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Nora Ephron to the Rescue

Woo, Nelly. It’s been a rough patch of running. After a brutal Wednesday, I choked my way through a terrible Friday and an even worse Monday. I have been stopping to walk in the middle of my runs (sometimes for great lengths of time), and every time my legs started to slow, I felt like a failure. “I am not a runner! This is miserable, I’m miserable, why am I doing this?” I have thought very seriously about finishing with the whole endeavor, and never running again. I have never considered myself a runner—why am I allowed to take the title now? Especially after I’ve failed?

Today marked the second day of 28 minutes straight. I’ve been struggling with what to listen to to drown out the mental hurdles of running, and my go-to pop playlists are feeling drab. You can only listen to Britney Spears tell you to “work, bitch” so many times. After a while, Brit’s sage advice doesn’t feel genuine anymore. Sadly, I just don’t believe I will get a Maserati by running, Ms. Spears.

Today I tried something new—an audiobook that wouldn’t make me want to fall asleep (sorry, Margaret Atwood). Today, Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep joined me on my run with Heartburn. And it was mostly a success.

I did stop a few times, but ultimately kept running for almost the entire time. I felt great! I don’t know if I reached a runner’s high, but I certainly didn’t feel ready to be sick. The trade-off? I’ve lost almost 40 seconds on my pace. Even with the occasional walk on Wednesday and Friday, I kept around a 9:55 pace—my best yet. I slowed down dramatically today to around 10:27.

I like running fast, and I liked feeling like I was going somewhere with the fast pace. But I did feel like retching when I got to the finish line. For right now, I guess I can’t quite have speed and distance at the same time. And I think I’m ok with that. Besides, I’ve got a while to work on my pace.

Now, about that 5K to 10K app…

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Achievement Unlocked

When people find out I’m a vegetarian, they often ask why I made the decision. Sometimes, I spout off political and economic reasons, but if I’m being honest, I just thought vegetarians were cool. Most of the vegetarians I knew had a sense of confidence I lacked, thought more about politics (which, barely registered for me), travelled the world, listened intently. I wanted to be all of these things, and I figured being a vegetarian would be the gateway to that.

I did not get any cooler simply by being a vegetarian. And I definitely didn’t get any healthier. I ate fried foods almost exclusively (mozzarella sticks, potato skins, french fries), and didn’t really pay attention to the impact these foods had on my “political reasons” for changing my diet. I was not (and I’m still not) a great vegetarian. Now, it’s just far too complicated for me to try to teach myself how to buy and cook meat. No, becoming a vegetarian was not a life-changing experience I thought it would be.

Instead, vegetarianism taught me less about my health, and more about my stamina. As a kid I never liked challenging myself. I felt embarrassed when I looked like a fool in front of my friends (sports coordination was not my forte), never felt any sense of accomplishment if I failed. Trying didn’t really count as effort if it didn’t succeed, so I just sort of bailed on the whole thing. Until I became a vegetarian. With every month I stayed a vegetarian, the more I felt like I had accomplished something. For the most part, changing my diet was a big deal—getting rid of meat was difficult and complicated. But when I could answer “I’ve been a vegetarian for about a year now” I felt both surprised and elated. I had changed some huge aspect of my life—I had actually changed and stuck with it.

When I started to get healthy, I took the achievements of being a vegetarian as proof that I could do it. And within a year I had lost almost 40 pounds. With the knowledge that I could actually make a change and stick with it, I was able to actually get healthier.

About a month ago I went on a pretty mediocre date. There was nothing wrong with the guy, but there was clearly no real connection—we scrounged for things to talk about, stumbled through back stories. When I got in my car to head home, I felt a sense of failure. What was wrong with me? How was I so boring?

The next day I spent in my TV chair, plowing through episodes of Teen Wolf. I ate poorly, felt like a boring, old sad sack. I let the crappy date explain my entire life up until that point. I was a boring, mediocre person, and I could very easily fail at everything. You’ve had those days, I’m sure. Where everything seems to go wrong, and you just sort of let it.

That night, I vowed that I would try to get more interesting. I would start running the next day. That way, at least I had something to talk about on a date. My hobbies include writing and running. Now I’m interesting.

I took the success of being a vegetarian and was able to bring it to my running. I had changed my diet for five years, I could most certainly run for a minute. Two minutes. Three minutes. Five minutes. Eight minutes.

Today I ran 20 minutes at a 10:10 pace. I am still in shock that it happened—that my legs and my lungs actually survived the whole process. On Wednesday I thought two sets of 8 minutes was rough. But today I ran 20 minutes without stopping. (I can’t stop thinking about high school me, and how she’d just stare with her jaw to the floor if I passed her now.) And how did I do that? By proving to myself, again and again, that I could do these little things that initially felt impossible. Every time I kept running through the full length of time, the more I felt like I could challenge myself to do it again. I could do it. I can do it. I just needed a little bit of a push.

Do you challenge yourself? Have you always tried new things, or is it something you’ve struggled with? How have you learned what you can accomplish?