Some Days Are Better Than Others: A Running Recap

Some days are better than others.

This is a thing that I know to be true, but really experiencing it--and letting myself believe it--has proved something else entirely. A recent run was a much-needed reminder that some days are, in fact, better than others. And that's not such a bad thing.

I set out for a long trail run on a gorgeous morning, planning for 11 miles. I'm training for a half in May, and this was one of my longest runs in my training plan, so it meant a lot not only physically, but mentally: if I can do this, I told myself, I can do the race.

But less than a mile into my run, my legs felt like lead. My feet felt like bruises. My calves felt like fire. My quads felt like jello. I hadn't even hit the hills yet.

I couldn't figure out what was happening: Was I dehydrated? (Probably.) Not well-fueled? (Definitely.) Overheating on the first truly warm day of the year? (Yep.) Tired from several days of travel? (Absolutely.)

I ignored all of the warning signs my body was sending me and decided to push on ahead, determined not to let a little thing like exhaustion get in the way of my training plan.  Who cares that I'd walked over 11 miles just a few days before? That wasn't running. And I have a race to run, and needed to prove to myself that I could do it.

What I actually proved to myself was that I was wrong to try for so much, knowing how I felt. I wound up walking up every hill I encountered, and was so tired that I struggled to keep my footing on downhills. I sucked down my first water bottle within 15 minutes. It's frankly a miracle I didn't break an ankle in the first two miles of pushing myself too hard.

But then, round about mile 2, something magic happened: I stopped pushing myself.

I walked up the hills, and I trotted slowly down the downhills. I stopped to take pictures. I enjoyed the sunshine. I ate an applesauce pouch. I had some water. I watched the baby cows run in a group.

I ran slowly, carelessly, ignoring my pace and my distance and my goals and everything except the promise of spring in the air. It sounds cliche, I know, but even though I cut my run short by seven miles--SEVEN MILES--what started as one of the worst runs of my training cycle, physically, ended as one of the best, mentally.

Apparently there's something into this "listen to your body" thing. Apparently there's something behind the "lean in to what holds you back" mantra. Apparently there are lessons to be learned from the bad days, as well as the good.

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