It was an awful week on the mental health front. My anxiety has been in over drive and depression was as thick as the muggy air. It took nearly everything I had to get out the door and run each day, and then I had to figure out how to summon up the will to keep going. Every step came with an internal argument to cut it short, quit. I spent the week going back and forth about giving up marathons. I felt like an imposter – not a real runner – and I couldn’t find the joy or reason behind it. I longed to just curl up in a dark room and not do anything, think anything, be anything.
But that’s not how marathoning works. Giving up will never get you to the finish. And, like a wave, I knew that the depression, while intrusive and destructive, would slip back into the vastness and let me be. I just had to wait. I just had to keep my head above water. Keep running.
On Monday I attempted a threshold run. The first serious workout. I should have been hitting 6:45 paces, but I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t. I felt like I was all out sprinting, but not even hitting marathon pace. Frustration wasn’t helping. 7:15, 7:39, 6:54. I was all over the place. I wasn’t fast enough. I tried to shake it off, but the rest of the day I was gloomy about it. I took Tuesday off, but remained in the dumps. I had a similar struggle on Wednesday when I went to the track. I needed to push out ten 400 meter repeats. The workout called for threshold pace (6:45/mile or 1:40 400s) with 30 second recoveries, but I knew right away that that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I decided to just jog 100 meters after each rep and then go straight into the next one. This gave me more recovery time, and a chance to run faster splits, which I did. It shouldn’t have been hard – I’ve done this workout plenty of times. While I did hit the splits nearly perfect, I felt like I had to reach for each and every one. And every recovery jog became a chance for my brain to debate why I should call it a day.
It seemed that no matter what I ran and no matter how I ran it, I just wasn’t happy about it. None of it was good enough. None of it was fun. I didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t care. I felt self conscious about running – all those cars passing me on the street had to be snickering at me. All those people walking their dogs had to be laughing at me. People were surely standing behind curtains in all the houses I ran by, shaking their heads at my inadequate efforts. Of course I knew none of this was true, but depression and anxiety is rarely logical. And that’s why it hurts so much. Your brain knows it’s not real, yet your brain insists that it all is.
I finally had a break through on Saturday. That was my Long Run day, but the training plan only called for a 90 minute easy run. I was torn. This didn’t feel like enough. I felt that I should try to put out more distance, but at the same time really wanted to trust my plan. I met up with a friend who ran with me for the first part and we ran fast. We were damn near race pace, but it was easy and I was still able to hold a conversation. I wasn’t struggling. I wasn’t angry or frustrated. It was a miracle. She had family engagements and turned back, and I decided to keep going with the pace and make it a workout. I turned my 90 min easy run into a 2×3 mile progression. It was fucking fantastic. 7:47, 7:45, 7:21 followed by an easy one mile break, then 7:00, 7:00, 6:52. I felt strong. I felt powerful. I felt like a marathoning beast. Best of all, I felt like I could keep going forever. And I didn’t hate it.
Monday: A tempo that didn’t quite happen. 1.5 easy, 3 threshold, 1.5 easy. 6 miles
Tuesday: Rest in the solitude of a dark bedroom.
Wednesday: 10x400m 2 mile warm up, 3.6 of struggling intervals, 3 mile cool down.
Thursday: 3.2 super slow miles. Picture a toddler stomping her feet – that was me.
Friday: Structured fartlek – 10 mins easy, hard effort for one minute followed by three mins easy for 30 mins, 10 mins easy cool down. 6 miles.
Saturday: Long run turned workout – 1.3 warm up, 3 miles race pace, 1 mile easy, 3 miles race pace, 2 mile cool down. Redemption!
Sunday: 5 mile recovery run.
Week Two: 39.1 miles, 5 hours 30 minutes of running, overall 8:26 pace.