This weekend I completed what might be, to many people, pretty small successes. On Friday I finally graduated to orange belt in Taekwondo. Because I can’t attend as many classes as I would like each week due to my work schedule (I moonlight as a private piano teacher, so I’m usually tied up until 7pm or 8pm each night), it takes me a bit longer to earn the necessary stripes to be considered for my next belt level — and it seems like I’ve been at white forever!
Although it was slightly awkward that all of my “grown-up” friends who are enrolled in the program graduated ahead of me, and I therefore was the ONLY adult participating in Friday night’s ceremony, to me earning a new belt in either of my martial arts programs is still very much a symbol of setting a goal and following through — a concept that was completely foreign to me just a few years ago.
At the end of the day, it’s basically just a colorful cotton belt and a silly little graduation ceremony, but for me it’s a reminder of what can happen when you summon the courage to try something new. While Muay Thai is physically taxing — I pretty much always end up in a puddle of my own sweat — Taekwondo’s precise, rigid movements and complicated forms requires a mental focus and physical flexibility that I really didn’t think I was ever capable of achieving. It’s hard work, but I’m doing it!
Speaking of hard work, I also managed to complete my longest long run yet this weekend: 11 miles. It was my first time breaking 10 miles on a long run, and I have to say that I completely agree with whomever first said that running is more mental than physical.
When my legs are starting to feel like lead and I just want to be DONE ALREADY, I really have to dig deep to find the motivation to finish. My mind seems to just completely take over, and I then can somehow manage to ignore an achy knee, blistering toe, grumbling tummy, or, let’s be honest, just plain old boredom.
While heading out for a quick 3-, 4-, or even 5-mile run is starting to feel pretty routine to me, those runs that are over 6 miles long are still mentally and physically exhausting. I was thrilled when I ran my first double-digit run, but to be honest it has been at least 2 weeks since my last long run…first there was the holiday craziness (read: I was too busy buying out the malls during the post-Christmas sales) and then I was too focused on my Muay Thai kickboxing test to carve out two hours for a long run.
I decided that since I try to take kickboxing on both Saturday and Sunday mornings (it’s hard for me to make the weeknight classes), that I’d move my long runs to Friday afternoons. And, since my first half marathon is but four short weeks away (!), I decided it was time to attempt breaking 10 miles…even though most training plans go up to 10, I felt that finishing 11 miles would somehow put me in the “half marathon zone.” I really just want to prove to myself that I CAN do this.
Here’s how my long runs typically work:
Miles 1-2: Warming up, finding my pace (I try to slow down to a 10-11/minute mile)
Miles 3-4: Feeling good, pumped up for the run
Miles 5-6: Starting to get a little tired, looking forward to whatever treat I have stashed in my fuel belt (side note: I’m still experimenting with fuel options because gels seem to make me nauseated, so I’m very much looking for suggestions!)
Miles 7-8: Questioning my sanity, wondering why the hell I committed myself to this
Miles 9-10: Exhausted, doubting that I’ll ever be able to make it to 13.1
Miles 11+: Glad it’s over, so incredibly PROUD that I finished
As I’ve gotten more serious about martial arts and my half-marathon training, I’m seeing more and more just how important these “small successes” really are.
Now that I’m slowly (and I do mean slowly) starting to get over my reluctance to set goals — I was always afraid I would just end up a “failure” — even the tiniest accomplishments are enough to make me over-the-moon excited. And, surprisingly enough, I’m even starting to allow myself to feel proud of my efforts instead of constantly tearing myself down.
Memorizing Taekwondo forms can be hard, and increasing your mileage in preparation for a half-marathon can seem insane, but somehow something as small as breaking a wooden board or slipping a finisher’s medal around your neck makes it all worth it!
What are some of your long run tips?