Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Running on your own time

Firstly, congratulations to all the Team Asha runners who ran the IBM 10K this past weekend! And kudos to those runners for whom this was their first race! Now you know the feel of the rush of blood at the sound of the gun, feeling emotional from the cheering squads by your side through the race and the thrill of running through the finish line!

And more than ever, you might find yourself feeling a bit overwhelmed by people discussing splits, timing, the time on your last one mile etc. And this is from me, a slow runner also still very new to running, to you, other new runners - that's not the important part about running at all. Yes, timing is important and yes, you need to work towards building speed. But always remember, you are your own runner. Everybody runs for a different reason and everyone runs at a different pace. Some people have been running all their lives and they're naturally good at it, others have just started out and they're also naturally fast. But there are scores of people who start slow and build even slowly. And for those, the message is, be patient with yourself.

There are two really important things I learned when I trained for my first half marathon last year with Team Asha.

1) It's your race - never let anything or anyone take that joy away from you.

2) On a long race, especially when it's 13 miles or more, you can never start slow enough.

To me the most important message has always been that running is a personal thing. It doesn't matter how fast anyone else runs or at the end of the day, the timing, pace, mileage - they are all numbers. What is important, is that when you run, you feel good, exactly where you are, doing just that - one step at a time. Before you begin to worry about pace and time, you need to ask yourself why you run. And once you can answer that, everything else will fall into place. For me, it was of course the kids at ASV for whom I began to run. But it was also because running made me feel completely satisfied in the moment. It didn't matter how far I had come or how far I had to go. I was just happy to be there.

That being said, the numbers are not unimportant. And for that, again, it's important to set personal goals rather than absolute goals. So instead of "I want to run at 9 min per mile", set goals such as "I'm going to train to claim a minute on my pace". Talk to your running coach about these goals and document them. Also document your progress towards the goals. I'm only saying this because I have made the mistake of setting such ridiculous absolute goals and set myself up for disappointment. Gaining a few seconds to a minute on your pace is a huge achievement. And training according to plan is the only way to get there. So from one new, slow runner to the others in the group:

1) Run at your own pace, on your own time - you're only competing with yourself.

2) Pay close attention to the speed workouts, interval trainings, hill trainings, core workouts- these are the workouts where you will really build up towards your target speed.

3) Train according to the plan set by your coach, but listen to your body - if something doesn't feel right, don't push - talk to your coach and other runners. And if you feel pain, see a doctor, do the strength and core exercises recommended during the training plan.

4) Enjoy your run - it's your time with yourself, your time to work against the limitations you've set up for yourself and scaling them at each run. Sometimes you're going to be overwhelmed (they're called bad runs) but all of the times, you will be victorious because you will learn something new about yourself, your body and your mind during each run, no matter how it was.

And that's why we run. We run not only so that they can read but also so that we can overcome our imaginary boundaries. At the end of the day, training not only makes you a better, faster runner, it will make you a stronger person! Happy running!

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