A Novice Runner Explains Himself

We ordered Chinese food for dinner this evening.

The menu that came stapled to the bag said “Make sure order correct.  When driver leave, no refund.”

Thank you for that.  Glad I made sure my order was correct.

And like the following story, something must have been lost in translation.

Earlier today I ran.  Nothing spectacular about that.  I’ve been running for a few months.  We have a friend in town who happens to be a runner.  Here’s the thing.  He’s a runner like my trainer is a runner.  The both of them routinely post a pace of 7:30-ish min./mi.  What that means, to the unfamiliar, is that their average running covers one mile ever 7 and a half minutes.  They’ve both “complained” in the past within my hearing that they wish they could go faster and they really have to train harder for that to happen.

My pace, you ask?  I started running for the first time ever about seven months ago.  My pace was non-existent.  I couldn’t run more than a minute (if that) without stopping for a walk.  That kind of nullifies any pace off the bat.  But by the time I ran my one and only 5K in early December, my pace was around 8:50-9:00 (at least for the first mile to mile and a half).  I was happy.  Then I took a month and a half off.  Now it’s like I’ve started from square one even though I’ve been back at it for a month.

I’ve been so frustrated because I’m impatient.  But it’s not just that.  I’m the kind of guy who likes data.  I like to have personal experience (my own or that of others) to go by.  I find it helps tremendously to know what other people before me have gone through so I have some kind of guide.  Plus, I like to know what to expect.

At the same time I feel like I haven’t been explaining myself very well.

In the past my trainer has almost angrily told me not to compare myself with him, that I need to take stock of the fact that I couldn’t run before and now I can and not to worry about it.  OK, I can see that.

Today, my friend seemed modestly shocked that I apologized to him after our run for making him demean himself by running at my pace.  Look, I ran my best today and we covered three miles but I was a wreck afterward and he was still pretty fresh, not a drop of sweat.  I could not breathe.  It cannot be easy to go that slowly when you’re normally much faster and I truly appreciated it.  Did I mention that this was his fourth 3-mile run in four days?

So here’s what I’m trying to say them.

I know every person is different.  I know I’ll find my own stride, no pun intended.  I get that I am not you and you are not me.  What I’m looking for is someone who’s done this before, anyone, to tell me a few things.  First, was it ever hard for you too?  Did you feel in your first few months of running like you just couldn’t do it?  Get discouraged like I do?  And when did the breakthrough occur?  How did you go from running 10 minute miles to 7 and a half?  How long did that take?  If I keep doing what I’m doing (three runs a week) and keep pushing myself can I hope to see a better time in three months?  Six?

But I don’t want to hear “You’ll get better when you get better.”

And I feel like even my magnificent trainer who’s done a lot to help me get started and tries his best to motivate me from time to time maybe doesn’t get my frustration with myself.  I’ve said it before, but I really believe he’s some kind of super-human.  I asked him one time about how he got into running.  I hoped he would share a similar story to mine.  I thought he’d say something about how it was hard for him and he struggled for over a year to get to a good pace.  What he said, however, was that it was really tough for him… The first time he ran, he ran three miles and it was hard.  But he stuck with it and did a half-marathon within four months.  Great.  The first time I ran I barely made it a quarter-mile and completed a 5K within four months at an embarrassing time.

I promise I’m not complaining.  Honestly, I’m happy that I can run.  I couldn’t do this before.  I am happy.  And I am noticing some physical results too.  Seems that my waist is getting a bit smaller.  That’s good news because I can see that inside a month and it motivates me to keep at it.  But I’d love to know that I’m not completely alone in this, that I’m not a runner to be pitied.  Then again maybe I need to find some runner-friends who are just normal guys like me.  Still, I want to know I’m going to succeed at this eventually and maybe to have a clue as to when that eventually will be.  If someone said to me “Honestly, you’re not going to do much better,” I’d be cool with that because I’d at least know that I hit my personal best.

I just don’t think I have yet…

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3 responses to “A Novice Runner Explains Himself

  1. To whom it may concern. You’re being too hard on yourself. Running is not easy at all. Every time you skip a run, it sets you back even further. Running requires a lot of dedication (and that’s what makes it hard). Not the running itself.

    As for me, I officially started running in 1999. I ran my first marathon in record time. Oh, no I didn’t. You can see here: https://www.athlinks.com/Events/193240/Courses/0/?search=josh%20atkin. It took me 5 hours and 33 minutes. So we do the math, 5 hours is really 300 minutes, so 333 minutes total, with 26 miles. 333/26=12.8 min/mile. I had many injuries on my way through to the marathon and it wasn’t about time, but completion, which I did do. It wasn’t great, but I did it.

    Everyone is fighting or has fought the same battle as you. You aren’t alone. The ones who persevere are those who stay driven, focus and dedicated. If you cannot do that then you won’t see the gains you expect. You did mention that you felt like you were bringing down your coach to run at your speed, so maybe find a group of people that run similar speeds as you. Then as you progress, you move to a different group and so forth. No rule says you have to run as fast as your coach. Your goal should be to what you set it to be. Is it weight? Stress relief? Better shape? As long as you have a target in mind, that will keep you focused. With the right people supporting you, they can give that extra push.

    So to summarize:

    – We’ve all been there, you aren’t alone. Chin up and stay focused and be positive.
    – If you want to find someone (or group) in the same boat as you today, I think that would be great to help support each other.
    – Set a goal and a “potential” plan to hit that goal. A race would be a good deadline. Find one that you would like. I find flat or downhill races are the best 🙂
    – Stay consistent with your schedule. If you cannot for some reason, then don’t let that bother you, but don’t expect to hit your goal if you cannot fulfill what’s needed

    Lastly, remind yourself that this is good. You are questioning what it takes and you are setting demands on yourself. That means you have the passion. The spark is there, so light it up!

  2. Don’t worry about the pace and let others worry if they want too. Of course we would all like to go faster but however much we train, we aren’t all designed to do 7min miles, I could probably scrape a couple but really I’m comfortable at 8:30s and could run a full marathon at that pace. So push yourself but first and foremost enjoy it

  3. I can also eat a 12inch Hawaiian pizza in 2mins but I don’t judge people by that measure!

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