Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mental strength and the fungibility of running

Let me just start out by saying that my run this morning was not nearly as inspiring as my long run Sunday night. Not even close. In fact, the only inspiring thing about it was that I managed to drag my sorry butt out and do it at all. Today was the first of my week 3 training runs, which bump my "short run" distance slightly from 3 miles to 3.5 miles (for those who are curious, I'm following Hal Higdon's novice half-marathon training plan, with some minor tweaking). However, since my usual route is 3.2 miles, it wasn't that big of a jump. Well, it shouldn't have been, anyway. But circumstances and my own laziness conspired against me to make it a generally unpleasant run.

First, I did not sleep well last night. I am not a morning person to begin with (my husband is actually afraid to wake me up for fear of bodily harm), and I'm REALLY grumpy when I wake up tired. So, instead of getting up relatively early, getting the girls ready, and being out the door by 7:15, I didn't even start until 8am. So it was hot. And sunny. And did I mention hot? I felt like what I imagine a mastiff running in the Sahara would feel like. Probably looked like it too. Secondly, I was pushing the girls in the double stroller, which automatically makes it slightly less pleasant than when I run alone. Admittedly, I should be used to pushing the stroller at this point. I have done more miles with the stroller than without it by a long shot, but I'm not sure I will ever get used to rounding a corner and feeling like I ran straight into a brick wall as the wind catches the stroller and practically stops me dead in my tracks like it did this morning.

The third reason my run hurt this morning was purely mental. I have run the same route 2-3 times a week for almost 6 months now, and apparently, my mind was not on board with changing it. It wasn't even a big change. I just added a small extra loop in the middle of my run to make up the .3 mile difference, then continued on the same route as usual. But it felt different in my mind, which made me feel even more sluggish. I guess I've gotten used to feeling a certain way at a certain point, which equates to a certain distance, and the change just threw that off. But even though it was rough this morning, I'm going to take that as a good thing. I mean, isn't running a half-marathon all about getting out of my comfort zone? And it's not as if this will be the last change in my route for the duration. Eventually, I'll even run off Ford Island (scary!). However, for this morning, it was a bit of a shock to my system.

On the other hand, the general negative vibe of my run this morning got me thinking about something...the fungibility of running. Now, to understand why I find this amusing, I guess I should explain what the word fungible is, and why I like it so much. I first came across the word "fungible" in my college Intelligence Studies classes, mainly in government documents. Actually, the only place I've seen it is in government documents, but that's neither here nor there. It's a fun word and one that I feel is sadly under-utilized in modern society. That being said, the first time I read it, I had to look it up on Wikipedia to find it's meaning, so I will turn to that source again to define it now. According to Wikipedia, "Fungibility is the property of a good or commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution." Think money or oil. A $20 bill is worth the same in Hawaii as it is in Ohio (although it won't get you nearly as much, damn expensive tropical island). A barrel of oil from Texas can be exactly exchanged for a barrel of the same grade of oil from Saudi Arabia. Diamonds, though, are not fungible. Their value is based on cut, clarity, and other stuff I know nothing about. So now, back to my thoughts on the fungibility of running, or is running a fungible commodity?

The reason I was thinking about this, other than to take my mind off how miserable I was this morning, was that I started wondering if I should skip runs on mornings when I wake up tired and late and grumpy, and run instead when I'm in a better position to get as much out of my runs as possible. This lead me to wonder whether running a mile, no matter where, when, or how fast, was always equally valuable. Were the miles I put in this morning as valuable to my training as the ones I put in 2 weeks ago when I set my best 5K time ever? My first thought was a resounding NO. My pace was slower, I burned less calories, and I probably didn't get as much of a cardio workout as I have before. Obviously, a mile run on hills is going to be "worth more" than a mile run on a flat, easy route. Which means that running is not a fungible commodity for me.

This revelation made me a little sad. If I'm not running at the peak of my abilities every single mile, what's the point? Then I stopped being whiney and realized that maybe this would matter if I were a professional athlete, but realistically, who can run their best mile, every mile? Um...not me. For me, every mile I run, be it slow or fast, joyous or insanely torturous, is one more mile toward my goal of not just finishing the half-marathon, but of leading a healthier, happier, more active life. I may not have worked out my body as hard as I could have this morning, but I did work out my ability to push past the mental barriers that have glued my butt to the couch for so long. I got out and there did something. Was it slow and hot and painful? Absolutely. But I ran the 3.5 miles, logged it in my training log, and gained some valuable perspective into my mental strength and my ability to stick to the training even when I would rather have sat on my couch and watched my DVR'd episode of The Bachelorette. Me 1 Couch 0. Now I just hope Friday's run is a little better.

*As a side note, my hubby just came in from his first run in his new Vibram FiveFingers, and the first words out of his sweaty, panting mouth were "These things are AWESOME!!" Someday, after this race, I really want to try a pair!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I am so glad that you found my blog! I just read yours and I am astounded at how many similarities I find between us. I actually only started running because my friends did, too. And then I started to fall in love with it (well love/hate, more accurately). But I'm so glad that you said that because I've felt sort of like a fraud this whole time for not coming up with the idea myself. And I'm also craving a pair of Vibrams, and I've had that "fungibility" conversation with myself, too, although I did not use the word fungible. I am really looking forward to following your blog, and I hope that we can support each other, because I identified more with your short blog than I have with any of the other myriad blogs that I've been reading so far.