Not physically, of course. Her body will probably feel ridiculously bad. But mentally she’ll be higher than Seth Rogan at a Willie Nelson concert.
So as I run in the coming weeks, if I feel that tug of insecurity in the back of my brain, I’ll be sure to think of the plight of my beautiful wife, remembering how grateful I am to have a healthy, functional hamstring. And as I get older and my body inevitably starts to break down, I can only hope I handle my injuries with as much class and dignity as she has.
You probably won’t. You’ll probably act like a baby. But you will swear a lot.