“If one could run without getting tired, I don’t think one would often want to do anything else” -C.S. Lewis

Ah, you’ve felt this way, too, haven’t you? The road stretches out before you, a warm breeze (at your back, of course) and comfortable temps propel you into a state of near-euphoria as your feet rhythmically hit the pavement. You’re in the zone. And you could keep going and going … and going.

Not-so-lucky number...

I stumbled across this quote from the great C.S. Lewis (thank you, ultrarunnergirl) and immediately nodded in appreciation while reading it. Just as quickly, though, I thought about how so very far I was from feeling this way this past Saturday during the Cherry Fest 15k. One word: Ouch. OK, here’s a few more:

Icky. Stupid hot. Ridiculously draining. Depleting. Draining. Discouraging.

Boy, that’s not depressing or anything, is it?

Forgive me, for I experienced a first (and surely not my last, I suppose) in my running adventures: a bad, bad race.

Maybe I jinxed it with my cheeseburger post – bad running karma? Or maybe I really should have taken the advice of friends and practiced (Mt.) McKinley “lots.” (McKinley is a steep stretch of road about 4 1/2 miles into this course that pretty much makes or breaks you.) But I’d run the course in the past with my running group, and I figured I’d be OK come race day since I regularly run hills in my neighborhood. They don’t call it Holiday Hills for nothing.

Maybe I simply had an off race. We all have ’em, right?

I won’t give you the brutal play-by-play, but suffice it to say, the 70+-degree heat plus the did-this-hill-grow-lately? section of the route kicked my butt. I went into the race knowing I likely wasn’t going to run my fastest. I knew the warmer weather and hilly portion would slow me some. I also just wanted to enjoy this race being that it was my first time running this particular distance. It was a beautiful northern Michigan day.

But even a few miles in, I could tell my body wasn’t feeling it. My mental toughness, it seemed too, wasn’t where it should be. I found myself glancing at East Grand Traverse Bay wistfully, wishing I could go swimming rather than finish this $^%&$ race. Um, that’s not good less than a quarter of the way in.

I never was so happy to have finished a race, and at least the final mile is filled with cheers from the people lining Traverse City’s downtown streets for a huge festival parade later in the morning. Friends shouted my name as I somehow powered through the final three city blocks, and hearing the clapping and encouragement did help. I could feel the adrenalin kick in knowing my husband and kids would be in that final block just before the finish line — a finish line I could see, thank goodness. Finish time: 1:24:15.

So instead of bemoaning this race completely, I’d like to share a few positives, both on race day and in the days following:

* Family: Along with seeing my kids’ beaming faces and hearing my husband’s cheers as I neared the finish line, I was able to hug my mom and sister. Having them there meant a lot, and it was my sister’s first time seeing me cross a finish line since she lives in Chicago.

* Friends: Several with whom I’ve shared my disappointment boosted my spirits — thank you Matt C. and Heather E.! — by simply listening, offering encouragement — and reminding me that This. Was. Just. One. Race. This doesn’t define you as a runner, more than one person told me. Another friend looked at me incredulously when I mentioned it wasn’t my best race and said, “But you did it. You finished! And you started it, which is more than I could ever do!”

* Time-out: I gave running a break, just for a few days, and instead spent time just being — at the beach with my kids, working on a (non-running) article and getting a much-needed and, might I say, fabulous haircut and color. Never underestimate the power of a little beauty therapy.

Worth stopping for ~ sunset over East Grand Traverse Bay

* A good run: It was late, about 9 p.m., but I headed out on a favorite route last night. It felt good — I even felt strong enough to challenge myself to a bit of a tempo run — and I was given a gift midway through: a beautifully painted sky as the sun set on the bay.

Ever have a not-so-great race? What happened, and how did you get over the disappointment?

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5 Responses to “Run like the wind…or not”

  1. Listen Up Michigan Runner Girl:

    Running like life is full of good and bad days. Let’s see if I can drill back into my data banks (almost forty and have been running since I could walk) to recall a bad run….

    Yep, there it is. The Reads Lake Run in Grand Rapids. I was a rockin’ 19 years old and had trained like a madwoman with all of my friends at work. Too bad I had no previous experience running miles (I was always a sprinter – the longest race being the mile relay or 400 yd dash) and no one told me that wicking clothing was the way to go.

    Not me. I opted for a new outfit thinking “who cares if these shorts are in the volleyball section…they’re short, blue with a neon orange Quicksilver logo on the back side, what could be cooler?

    Not my thighs at the end of the race because they were so chafed from running in shorts made for volleyballers I wanted to scream, cry and kick myself all at the same time.

    Thus the lesson in not sacrificing for fashion. It was a lesson quickly learned and I am happy to say I haven’t repeated this same mistakes. Others, yes. But for me, chafed thighs (unless they’re on skewers and cooked over an open flame) are a thing of the past.

    • Ah, thigh chafing…been there, it’s awful. I also remember wearing non-wicking shirts early on and then being so amazed at what a difference it made when I finally started wearing the good stuff. Smelled much better, too, I’m sure.

      It’s so great now that there are so many options in clothing — functional and fashionable. Who knows, I just might convince you to wear a running skirt one of these days, J. ;)

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