Last night’s run wasn’t one I’d want to do again. In fact, in my eight years of running it was one of the least enjoyable I’ve ever had.
Now, I didn’t injure myself; the legs were fine throughout. There were no unpleasant incidents or accidents. I even managed to stick with my target pace and time, and so in my running diary it’s noted as a job well done.
And yet. For some reason, I felt agitated and edgy during the whole run. Right from the start I could feel my heart racing, my nervous system crackling like static. I tore off much too quickly in the first mile, but I hardly felt a thing. It was as if my legs were blindly obeying the malfunctioning commands of my brain and neurons.
Around the streets of my neighbourhood as my run progressed, I felt an abstract and cloudy anxiety. I was aware that I wasn’t thinking or perceiving clearly, and I had to force myself to remember the risk of tearing across some quiet junction or around a blind corner. Cars seemed closer to the pavement than normal as they drove past; their headlights alarmed me a little.
All the while my legs were turning over, lifting my feet almost automatically. By now I’m experienced enough to keep my running action going through difficult times. Fortunately my target pace wasn’t too fast, so in reality I wasn’t in danger of losing control or colliding with anything. Only in my head and nervous system did the whole thing feel frantic.
Anyway, I got home in one piece. Once I had finished my scheduled distance and pace, I slowed into my warm-down shuffle – but my nerves were still jangling. Eventually I managed to relax.
What could have caused me to go haywire like that? Work was fine, with no stress. I didn’t have extra coffee yesterday, nor any fizzy sweets. There are road works along the start of my route, which in turn is increasing the traffic and causing some drivers to boil over with frustration, but that’d been the case for the last week and it hasn’t bothered me before.
Perhaps my pre-run adrenalin got misguided or overcooked. Or could I have felt pressure from having a prescribed running plan and target pace to meet?
I feel fine now. After my run I made sure to get into my comfortable and reassuring post-run routine. So, I stretched and showered, had some pasta with salmon for dinner and followed it with some fruit tea and four fig rolls, and listened to my current favourite post-run album, “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles. (The second half of that album is almost perfect.)
A bad run can be a positive experience, especially if you’re training for a marathon. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, you’re going to feel bad somewhere around miles 20 to 25. It’s a fact, and a great deal of marathon training is about learning how to manage the bad times in your head and your legs. You don’t have to like it; you only have to deal with it.
So, whenever I find the going is hard during a training run – a rare occurence, thankfully – I think to myself that this is how it will feel at the business end of the marathon, and that if I can put up with this then on the big day I’ll be grand. (Marathon running teaches you to be relentlessly positive even while feeling like a water buffalo has sat on you.)
It works – even though I’ve faded near the end of my recent marathons, I’ve always managed to keep my mind ticking over without undue suffering.
A hard day’s night, indeed. But I’d prefer to dwell on the closing track, “I’ll Be Back”: