Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Intro to Running: Plan, Learn From Your Runs

The third post in my Intro to Running series.

About a year ago, I went through one of my most humbling experiences as a runner. I don't know for sure when it was - my blog was in its first month of a three-month slumber - but I do remember that it was in July, a Saturday in July.

Since I didn't blog about it then, I'll blog about it now, to kind of help new and potential runners understand that bad runs will happen but are a part of your running evolution. After all, it's July and the same thing could easily happen now, except that I learned from my experience.

At the time, I had not run more than eight miles. I think seven-point-something was the most I'd run. So I felt a bit confident in my ability to run. Instead of setting out on my jaunt around 8 or 9 a.m., I didn't get going until 11:30. For some reason, the morning had gotten away from me.

But that wasn't a hindrance at first. The day was not hot, not like the weather we've been having now. There were still clouds in the sky and I was feeling fine. I got to around two miles when I got to a point where I should either zig or zag. Zig meant go back home, and finish with about a 4-mile run. Zag meant heading the other way, taking a big loop and getting close to a 7-mile run.

I zagged. Big mistake.

I was probably in mile three when I realized I was running out of steam quicker than normal. I still felt like I could go through it but by the time I got to a street that was really far out of the way, I knew that I was in trouble. I had no choice at that point though but to keep pushing forward. I didn't know how much I had in me, but I knew finishing the run was going to be impossible.

I checked my mileage later and I was around 4.85 when I finally stopped running. I was gassed, the sun had come out and was beating down on me and I just couldn't run any longer. I walked for a few minutes, crossed another street and kept walking. I mustered up enough energy to set off on a run again but that lasted about a minute before I finally quit for good. I probably walked about a mile and a half, maybe two, after that to get home.

The run-walk had taken quite a long time and Mrs. LB had been worried. She was waiting for me out on the lawn and was relieved when I finally got home, about an hour and 45 minutes after I originally set out on my run. I was embarrassed for having thought that I could just, on a whim, run seven miles.

But that was a learning experience. I started to plan longer runs like that instead of just setting out on them at the spur of the moment. Also, I figured running through the lunch hour was not a great idea. For me, the earlier the better. And if I can get out on a run before 9, I'll do what I can to do so.

Running takes time and preparation. You have to plan out runs, not just because of the weather but so you can adequately fuel your body beforehand. I like to have an energy bar about an hour before I run because that gives me the best fuel for a run. Sometimes if I don't have an hour I'll eat a piece of fruit or a bagel or something, but I don't just pick up and go without having planned for a run first.

If you're just starting out and have not run more than 2-3 miles and then feel like running 5, it's good to plan for that instead of deciding during mile 2 that you are up for another three only realize that you didn't have it in you that day.

I'm headed to the gym now for an interval session, and I've already gotten my energy bar - plus several glasses of water - in. I'm amped up for it because I've been planning it since Monday (haven't run since Sunday, starting to feel sluggish) and I'm excited for it.

Planning also helps you build anticipation for a run and helps you prepare mentally for it. I'm preparing for The Interval but if I get to the gym and tell myself that I have to run 6-7 miles, I won't have adequately prepared for it mentally and it may not be a great run.

1 comment:

5thsister said...

Wonderful advice. Even for those of us who have been running for awhile. I have found that I have stagnated in my distance but feel that is because it is difficult for me to run in the heat and humidity of summer. If I am out before 7am, I usually do okay on my normal normal distance runs. Any later than that and I know I'll have difficulty. Thanks for another great post!