Friday, December 13, 2013

When Does Running Get Easier?

A reader (who just finished her first 5K) asked me a simple, yet extremely complicated question:

Does running get easier? More enjoyable? Did you like it from the start?”

As you know, I started running five years (age 41) ago when I impulsively signed up to do the Rock ‘n Roll Arizona Marathon with Team in Training (TIT, I mean TNT).

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Up until that point I had been known to hate running. I know hate is not a nice word, but let’s just say running pissed me off. Anytime I had tried to run I thought I had to go balls out and sprint the whole time. Feeling like you want to throw up and can’t breathe for a few miles will make you hate the sport.

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When I started training for the marathon and finally had the guidance of a coach, I realized that most runs (with the exception of speed workouts) were not meant to be done frantically and full speed ahead. Long runs were actually supposed to occur at paces where you could carry on a conversation! Imagine that. Once I started running with this in mind, I actually started to like it.

However, like I told you the other day, running is never easy for me. If I am running long, I start to tire. If I am doing a tempo run, I have to concentrate on holding the pace. And, God forbid, if I am doing intervals, I have to try to just stay up right and not crap myself. Sure, I have runs that feel better than others. But, I can’t say my runs are ever particularly effortless.

What has become easier is the mental part of running. After putting in thousands of miles, I no longer question my ability to go certain distances, or to be able to continue on when I am tired. I have more confidence, and that has made my running easier.

Has running become enjoyable? Hell yes. Sometimes the most enjoyable part of a run is when it is over and I am at home with a big cup of coffee. Sometimes the most enjoyable part of a run is literally feeling my body shedding all of my worries, concerns and stressors as the miles unfold before me. Sometimes the most enjoyable part of a run is that I am forced to stay in the moment and all I can hear is my breathing and my steps on the ground.

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Every single run for me brings joy in one form or another, even if it isn’t easy and I’m miserable. Does that makes sense? In that regard, running is an oxymoron like jumbo shrimp or butt head. A love/hate relationship.

Did I like it from the start? Yes. I fell hard for running after my first marathon. Since then I have done 5 more marathons, about 20 half marathons, relays and countless other races (there might have been an Ironman in there). I will say what I do not like: 5Ks. They simply hurt.

So, now it’s your turn.

Do you think running gets easier and/or more enjoyable?

Did you love running from the start?

SUAR

PS: Heidi wanted me to tell you she had a personal best today. She ran further than she ever has before. 6 miles. She got tired and gassy, just like me, but she loved every minute of it.

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41 comments:

  1. "It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg LeMond (American cyclist from the late 80s). Its definitely been a true statement for me, too!

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  2. Okay, to talk about having runs right after talking about trying not to crap yourself really made me do a double take.

    I always wanted to run, but it was overcoming health issues that got me going. My favorite part is running a little farther/faster/better and shushing that little voice in my head that tries to keep me down. Whenever running gets easier, it gets less enjoyable.

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  3. Yes, running got easier for me. Not all runs feel good, but enough do that I never doubt I love to run. And, as you said, Beth, even the worst runs feel "good" in the sense I feel I've done something worth doing.

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  4. I totally agree. The mental part has gotten worlds easier, even if physically the runs are still difficult or painful at times. And really, the mental part is 90% of the battle anyway!

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  5. I started running later in life as well (just before I turned 39) and until that point, I hated it. There were occasional times - and I mean occasional, as in years apart - when I felt the urge to run for about 10 minutes, but otherwise I never did. Then, when I suddenly and inexplicably decided to start Couch to 5K, I quickly loved it. Not sure what changed, but you framed the joy and challenge of it perfectly. Also, yay Heidi! My big boxer can run for about 25 minutes before he poops out. Big lug.

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  6. Congrats Heidi! I hated running when I was younger. Same reason as you -- I didn't know how to pace myself. Once I figured that out, I grew to love it! It can be heart-pounding, it can be meditative, it can be almost like dancing. There's just something about it. And no matter how the run went, I ALWAYS feel good when it's over. Check off the box and enter the miles in the training log. Done.

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  7. I didn't love running at first, but like you said I didn't get the mental part. Now that I have that down it's still hard - I think running will always be hard but I know what it takes and I know I HAVE what it takes!

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  8. I completely 100% agree with what you said. I hated running for most of my life because I thought running and sprinting were pretty synonymous. I didn't know about the conversational pace you mentioned at all! That really changed the game for me. Although, if you're as out of shape as I was when I started, there was no such thing as a comfortable pace - so in that sense I would say it definitely gets easier because you finally build up enough endurance to have a comfortable pace.

    I also agree that long runs are still so hard. For me anything over 9 miles and I really have to concentrate on my mantras, but these days I have the confidence that I will make it through which definitely makes it "easier" from a mental aspect.

    The further you progress in running the more "fun" the hard parts become though. Or at least that is true for me. Doing speed work is hard and it hurts but it's also kind of fun, right? I mean in the end you're like I'm a badass MFer.

