Monday, November 19, 2012

Running and Life

Thanksgiving is early this year. I know, I know - it's always on the fourth Thursday of November, and this year is no exception. It faithfully and predictably is on the fourth Thursday, as promised. But November got an early start, catching us all by surprise, it seems. The retailers are thrilled to death - black death - as it gets them an early jump on their season of Scrooge. That's fodder for another post.

This one is about Thursday dawn. Specifically, what I will be doing in the morning of Thanksgiving before sitting down to a good meal and counting my blessings in the form of much tasty food, I will be huffing, puffing and sweating (no, not blowing anyone's house down) in Burbank's 3rd annual Turkey Trot.

I'm not ready. I never am. I would be if I were doing just the 5K, but I wanted to challenge myself again, so I signed up for the 10K. that's 6.2 miles, for any of you keeping score at home. The 5K is a no-brainer for me - I do that on a regular basis in the mornings. Six miles just downright scares me. The only time I've ever run that much at a time was one year ago - at the second annual Turkey Trot.

I have, however, prepared better for it this year than I did last year. A few weeks ago I started doing my own interval training on my runs. I have a great little app on my phone called RunKeeper. I customized a workout on it with the goal of getting to a 10-minute mile for three miles. I have it set so that I'll run two minutes fast, with a one or two-minute recovery thrown in, along with some walking rests and steady paces. I had my three-mile route in mind when I did it, and tried to gauge where I wanted to be on the route as I was programming each minute of my workout.

The first time I did it I thought I was crazy. "Who programmed this thing?" I huffed angrily to myself, despairing that I would finish my run in one piece, let alone at my goal pace.

The next time I did it, I actually was able to make it through the running distances for the amount of time I had set the goal for, and needed less walking recoveries.

As time went on, I kept a steady pace through the walking recoveries, and only needed to do one walking recovery for one minute during the entire three miles.

It got to the point that on Wednesdays and Fridays when I went with Amy, I started thinking she wasn't feeling well. It finally occurred to me that she was feeling just fine, but I was the one improving to the point where I didn't need to keep such a slow pace anymore.

Last week I hit my goal of 10 minutes per mile for three+ miles. And I did it twice! Either something was wrong with the app or I hit my goal. I don't know if I'll be able to sustain that pace for the full six miles, but it doesn't matter. I did it for three, and that's what I had been aiming for.

Here's my latest life/running analogy. Just as I didn't like the plan that had been laid out for me ahead of time - a plan designed to help me grow and improve - we don't always like what we've been given in life. We've all had a plan laid out for us. We were probably even involved in that planning a little bit - but of course we don't remember that now. At the time, it probably seemed like that plan and those goals were a good idea. "I can do that," we thought confidently. "Yeah, it'll be a challenge, but it's totally doable. And I can only learn through challenges, right?" Then you get here to your life and start wondering who the heck made up this crazy plan for you? "Growth?" you think, sometimes disgustedly, sometimes ironically. "I don't want anymore. STOP!"

But just as my RunKeeper app didn't stop encouraging me along my route, and it didn't stop mapping my progress just because I hurt and was uncomfortable, we don't get to stop our life's route. And also, just as I wasn't completely successful my first time out on the route, that's okay. You just ... keep going. As trite and simple as that sounds, you just go on.

The finish line may not appear as soon as we like, and it may look different than we thought, and the route to get there may change along the way. But get there you will.

Just keep going.

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