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  9. I used to hate running when I was younger. But in my late 20s, I started having panic attacks. Drinking alcohol to excess wasn't working for me, and wanting to avoid medications, I began working out and eventually running. As it turns out, running became something I loved and craved. Running got me through infertility and 2 successful IVF cycles; it was there after I gave birth to both my sons; after my hysterectomy. Running hasn't always been easy for me, but I enjoy pushing my body to its limits. What I'm enjoying now is the endurance that age brings (I knew there was an advantage to getting older) and of course the fringe benefit of being able to eat like a 16 year old boy.

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  10. You are ever so right about 5Ks. Those races are for masochists. For me, the half-marathon has always been the perfect racing distance. Long enough to require serious training but short enough to take a true measure of your fitness.

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  11. I started running 2 years ago when I turned 40. The only time I ever ran before that was 8th grade track. I am not so sure it gets easier but I agree about the confidence that comes with running. Distances up to half marathon distance don't scare me anymore. I am not sure I exactly love running while I am doing it but I certainly like the sense of accomplishment that comes with it.

    Go Heidi! I tried running with my dog (he's a mutt that looks like a mostly black golden retriever) but I could never get him to match my pace.

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    1. I forgot to say that I like 5K's - I think they are fun!

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  12. You always hit the nail on the head. When I first started running I had hard days, easy days, great days, so so days but I fell in love with running from the start. Fast forward many years and I still love running and I also still have hard days, easy days, great days, so so days, etc. As everyone said, what gets easier is the mental part because you are not only training your body, but you are also training your mind and as the body gets stronger, so too does the mind.

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  13. I got faster, but running got harder. Weird.

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  14. In the middle of my 4th 5k, I had the epiphany that racing kind of sucks and it will never get any easier in a race if you are pushing yourself.

    That said, I've had a few races when it sucked less and lots of training runs that I felt like the happiest person in the world.

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  15. For me, the physical piece of running hasn't and doesn't get easier... and I don't want it to, it's a challenge for my body that I KNOW has so many benefits for my overall health. Now, with that being said, I do think that the mental part has gotten SO much easier for me. When I first started a mile felt like a marathon and now a marathon just feels like a marathon ;). I enjoy going out for a run and will sometimes have 6-8 miles click away before I realize what I had just done.... when I first started I would have wanted to punch someone like me in the face for saying that.

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  16. Heidi is looking great! For me running has gotten easier and I enjoy it most of the time. When I first started I couldn't "jog" from one light pole to the next without thinking I was going to die. Now I can run 3.5 without stopping. My pace is slow but I am making great improvement in my overall health and fitness.

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  17. Hello, me again! Long time no see and all. Been busy. How are you coming with your post-IM letdown?
    For years and years (and years and years) I thought any running beyond catching the bus was evidence of insanity. For a number of years I worked in an office that both had many runners, and served a hot lunch. The runners would fill their plates and set them aside, then go for a run. They had worked out a system to get through the showers in an orderly way, and we never scheduled big meetings for right after lunch. Any random lunch would have several different runs happening depending on training plans or moods. I laughed at these people several times, especially when it was really cold, or really hot out.

    I have since come to love running, and have tracked down a number of these people to apologize to them. My body is not so sure it loves running, some days, usually the day after a run. This recovery thing gets harder as you get older. Which, dear SUAR, you may discover in a decade or two. Or three.

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  18. You nailed it. I loved running from the start but there is nothing easy about it. It gets different, not easy.

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  19. Running gets easier, racing doesn't. You become a better runner and push yourself harder. Before I seriously started running I hated it. Now I can't live without it. :-)

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  20. Oh, yes, 5ks are cruel. I hate doing them, but nevertheless I want to run that distance hard once in a while. Sylvester run is next, 5,6km, meh..... Hurts so good.
    I wish I could say, that running gets easy. Why do I love it so much?
    Happy running, guys!
    Gabrielle, AUT

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  21. Does running get easier? Um, okay. I have been a runner for a little over 8 months and have grown to love running and training for races. However, now since my running has dwindle to non existence I am fearful of starting back running.

    Yesterday I was in the mood to see if Illinois race schedule was available and then I saw it...the challenge, a 10 miler finishing on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field. The longest race I have run was a 10k and I signed up for the Chicago half in September so surely a 10 mile should be on my to do list. Immediately after I told myself that I want to run this race doubt kicked in with a vengeance. "You can't run for 10 damn miles, who will run with you, you are going to waste your entry fee...you are not a runner...." I was becoming so overwhelmed with my own thoughts and fears that I had a mini panic attack! Suar, reading your blog entry and the other comments made me realize I can do it!! I may not be in the best physical shape, not a fast runner at all, and am not a shame to walk if needed but one then that is true about me is that I don't waste money. If I am going to pay $70 freaking dollars I am going to finish...even if I have to crawl and run alone.

    So back to the original question, does running get easier? No, not really. But, I take the knowledge knowing that I can run over the easiness of the run any day.

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    1. Good for you, Gloria. I felt the same way when I signed up for a race that I didn't think I could do. k I walked when I needed to, and when it was done, I felt great because I had accomplished something I wasn't sure I could do.
      Running doesn't get easier but you feel better doing it.

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  22. I've been running a couple of years and I don't feel running is any easier - but running faster is easier! Yesterday I was checking out my records for the year and my average pace is about 45 secs/km faster, a trend I hope continues!
    Although I enjoyed it from day 1, running longer distances has made it even more enjoyable. The further you can run, the more options there are where to run, and more places to explore and discover - fun!

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  23. I was 30 pounds overweight when I started running, so I definitely didn't love it from the start! But it paid off and dropping the extra pounds made running a lot easier. There are some days when running definitely isn't easy - hello 1200' of climbing in 4 miles, but it is still enjoyable! There really is something to that runner's high.

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  24. Is Heidi on the living room couch? I don't think I have even ever sat on that.

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    1. Yes she is. Don't tell Ken. You might not want to sit on it now because it is hairy.

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  25. I started running at age 42. I had started cross country skiing in the winter, and going to the gym running on the elliptical for an hour. I figured running would be easy if I can do an hour of cardio.. It's not the same. Pavement running is a lot harder. I signed up per a friend to run a 5K race.. I did it in 24 minutes and was hooked.. I wanted to keep running.. and I did. It just felt good to be able to do something that seemed so hard.. it is hard some days but I never regret running. It's kept 50 pounds off so I guess I'm going to run till the day I can't!

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  26. I agree - I used to HATE running, and now I love it! It is still hard, but easy at the same time - does that make sense? :)
    Congrats, Heidi!

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  27. I enjoyed running from the start. I got into running 5 years ago after my third baby. I just went out and ran. It wasn't easy and my body wasn't happy. After a short time, I decided to run a 5k. After that one race, I decided to do a 10k and then shortly after that I did my first half marathon. Today I have completed 2 full marathons and 9 half marathons. It gets easier. There are bad runs and good runs. Then there are those runs that feel great and you can't believe how far you have gone. I enjoy running and it is easier now than it was in the beginning, even on hard days.

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  28. You are the COOLEST blogger. So down to earth, so funny, and such a refreshing read. It's nice to know that I am not alone in thinking running is hard but it is so worth it!!

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  29. I did enjoy running, once I got the hang of it and realized I am not a fast runner, but I am a consistent, steady runner. The best part of my run is in the middle of the run when you settle into your pace and know you're going to make it through another great run -- without having to frantically look for some random porta-pottie!

    Plus, thanks for running with Heidi. She's adorable and my motto is a tired dog is a happy dog!

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  30. Like you, I don't find running easy, but so, so good for me mentally and physically! The most difficult part for me lately is not letting running run me. I just wrote about my love affair with running here:

    http://motheringandotherthings.blogspot.com/

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  31. It doesn't really get all that much easier, but it does become easier to keep on going! Because experience has taught me it's worth it.

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  32. Interestingly I don't think it has ever become easier for me....but obviously 10 years later and calling myself a passionate runner it's enjoyable :) I love the feeling, the quiet, the time outside

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  33. A couple of answers to that question -
    It's never easy
    But
    Gets easier/enjoyable usually around mile 4.

    When I first started running, I hated it. It was so hard! I LIKE breathing! But in the last year, as I've become more dedicated to bettering myself as a runner (maybe as a person too... a little), I find myself enjoying it, loving the community and the lessons it teaches me.

    However, that doesn't mean there are some days and/or certain moments where I hate its face, running. But those moments are fleeing :D

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  34. I don't think running ever gets any easier. When you feel it get easier, you usually add more distance or more speed to your goals. It's something you'll never stop trying to reach for, but like you said with all that work comes a lot of enjoyment. It's hard to explain to non-runners, but once someone starts running (without going balls to the wall every time) they understand the whole feeling of really loving running.

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  35. Some days running feels easy and some days it feels like the most horrible torture. But, you're right about the mental aspect getting better. I think runners wouldn't be runners if it were easy because the challenge is a huge part of the draw.

    Oh, and congrats on the distance PR, Heidi!

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  36. I used to hate running, because it's hard. I am not a "natural" runner (like my husband is - jerk). Running is always hard work for me, but I love it now (even though I'm still injured and having run for quite a while). Probably has to do with the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of a run, but also the feel getting into a rhythm and letting my mind focus on the run rather than everything else going on in my life.

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  37. In order to make your runs better and better your body should be able to perform its best. I have found a way to keep good shape without overtraining and without exhausting my body. Right nutrition is one of the key factors. Still, sometimes everyday meals can not provide all necessary nutrients. That is why I am taking nutritional supplements. As I am strongly opposed to all kinds of chemicals, I was looking for the natural supplement, consisting basically of vitamins. And I have found the one - Second Wind by Military Grade. This is new vegetarian post-workout supplement which increases muscles longevity and keeps me toned. It helps muscles to recover quickly and reduces the soreness. Now I always feel prepared for my best runs.

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